#WDC15: Writer's Digest's Annual Conference

Image - iStockphoto: Apex One
Image – iStockphoto: Apex One

Hundreds of authors head into the ballrooms of New York City’s Roosevelt Hotel at Madison and East 45th this week for Writer’s Digest’s Annual Conference. There, many of them will woo literary agents in the confab’s huge Pitch Slam. And this year, the savviest of them will know exactly what moves those agents are looking for, thanks to a harmonious convergence of Manuscript WishList Day and Pitch Slamon the calendar.

Among the largest and most professionally run of the year’s author conferences,#WDC15, as it’s hashtagged on Twitter, has the benefit of an organization almost a century old behind it. One of the many verticals of David Nussbaum’s content and e-commerce corporation FW, Writer’s Digest is a producer of training and daily guidance, all designed to help an author “write better, get published,” as the slogan has it.

Phil Sexton
Phil Sexton
Phil Sexton

Under publisher Phil Sexton’s direction, the conferences of “WD” have proven to dance always ahead of the curve.

Sexton generated special self-publishing sequences, for example, just as the independent-author movement was rising: he was there well before some other conferences saw the impact of this new market sector. And then he regrouped ahead of the rest again — as the us-vs.-them energy of the indie incursion eased, Sexton reasserted fundamentals of best business and writing practices at his programming’s heart.

The result is that this week’s Writer’s Digest Annual Conference is valuable to both traditionally inclined and independently oriented authors, with an emphasis on trade, as you might expect in a New York setting.

If you’re planning to join us at the conference or want to learn more about it, Writer’s Digest’s “The Writer’s Dig” online editor Brian Klems (@BrianKlems) will join me on Twitter (@Porter_Anderson) Tuesday (28th July) at 8 p.m. Eastern / 5 p.m. Pacific for a live chat about what’s ahead at the conference and about one of Klems’ special sessions on blogging today for authors: From Blog To Agent To Book Deal: What All Writers Need To Know About Using Their Blog To Succeed. We’ll be using that #WDC15 hashtag for the live chat, happy to have you join us. We’ll also have extensive live coverage of the events on the #WDC15 hashtag, beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern on Friday (31 July).

Among highlights of the faculty and sessions in the program, which opens Friday afternoon (31st July) and runs through Sunday:

  • Keynote addresses from National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson; multiple-Bram Stoker Award winner Jonathan Maberry; and author-housebuilder Tim Johnston.
  • Former agent and now author Nathan Bransford on “How To Stay Sane During The Writing Process.” (I’ll be taking serious notes.)
  • “The Wattpad Workshop” with Wattpad content chief Ashleigh Gardner.
  • Mystery-writing with Hallie Ephron and buzz-building with M.J. Rose.
  • An author’s-eye look at ebook subscription services from the Book Industry Study Group’s Nadine Vassallo.
  • William Martin on historical fiction; Jane K. Cleland on crime fiction; N.K. Jemisin on world-building; Tee Morris, Pip Ballantine, and Steven Harper Piziks on steampunk.
  • Sexton, himself, will teach not only a nonfiction book proposal session but also will reprise his must-see session on what authors can and should demand to know of their publishers — the presentation is called “Dirty Little Secrets: Learn How the Publishing Industry Really Works In Order To Become A More Successful Author,” and it’s an eye-opener.
  • I’ll be offering a session in Library Journal and BiblioBoard’s new SELF-e program for indie discoverability in the US library system.
  • Zachary Petit, who edits another venerable FW property, Print, will lead a session on writing for magazines.
  • And, a first: Eight of us from the Writer Unboxed site will do a panel moderated by Writer’s Digest magazine editor Jessica Strawser. More Writer’s Digest staffers engaged in the programming include

The entire schedule is here and divided into five parallel tracks: “Getting Published,” “Platform & Promotion,” “The Business Of Being An Author” “Craft,”  and “Genre Studies.”

And the event is close now to a complete sellout, which means between 700 and 800 in attendance. Registering by Thursday (30th July) will save you $50, as long as available seats last.

But one part of the event sold out weeks ago. It’s the one that keeps the authors on their feet, even on their toes: Pitch Slam.


A Well-Timed #MSWL, Before The Slam

At last year's Writer's Digest Annual Conference Pitch Slam: talking fast. Image: Porter Anderson
At last year’s Writer’s Digest Annual Conference Pitch Slam: talking fast. Image: Porter Anderson

After three hour-long Slam sessions sold out, the conference added a fourth — and it, too, sold out within days. At this point, there’s a long waiting list for Pitch Slam. Under the supervision of Writer’s Digest’s Chuck Sambuchino, the conference’s Slam is a kind of talk-for-your-life rite of passage for many author. They propose, or pitch, their book projects to more than 50 editors and literary agents. Fast. Very fast.

The attraction? Access.

  • Authors get to speak directly with agents and describe their projects…for 90 seconds. That’s all.
  • Then the agents and editors get to respond to the authors…for 90 more seconds. That’s all.
  • After each of these three-minute exchanges, all the authors move to other agents — or to waiting lines for them.

High energy, white-knuckled tension fills the room as writers forget their own book titles, their plots, their character names, while speaking to agents — who can actually find this whole thing pretty nerve-wracking, too. It’s always remarkable how gracious and polite most attendees manage to remain during such an exciting, stressful event. You’ll see them carefully honoring each other’s place in line, wishing each other luck, consoling the ones who aren’t asked for a full or partial manuscript by an agent.

One of the best things that Pitch Slam participants can do to prepare is to be at Sambuchino’s “Pitch Perfect” session at 1 p.m. on Friday, an hour before the formal start of the afternoon sessions that day. In “Pitch Perfect,” Sambuchino outlines all the procedural points writers need to keep in mind to be as productive as possible at the Slam sessions on Saturday.

The most helpful thing a nervous author can do remember is that an agent wants — in fact needs — to find good, salable properties by professional, capable authors. The agents want the authors to be good. Everybody has the same goal, just from two different sides of the pitch table.

And that’s why it’s good news that the Manuscript WishList program (#MSWL) happens to dovetail with the Writer’s Digest conference this year. Alert authors will have a chance to walk into Pitch Slam much surer of various specific agents’ interests when they sit down and start talking.


Read More

There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether:  A Dance Card For Writer’s Digest’s Annual Conference: #WDC15 Meets #MSWL

Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.ThoughtCatalog.com



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