Why group consults at writer’s conferences suck

Posted: August 17, 2010 in On Writing
Tags: , , , , ,

I was with my critique group today and we were rehashing our experience at last week’s Willamette Writer’s Conference and two us had similar bad experiences with an agent. My friend remarked at how vicious he was during the pitching practice the Thursday before the conference. I told of an experience during one of my group consults where he asked all of us to condense our hard-worked and memorized pitches into two or three sentences and then found ways to discourage each of us.

“Men can’t write from a woman’s point of view, generally speaking,” he said of my hard-boiled woman P.I. The fact that my critique group has two women in it didn’t impress him. In fact, he interrupted me to tell me this before I could even to pitch my book. I had to ask for another turn at the end to tell him what it was about. Each of us paid $20 for a group consult, which he wanted to be an Q&A session about agents, and then he did respond to each person one-on-one.  But he asked everyone to send a query.  I could have stayed home, queried him and saved myself $20 on the consult fee.

My experience has been that usually they ask to see 10 to 30 pages, because as one editor told us, “we really have no clue how good you are until we see your writing.”  So why do I want to send a query letter so this agent still cannot see my writing.

I guess this is why we need to do our homework on agents–to make sure we feel comfortable working with them. This one I am passing on.  My feeling on this guy is he didn’t want to create a lot of work for himself and he was very opinionated.

By the way, group consults suck. You don’t get any one-on-one time in most of them and you don’t have enough time to explain your book.  All my group consults did the same as this first agent, with the exception being that they were supportive and asked to see portions of our manuscripts.

I understand why they do this. It’s a chance to get more people to see agents and to make more money for the conference host. I do wonder, though, if the agents get a piece of the consult fees. Unfortunately, the WW conference consults with agents and editors filled up quickly and groups were all that were available in most cases.

Maybe I’ll stay home next year and save $250-$550 and email query letters.

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Comments
  1. Kit Peterson says:

    Don, I have to ask a question by way of what I hope is a gentle critique. Why is there an apostrophe “s” on the word “conference” in your title? It is a plural, not a possessive, and the apostrophe is neither needed, nor correct, in my humble opinion. Just trying to be helpful.

    Take care,
    -Kit

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