Wouldn’t you love to meet the agent or editor of your dreams? The PNWA Summer Writers’ Conference gives you that chance…


Every Monday for the next few weeks, I’ll be posting my notes on the PNWA Summer Writers’ Conference.

But what is it? The Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association (PNWA) hosts an enormous conference for writers every summer. It’s usually held at the Hilton Hotel near Sea-Tac Airport. (One year, as I recall, they changed the location.)

The conference offers opportunities for writers to take classes from established authors and literary experts on everything from character building to marketing and promotion. But the best part of all is the agent and editor connection.

At this year’s conference, I met one of my critique partners from CritiqueCircle.com, and it was her first trip to the PNWA conference. So I and another colleague sort of gave her the low-down on how you connect with agents and editors. I thought that might be a good way to start my PNWA “notes” for anyone who wishes to attend next year’s conference.

The “pitch sessions” as they’re called, work like this:

You and thirty other hopeful writers enter a room full of agents and editors. These publishing gurus–the agents and editors–are all lined up against one wall, sitting at tables. Their names are posted on the wall above their heads, like targets at a shooting arcade.

You stand in a single-file line behind the agent or editor you wish to meet. If it’s a really popular agent or editor, you stand in line with fourteen other people.

Then a bell chimes.

The first person in line walks up to the agent or editor, takes a seat, and is given three or four minutes to “pitch” their book. That’s not very long, so you really need to have a brief pitch, like a query letter’s single-paragraph pitch, to give them.

Some writers have their pitches memorized, but I found it helpful to have written down bullets. (I actually got this tip from Little, Brown and Company’s Wes Miller–THANKS Wes!) Other writers just read their pitch directly off the paper, but Wes Miller suggested that it’s important to maintain eye contact.

Agents typically do not want to see your manuscript that same day. They may give you their business card and ask you to send them the first 50 pages or so, but don’t offer to give them your business card. Save your cards to exchange with other writers.

One of the biggest benefits of the conference is hooking up with agents and editors, but the second biggest benefit is the connection you make with other writers. So if you decide to attend 2015’s PNWA conference, be sure and bring a stack of business cards with your contact info on them. My business cards include:

  • my e-mail address
  • my Twitter info
  • my website
  • my name (obviously)

If you have any questions about the PNWA Summer Writers’ Conference, don’t hesitate to leave me your question in the comments box. I’ve attended the conference for something like seven years in a row now, so although I’m no expert, I’m a good resource to help you navigate your way around.


3 responses »

    • When I met my agent, I told her, “I’m nervous. Do you mind if I just read my pitch?” and she was fine with that. I wouldn’t ever hand an agent or editor my written pitch. They might think you’re too shy to do your own PR work once published.

      • Still, reading sounds a little less scary. I’ll have worked for hours at that pitch and no matter what I’d think in that moment, there’s a chance it would be at least decent. I hope.
        Thanks for the tip. It’s unlikely I’ll ever have the possibility to pitch my story at a convention like this… but who knows?

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