By Michael Neff
A couple things to be aware of before choosing a conference.
Just recently, a writers conference in America advertised on Publisher's Marketplace and implied in their text that anyone who attended this event could "Pitch [their] manuscript to the 27 literary agents and editors attending ..." Okay, to any veteran of writers conferences, this is as close to TALL story as you can get. Maybe a flunky at the White House might believe it, but you gotta be smarter if you ever hope to be a published author.
I personally know writers with boundless energy and a full wallet who have wildly bounced around to as many as a dozen agents at a huge conference like Maui ... but 27? No way. There will be 27 present, yes, but you will only get the opportunity to personally interact with a small portion of these individuals--the actual number depending on circumstances.
Next, a few writers conferences appear to do their best to humiliate rather than help writers. They place writers in an American Idol-like context, i.e., they force the writer to stand up before a panel of agents and get lashed. Some agents can be helpful, while others behave badly, as if they are competing for the Snarkster of The Year award. But take it from me, this is NOT an environment conducive to learning. Writers need to know how to fix it, or at least, how best to acquire the skill of literary mechanic. Simply tearing them down in front of others only benefits the predators.
Writers need to be in an honest and beneficial environ, and they need time to interact one-on-one with professionals in a relaxed atmosphere. Even writers conferences that don't grill you in public often make you wait in long lines or run to the sound of bells (to get in long lines), and there you are ... one of hundreds waiting to see agents who will be glazed over and dreaming of escape long before you talk to them.
Be careful out there!