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2021 Agents & Editors Conference

September 17, 2021 - September 19, 2021

$299.00 – $459.00


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For a better understanding of each session, read the letter from our Program Director below and check out the conference program here.

All recordings will be accessible through March 31, 2022.


Hello, writers!

I’m writing to you today for a very special reason. For the first time in the twenty-eight year history of the Agents & Editors Conference, we are making recordings of the 2021 program – panels, presentations, and general sessions – available to anyone who couldn’t be there with us in September for the weekend-long event.

And what a weekend it was.

We kicked off with a conversation between WLT Executive Director Becka Oliver and Grand Central Publishing VP and Publisher Sean Desmond. Old friends, this opening session warmed my heart and Sean’s kind, and honest words are still swimming in my head. “Write your story,” he urged us, “Write it down to the bones and enjoy the process.”

For the rest of the weekend, authors, agents, editors, and other industry professionals sat down for thirteen panel discussions, eight In Conversations, and three knockout presentations (seriously, the presentations alone – on approaching revision, finding the perfect comp titles, and nailing your synopsis – are worth the price of these recordings).

There were so many highlights over the course of the weekend, so I’ll only share a few of my favorites.

Author Gabino Iglesias opened Saturday’s first panel session, “Where Publishing Begins: Submitting to Literary Journals,” with advice that every writer needs to keep in their back pocket: “A rejection is not a rejection, it’s an invitation to send your work elsewhere.” Later in the day, Pulitzer Prize winner Mitchell S. Jackson reminded us that “the things that you’re scared to write about are often the things that you should be writing about.”

If you’re looking for a laugh, but also some actionable advice on catching an agent’s eye, agents Allison Hunter (Trellis Literary Management), Alia Hanna Habib (the Gernert Company), and Noah Ballard (Verve Talent & Literary Agency) were wonderful and hilarious on their panel and I loved their concise way of talking about query letters (“the hook, the book, and the cook”). And Ronald Gerber (Lowenstein Associates), Leah Pierre (Ladderbird Literary), and Ayla Zuraw-Friedland (David Black Agency) gave invaluable advice on “Before You Sign” regarding the big question of what to ask an agent and how you know they’re the right person for you. There is so much to learn from all of our visiting literary agents and book editors.

In the “Crafting Compelling Openings in Fiction” panel, Sherry Thomas offered up simple, yet astute advice about the first page: “All readers need to know is that something is going to happen.”

One of the newest additions to the program this year were the “In Conversation” sessions with two authors on a specific topic relating to their books. These intimate sessions covered everything from speculative fiction, to memoir, personal essays, writing for young people, historical fiction and western tales, and everything beyond and in-between. These conversations – featuring Usha Akella, Kendra Allen, Cinelle Barnes, Matt Bell, Candace Buford, Maurice Chammah, Reyna Grande, Fernando Flores, Mitchell S. Jackson, Sarah Kasbeer, Samantha Mabry, Leonard Moore, Gordy Sauer, Stacey Swann, James Wade, and Elizabeth Wetmore – inspired and moved me deeply.

I’m still hearing folks rave about Gordy Sauer and James Wades’ conversation on crafting western tales for today’s readers. From tapping into a sense of smell, because (excuse my language) “shit always smells like shit,” to writing “characters [that] always existed in these spaces in history” who have been “written out in a lot of ways,” it was quite an hour.

In her conversation with Stacey Swann, Elizabeth Wetmore talked about finding the music in her manuscript (just wait until you hear her sage advice).

Matt Bell and Fernando Flores’ lively conversation had me laughing out loud and doing some furious note-taking. I’m still thinking about Matt’s reminder to “be excited about your weird.”

On a personal note, in order to get these recordings ready for your viewing pleasure, I spent close to thirty hours watching and rewatching. In the end, I had twenty pages of notes. There is no shortage of wonderful, inspiring, honest advice in these recordings. These sessions energized and inspired me. They helped me return to the page after several months without writing a word. They taught me so much about the publishing industry and demystified the process of finding an agent. I truly feel like I can take anything on now.

If you didn’t get the chance to attend virtually or in-person this year, but you’re ready to get in on the fun, I promise you, you will find something in every single one of these sessions that could change your writing life.

I hope you’ll take advantage of this opportunity. If you have any questions at all, reach out to me directly – I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite nuggets from Courtney Maum’s keynote speech (a phrase that I now have taped to the wall above my desk): “Success is the opportunity to write again.” Because of these recordings, I have. Here’s to you finding your own success – and here’s to writing again and again and again.


Sam Babiak

Program Director


September 17, 2021
September 19, 2021
$299.00 – $459.00
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Hyatt Regency Austin on Lady Bird Lake
208 Barton Springs Drive
Austin, TX 78704 United States