experience, attitude, enthusiasm, and boundless optimism

Someone Doesn’t Get It

A second late-night post, because this columnist at the Washington Times just doesn’t get it. You may have seen this article linked on Twitter, but if you haven’t, I advise you to take a moment to get worked up by reading it. Following is my response, which I emailed directly to the author, as well as to the general feedback email address given:

Dear Ms. Duin,

As a literary agent who has attended numerous SCBWI events and conferences, as well as various other conferences sponsored by other organizations for writers, I think you missed the point of the conference you attended.

It is meant as a learning experience, and an opportunity for face time with agents and editors who are otherwise just names on a submission list for the many writers who hope to be published by a traditional trade publishing house. Any contact with those agents or editors, whether it is in one-on-one pitch sessions scheduled by the conference, in workshops, or in casual conversation, is valuable. At the same time, if you met a doctor at a restaurant where he was having lunch, would you ask him to diagnose your aches and pains? When agents and editors attend conferences, they too need to eat, and that time is not yours to interrupt with a description of your work — not when there is other scheduled time for pitches, or when they have already expressed an interest in receiving email submissions from conference attendees, when their houses or agencies may otherwise be closed to unsolicited submissions.

As for the cost of the conference, would you begrudge tuition paid to a college to learn how to be a better accountant, or scientist? The cost of a SCBWI conference, which provides fees to the agents and editors who attend, and the rental fees for the location, among other expenses, is far less than most course fees, and the lessons learned are far more valuable, as well as being real-world applicable to those who are open to learn.

Furthermore, your contention that only “one person out of the hundreds” who attends these conferences may find success may be that organizer’s opinion. I know I have met authors who became clients at SCBWI conferences multiple times, to great success. Although it must be said, I also receive hundreds of queries, and of those hundreds, I find less than one new client for every several hundred I receive. If the conference you attended boasted a 1 in 100 success rate, perhaps you need to reevaluate your standard of success.

In the publishing world — which you say you inhabit — that level of success is astronomical.

A final note — yes, there are disreputable organizations that prey on would-be authors, but your intimation that the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is one of these is maliciously untrue, and I have no doubt that you will receive dozens — if not hundreds — of emails in their support.

Kate Testerman
kt literary, llc.

I have no doubt that my readers have their own responses, and I invite you to leave them here, but please, also email them to The Washington Times.

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