With “speed-dating-style” pitch sessions, it’s easy to get an agent or editor to say, “Sure, send me some pages.” This is partly because you’re engaging and they like you, partly because it’s hard for them to say no to a hopeful writer who is standing right in front of them, and partly because, outside of genres and subjects they know they don’t represent, it’s impossible to know if a project is right for them until they read some of it. On the surface, this sounds like a good thing, but what happens when they get that submission? Often, there are problems that result in a form rejection—problems the writer could have fixed had he or she only known they were an issue. The writer never knows why the manuscript was rejected or what could be done to make it better.
With a round table
, you receive feedback on those vitally important first pages. If the manuscript is professional, polished, and ready to go, you’ll either get a request for more pages or the assurance that they are ready to be submitted to the agent of your dreams. You send them out knowing you’ve already crossed the first hurdle. If your manuscript has promise but is not yet ready for submission, you have a chance to revise before you submit. In essence, the round tables give you two chances to get it right.
An added perk is that the agents and editors are more relaxed. They feel good about helping emerging writers in an instructional setting. In this environment, it’s easier to connect with them on a personal level. Based on the emails and comments we received after last year’s conference, more writers signed with agents and/or publishers than ever before.