WLT Agents Conference: Not Just for Agent Seekers

Agents Conference:  Not Just for Agent Seekers
by Nina Godiwalla

About a year ago I signed up for the Writers’ League of Texas 2009 Agents Conference both anxious and hopeful I’d meet an agent interested in my manuscript.  A few months later I unexpectedly found an agent and publisher on my own.  Of course, I was thrilled!

However, I was also frustrated that I’d already registered for the conference.  What could I get out of an agents conference if I already had an agent?  I called the Writers’ League office and told them to give away my agent appointment to someone else who needed an agent.  Instead, the Writers’ League staff guided me on how to use my appointment to my advantage and together we came up with a series of questions to ask an agent. At the conference I met with an agent and asked her a variety of questions about how to get the most out of my relationship with my agent.  Later I attended a session on “The Agent and Author Relationship,” which gave me a good sense of what to expect from an agent:  lots of emails.  And, what not to expect:  daily phone conversations.  This helped keep my expectations realistic and my relationship with my agent harmonious.

There were a number of sessions at the conference geared toward my unique situation.  Despite having a publisher and agent, I wasn’t sure how to carry on informed conversations with either of them.  Since my book is a memoir about my experience in investment banking at a prominent Fortune 100 company, one of my biggest concerns was the liability I might face upon publishing the book.  After attending a session titled “Understanding Book Contracts” and discussing my situation with the lawyer who presented the session, I had a much better sense of what questions to ask my agent and publisher.  Another session showcasing memoir writers helped me understand what I’d be going through after the book’s release.  When you publish a memoir, there is a whole set of people besides you—others mentioned in your book—that are affected.  Hearing about other memoir writers’ experiences prompted me to better prepare those who may be affected by my book ahead of time rather than waiting until the book release.

I also found my casual conversations to be extremely valuable. It sounds basic, but not everyone makes the effort to talk to the people around them at the conference.  Over brunch I met authors several years ahead of me in the publishing process who gave me solid editing and marketing advice. I also exchanged contact information with several of the panelist authors, and we’ve kept in touch throughout the year.  One of them has advised me on fellowships and conferences I should keep informed about.  By reaching out in so many ways to so many people, I found many opportunities presenting themselves.  Plus, meeting new and interesting people along the way has been so much fun!

I’m already excited about the 2010 conference, as I’m eager to share the lessons I’ve learned over the last year and continue to learn more from others.  So keep in mind, even if you’re not sure the conference is right for you, there are many opportunities for writers beyond landing an agent.

Nina Godiwalla is the author of Suits: A Woman on Wall Street (Atlas & Co./ W.W. Norton, Dec. 2010).  In her debut memoir, she describes her experience as a second generation Persian-Indian American who uses her investment banking experience to redefine her idea of success.  Nina’s essays and articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, and the Austin Business Journal. Join her on Facebook: “Nina Godiwalla Author Page.”

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