Event: Atlanta Writers’ Conference
Location: Westin Atlanta Airport, Atlanta, GA
Length: 2 days
The Atlanta Writers’ Conference happens twice a year with strong attendance that I’d estimate to be around 100. There were workshops and speeches throughout for the writers to attend, but I was kept occupied with other contributions. For the agents, the first day of the conference was focused on analyzing and improving the authors’ pitches. In a rather effective format that I’d never seen before, agents paired up and went through query letters one by one, then met with each author to give advice. It gave us the opportunity to not only improve the pitch but also help guide the author in whatever manner they needed. The dual perspective was great because so much of this industry is subjective. It allowed for a more comprehensive learning experience.
The second day was the culmination of all the prep work. After a Q&A panel, the agents met with the authors who submitted manuscript critiques prior to the event. These 15 minute sessions covered the authors’ first 15-17 pages and a 3-5 page synopsis. That’s more than enough to get a solid idea of the viability of a project and the necessary steps for improvement, and the authors were very grateful. I even had one essentially say, “I can’t believe I self-published this. I’m pulling it right away.” It’s always good to get informed input before you put your work out there.
The authors who benefitted from the previous day’s query sessions then got to use their results to pitch their work to the agents in 10 minute sessions. In most cases, the agent being pitched was not the one who analyzed the initial query, which was nice. It allowed for objective analysis and yet another valuable viewpoint. And in the few repeats, I saw vast improvements.
I found the overall mood to be rather open to both traditional and progressive modes of publication and promotion. A big flaw in some of these conferences is a prevailing bias – either self-publishing is the single way of the future or a fallback only to be used in case of failure. A fair amount of the faculty was actively hybrid in their career approach and viewed self-publishing for what it is – a helpful tool and one of many legitimate markets if handled correctly. It’s a key part of our philosophy, and we should be seeing more of that mindset as time passes.
Overall, the Atlanta Writers’ Conference was astoundingly well-organized. I’ve spoken to coordinators and sat in on the occasional board meeting, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who handle the unreal amount of preparation and last-minute adaptation necessary for a successful conference. I was very impressed, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that they’d gone so far as to write computer programs to help manage all of the data so that everything ran smoothly. Unfortunately for me but fortunately for you, they rarely have the same agents back twice, and I’ve sent them a few of my top colleagues.
Protip: next year is AWC’s 100th anniversary, so they’re bound to have something special planned.