Definitely not! The Backspace Writers Conferences are designed to help aspiring writers in all genres reach their publishing goals. However, there’s a wealth of information available to Backspace members at the online discussion forums — plus, Backspace members get a conference discount, so if you’re not a Backspace member, you should definitely consider joining. More information at the Backspace website.
Do I have to have a finished manuscript to register for the Backspace conference?
The Backspace Writers Conference and the Agent-Author Seminars offer access to agents so that authors can talk about their project, get a feel for the agents’ personalities and interests, and learn from the agents’ cumulative knowledge and experience. We offer workshops, not pitch sessions, which means that while an author can get their work in front of agents, if the agents feel it’s not yet ready (or if your opus is not quite finished), authors haven’t burned any bridges. The agents know that based on what authors learn at the conference, they might want to take another pass through their manuscript before they submit it. So while ideally, authors will be coming to the seminar with a finished manuscript in hand, they can still connect with agents and learn from their feedback, even if their work is not quite finished.
Since there are no formal pitch sessions, what opportunities will there be to talk to agents about my project?
Formal pitch sessions are a staple at most writers’ conferences. However, in planning our Backspace events, we discovered that agents hate conducting pitch sessions almost as much as authors dread doing them. In fact, many of the agents we’ve talked to are happy to sit on a panel or conduct a workshop, but decline to participate in formal pitch sessions.
The purpose of the Backspace Agent-Author Seminars and conferences is to educate authors about the realities of the business in order to help them break in at the major publishers, and to help them connect with agents. The agent panels and agent query letter and opening two pages workshop critiques give authors the opportunity to learn from and meet with a variety of agents who represent fiction and non-fiction works in all different genres, and to ask questions specific to their interests and concerns.
That’s why we’ve built so much free time into the program. The full fifteen minutes between panels allows plenty of opportunity for seminar registrants to talk to agents. Many of the agents will also be available during the noon hour, and during the afternoon mixers. Remember, agents attend conferences because they want to help authors. They’re looking for new talent, and welcome the chance to hear about your work.
Instead of a tense, angst-filled pitch session where it’s difficult for all but the most confident authors to put their best foot forward, an interesting, relaxed, enjoyable conversation leaves a much more positive impression. And even if authors don’t get the chance to mention their project, the pleasant conversation gives the author a point of reference when sending a formal query letter to the agent’s office after the seminar is over.
Why do agents “really” attend conferences?
No, agents don’t attend conferences to meet and/or network with other agents. Sure, many of them are friends, and a lot of networking does take place, but that’s not the primary reason they attend.
No, agents don’t get paid to attend conferences, and according to the AAR they’re not allowed to accept payment in exchange for critiques.
At our May 2010 Writers Conference Lois Winston from the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency explained that she had a giant stack of query letters and partials waiting for her back in the office. When asked why she would attend a writers conference despite not having enough time to get to everything on her desk, she explained: “Because I find better writers at conferences. Writers who have invested the time and money to attend a conference usually have more polished manuscripts and a better understanding of the publishing business. They’ve done their homework.”
Often, agents who do not accept unsolicited queries will find new authors through referrals from existing clients and through writers conferences.
Can a literary agent really expect to understand the intricacies of a novel from just a query letter and the first two pages? Can they really make a decision based on just three pages of material?
2) They better.
Remember, the purpose of a query letter is to get an agent to ask for more material. The purpose of your novel’s opening is to entice readers (agents, too!) to invest $20 and countless hours reading your novel. Most agents receive hundreds of unsolicited queries every week, and from that pile may ask to see anywhere from none, to a few. While some agents ask for the first few pages, others restrict unsolicited submissions to just your one-page query. Some agents don’t read any unsolicited queries. Your query and the opening pages of your book are a promise of what’s to come, and they need to deliver; they need to literally “hook” the agents into wanting to see more, so much so that said agent will ask to see more. Then, your novel must live up that promise.
We can’t really help you with that last part, but we can help you write the best query and opening for your manuscript by giving you direct, impartial feedback from top literary agents. They make decisions every single day based on a simple hook or logline, or a single paragraph from the first page of a novel. With the number of submissions they receive, they have to, which means in order to get their attention and to rise above the competition, you need to learn to write the absolute best query and opening pages you’re capable of writing.
If you save your best writing for later in your book, or if “chapter three is where the book really gets good…” chances are literary agents, editors, and readers won’t ever make it to chapter three.
How do I book a sleeping room at the conference hotel?
Rate is based on a two-person occupancy. When you call to book your reservations, you will have a choice of a King, Queen or two Double bedded room (the rate is valid for all three types), either smoking or non-smoking. There will be additional charges if there are more than two people per room. More information on the “Hotel” page.
Please note: To receive the conference rate, you must call the hotel directly – 212.736.3800 – and ask for the sales department (ext. 1340). Do not call Radisson’s 1-800 reservation system.
I want to come to the conference, but New York City is so expensive! How can I cut costs?
It’s true, midtown Manhattan can be expensive. But you don’t have to pay upwards of $300 per night for a hotel room. Excellent room rates can be obtained by booking sleeping accommodations through online website like Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz. In addition, please see Backspace co-founder Christopher Graham’s most excellent advice regarding booking hotel sleeping rooms on the “hotel” page on this website.
Alternatively, if you don’t mind traveling, many hotels in New Jersey are much less expensive and offer shuttles to the train station. Fifteen minutes by train takes you to Penn Station, and from there, the Radisson is a short, two-block walk. Just keep in mind that the last train back to New Jersey leaves NYC around 10:00 p.m.
Additionally, here are links to articles with suggestions on lower-cost alternatives.
What about shopping?
How do I get there?
The Radisson Martinique is located at 49 West 32nd Street , New York NY 10001
US Telephone: (212) 736-3800 Fax: (212) 277-2702
A map and directions are available on their website.
“I mention Backspace whenever I teach my writers’ workshop around the country. The Backspace website is an invaluable source of information for writers, whether they’re new or experienced. The yearly Backspace conference is also an invaluable resource. I’ve taught there and can’t say enough good things about the information, encouragement, and enthusiasm they provide.” — David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author