Get the Most out of the Agents Conference

5 simple ways to get more out of WLTCon

By Matthew Schulz

Want to get the most out of the Writers’ League of Texas’ Agent Conference? Whether you’re hawking a finished manuscript or just coming to learn and meet others who are passionate about writing, you’d better start preparing now.

I learned this first-hand two years ago at my first WLTCon. I had little idea of what to expect and hadn’t taken the time to prepare before the conference started. When it did, I immediately wished I had taken the time.

Fast forward two years, and I’m not making the same mistake. Here are a few things that I’ll be doing before the conference to be sure I’m prepared.

(One thing to note: I won’t be pitching a finished product at WLTCon. I’m just not ready. However, if you think you are, the most important thing that you can do before the conference is to finish your manuscript. That doesn’t mean finishing a first draft — that means doing several drafts, getting them read and edited by several trusted people, making many revisions and having the manuscript polished and ready to hand off to an agent. That’s when the magic can happen, and dreams can come true. And it’ll happen for me — but it’ll have to wait until WLTCon 2012.)

Finishing my pitch: If you’re pitching a finished product, this should be at the top of your list. If not, it’s still important. When you walk up to that agent, you’ve only got a few seconds to hook them, so be sure to perfect your pitch long before WLTCon starts.

You’ll get to practice at the conference, too. Most everyone you meet will want to try their pitch on you, and you can return the favor and get their feedback. You can even take part in the Writers’ League’s pitch workshops before the event. (Check out the schedule for more info on these.)

(Psst, it’s the WLT here! Check out this link to the pre-conference workshops that Matt just mentioned: writersleague.org/pre-conf-wkshps)

And don’t be afraid to tweak your pitch throughout the event. My pitch at the beginning of my first WLTCon sounded nothing like the one I had at the end of it. That’s a good thing. Trust me.

Getting business cards: They don’t have to be flashy or cost a fortune, but they can help you with the most important part of WLTCon — meeting people. Check out Moo.com or Vistaprint.com for design ideas, or you can design your own, if you’d like. The card should have your name and vital contact information. Consider also including your Twitter name or Facebook link. But with business cards, remember: Less is often more.

Studying up on the agents: Read up on all the agents that will be attending. This can help you pinpoint the ones to focus on — those specializing in non-fiction, for example, if that’s your genre — and make you feel more comfortable when you approach them. And you’ll likely need it. Pitching an agent face to face can be nerve-wracking, but the more prepared you are, the better it’ll go.

Networking online: The conference can be daunting. Checking Twitter and Facebook for fellow WLTCon attendees can help you meet people in advance of the conference. Search the hashtag #WLTCon on Twitter. Or just drop me a line @matthewschulz to say hello.

Determine in advance which sessions you’ll attend: Planning your time in advance can help assure that you’ll get a good seat for that can’t-miss session. Also, if you’re willing to show up a little early for a session or stay a little late, you may be able to spend a little extra time with a favorite author or agent. If you’re scrambling to decide what to do at the last minute, that likely won’t be possible.

Just doing these five things will prime you to make the most out of WLTCon, whether it’s your first or 10th. It’ll take a little effort, but once the conference begins, you’ll be glad you took the time.

Matthew Schulz has written for the Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Associated Press and American Banker. He is currently writing his second novel and aspiring toward his lifelong dream of becoming a published author of fiction. His day job has him working as a Managing Editor at CreditCards.com, where he helps lead an award-winning news team and has even helped coordinate a video town hall with the White House. You can follow him on Twitter @matthewschulz and learn more about him at MattSchulz.com.

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