In the midst of navigating the whirlwind that is querying, I also decided to attend the Atlanta's Writers Conference with a writer friend, Michelle. We had heard about the great networking opportunity as well as the ability to submit your first 50 pages to agents/editors for critique and to pitch your novel to other agents and editors. There were also numerous panels to attend and with Q and A with these top agency representatives and workshops for marketing and fine tuning your writing.
I was in the limbo stage, where I had received some 'passes' on my query and also some positive feedback. I felt that I needed to know if my query letter was in good shape (because as you know, there is such a small window to grab that agent's attention and your letter better be amazing!) and to get some kind of idea if my only my few trusted friends who had read Groupie thought it was good... or if professionals thought I had something promising.
It turned out to be a great experience, overall! Michelle and I met some inspiring fellow writers and were able to swap stories of our author lives and our journeys. We heard successes and failures. We were inspired and renewed. Many of us swapped information but I truly only kept in touch with one writer, but she has proved to be such a valuable friend to me as we both continue our processes. The mixer felt like the Hunger Games to try to meet and talk to the agents and editors- it was interesting to say the least.
My review sessions with two agents who had read my first 50 pages went very well- one was very enthusiastic and said she wanted me to send my 'full' (the entire manuscript) to her office. The other said I had a good start but cued me on some styling and structure to improve. Then I met with to editors to pitch my book to, and they both showed intrigue. One asked for the 'full' and the other for a 'partial' manuscript. (Partial requests come with querying if they are interested but not fully sold yet and full requests come if they are very interested.) I did not win any awards at the ceremony, but my brand new friend did and I was so happy for her. Michelle got some positive feedback but not as many requests as I did, so I left feeling encouraged and as though I got my 500$ conference fees worth for sure!
Unfortunately, at the end of several more weeks, none of my leads from the conference panned out. The heartbreaking journey of querying, sending the manuscripts and waiting for the replies continued for weeks. Perhaps my hopes were too high, as I left the conference with my feedback. I truly expected one of interesting parties to work out. One agent never, ever got to back to me after requesting a full... this was unprofessional I thought. I sent the materials and followed up twice and also reached out to another person at the agency due to the lack of response. It continues to feel very odd. The other requests fell into the eventual 'pass' pile and left me feeling that I had perhaps been duped into false hope. I may never know if those reps at a conference try to boister you up at the time and let you down later, or if it was genuine interest that just didn't wind up fitting.
In the end, I still believe it was a nice rite of passage for a new author. I gained knowledge, networked, made a friend, gained feedback from many sources and met in person many of these agents and editors who can make or break us. They are human, too! It set me up to continue my adventure of finding the right place for my novel.