Thursday, April 12, 2012

Houston Writer's Conference Countdown: How to Follow Up

You did it! You made it through a conference...mostly unscathed. You got requests from agents and editors and definitely lots to think about. What next?

  • Prioritize your notes. 
First things first: don't forget all the thought-provoking things you heard at the conference. Don't forget the new insights you gained about agent/editor/publisher psychology. Type them up. Keep your notebook (you brought a notebook, right? Right) and reference it often. 

So many people go to conferences to get an agent (which we all now know is not the point, right?) that they completely blank after they get home on everything but the agents. Agents are phenomenal, true. But the real take-away is the insight into the industry as a whole. 

Follow up by reading blogs, and add the agents' blogs to your Google reader who really resonated with what they said. Make it easy for you to keep up with what's going on. Follow people on Twitter. Read.
  • Send the materials!
If you walk away from the conference with requests from agents and editors, send your materials immediately. (By the way, this gives you the added responsibility of having a manuscript that's ready to go/finished before you start pitching it. Because sending your novel 4 months after it was requested because "you had to do some last minute edits" is no bueno). It's astounding how often people don't.
  • Make a spreadsheet.
It's a really good idea to keep a spreadsheet of the agents you query, just in general. It should include name of the agent, his or her agency, his or her website, the date you query, and then a column to mark your six week mark follow up (many agents' end of their response window), then one for eight weeks, as well as indicating for which agents "No answer means no." 

You should make a separate one for the conference requests, because you'll have a different intro to that query (we met at the ________ conference), you'll send different materials, and you'll probably have editors mixed in there too. It's no good to not know how long it's been since you sent the queries/materials. With nerves it'll feel like it's been forever by day three.
  • Keep querying.
This conference was a learning experience, and hopefully you've come out with a lot of good industry info and new insights into your premise, the pitch, and your query. But don't sit around waiting for the conference agents and editors to get back to you before you start implementing all that knowledge. You're a hot commodity! Get out there!


  1. Thanks so much for all these posts. I'm gearing up for the Backspace Writers Conference in May, and I'm trying to learn as much as I can before them to be prepared. Your posts have been wonderfully helpful.

  2. Question about the "no bueno": Agent requests material at conference, but you've realized after the great lessons learned there, your stuff is not ready. Same agent in panel says, "Take your time, make it right before you submit it. No matter, twelve weeks or twelve months."

    Is there an expiration date on request?

  3. First off, thank you, Ms. Barnes! You were phenomenally patient and supportive with we clingy scribblers. In fact, this was the first conference I've walked away from with more information than anxiety.

    Having a mediocre pitch session really takes the pressure off and I could focus on all those talking-word thingies. I'm gleefullly passing your good counsel on to my peeps. Thanks, again, for answering questions your presentation fairly covered, for patiently repeating (re-repeating) for those committed to debating and mostly for being a good sport about answering agent questions that had little (nothing) to do with your insightful talk. You're aces.

    Btw, I find Querytracker an excellent tool for organization without re-inventing the wheel. Spreadsheets/Excel give me gas, just saying. Best of all, it's free.

  4. So much inspiration, encouragement, and information this weekend! And I'm working on my query (implementing your awesome advice) as we speak - thanks so much for being so generous and helpful!