Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Conned at a Conference: Add-Ons

Before I proceed to kick the hell out of add-ons to conferences, please allow me to point out a good one.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers has a critique workshop at the beginning of their Gold Conference that is hosted by one of the editors or agents attending the event. It costs $35. The other registrants of this workshop will critique your submission. Hopefully, by the time you’ve chosen to plunk down the coin for this little soiree, you will have had your copy critiqued to death, so that aspect of it is not necessarily beneficial, but, you will get more time with an editor or agent and if you believe in the getting-to-know-publishing-deal-makers approach to trigger the acquisition of your masterpiece, this add-on can help you achieve that. I know one author very well who snagged a deal with Kensington—a fairly big player—through one of these sessions. It’s one of the very few add-ons I believe offers value.

Now it’s time to get brutal.

Another conference that I attended offered an agent all-day workshop that was an additional cost, a hefty charge, to the regular registration fee. This fee was profit for the agent. Mind you, the other respectable publishing professionals who were attending the regular conference only had their expenses paid. Anyway, this special add-on workshop agent, high-powered, boasts quite a resume and I’ll leave the identity anonymous. Why does someone pay for such a workshop? Because they’re trying to get published, hoping to make a contact to pitch there in the hotel or later online. However, one of the conference board members who I know very well told me that this agent emphasized to them that (s)he was not there to pick up manuscripts! In fact, I was standing around drinking with said agent later and an editor poked fun at him/her by saying, “Quite the cult you got going there.”

A respected author acquaintance of mine got caught up in said ‘cult’, thought he was making headway, and one day the agent just stopped returning correspondence.

Sorry, fellow writers, but that’s the stone cold truth.

Lots of add-ons are just designed to make more money. It’s marketing. Publishing is, after all, a business and the income goes way beyond just books. Please remember that there’s a substantial how-to-write market as well. We live in a country of free enterprise, so I don’t really mean to vilify any ‘services’, but as a miser, I feel obligated to ask you to consider what you can get for free.

Conferences, played wisely, are not a bad thing. Go network, have fun, pick up some pointers, pitch your work, but most of all, keep one hand clamped on your pocket book.

Next installment: Banquets.

Happy Independence Day!



Nancy Oswald said...

And so what is your advice? Should a writer ask the conference organizers, first, or apply some other strategy for researching before they plunk down their money? I'm already published and haven't used any add-ons for years. However in the past have done one on one pitches to agents (good practice) and also done a couple of critiques and made editor contacts. At least one of them merited a manuscript reading with a personal response. Maybe this agent experience was a bad one, but for pre-published authors, I think you have to start somewhere plodding through the maze, and if nothing else you get smarter as you go along. Doing nothing doesn't get you anywhere.

Marilynn Byerly said...

Some agents are known to go to conference, not to pick up unestablished authors, but to poach established writers who already have agents.

I've watched them circling the name authors looking for an expression of unhappiness with their agent or their career.

It's funny and kind of sad to watch those naive enough to believe big agents would want them.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I don't usually go for the add ons either, but the RMFW critique workshop you mentioned is also how I found my publisher, so yes, that's one of the good ones. The one Master Class I took at Colorado Gold was also excellent (Contracts and Copyrights by attorney/author Susan Spann). Other than that, I tend to stick to the basics.