Writer’s Digest Conference

Barbara Vey -- January 25th, 2011
Nancy Naigle

Nancy Naigle

Today’s cub reporter is Nancy Naigle who attended the Writers Digest Conference in NYC over the weekend. Nancy writes love stories from the crossroad of small town and suspense.   She and her husband live in rural Virginia on their goat farm where they are living out their own small town love story.


Hey friends. The conference booklet for the 2011 Writer’s Digest Conference was appropriate, because when I arrived in New York City Friday afternoon it was to snow flurries and the coldest temperatures they’ve seen in years. Unlike other NY hotels I’ve stayed in the last couple of years for these conferences, it was a happy surprise to find my room at the Sheraton had a coffee pot. Hooray! Barbara, you’ll have to tell the coffee pot story in the comments. Yes, it’s truly the little things that mean the most!

Friday night, Richard Curtis got down and dirty into the details of being an agent in the shifting landscape of publishing, and

Writer's Digest Booklet

Writer's Digest Booklet

how the infatuation with screen readers is impacting and changing the way we buy books. Don’t give up on books, however. They aren’t going anywhere.

The highlight on Friday for me was the charming Chuck Sambuchino who shared insider tips on how to make the best of the pitch opportunities on Saturday at the pitch slam. In a nutshell, his advice was to use only half of your allotted time pitching so you have time to interact with the agent. Set the stage. Start with the genre, title, word count and status of your manuscript (ie is it complete?) Then, follow up with the logline, and quickly intro the main character and inciting incident. Easy as pie, right?

So, picture this. A grand ballroom in a New York City hotel. The room sprawls the entire second floor.  Seated around that room – 55 awesome literary agents. Some looked as nervous as the writers getting ready to pitch. Each agent would be pitched every three minute increment for the next two hours.  That’s a lot of pitches!

Anxious Writers

Anxious Writers

Outside the doors, over 500 nervous writers snaked from one end of the hall to the other between huge pillars in two directions. The picture here doesn’t do it justice. Most of the folks I chatted with after the Pitch Slam said they pitched 6-10 of the agents on their wish lists in the allotted time.

The staff at Writers Digest did a great job leveraging twitter to share information by posting hashtags for every session. You can check out activities and comments on twitter at #wdc11.

Aside from the standard sessions on craft, there were several focused on marketing (I’ve got pages and pages of notes from those), and others on how to do-it-yourself or through subsidy presses. It was a diverse schedule that met the needs of the attendees that was a mix of fiction, non-fiction, journalists and poets.

The closing keynote was Ben LeRoy of Tyrus Books who spoke about looking for a resurgence of books about every day people in extraordinary circumstances. He took us on a verbal journey through some of his travels to the small towns he’s discovered and fallen in love with. It was a wonderful and thoughtful way to end the weekend.

I’m excited to be staying in town for DIGITAL BOOK WORLD. It kicks off Monday and runs through Wednesday. This one focuses on the publishing end of the process. If you want to follow along on the action as it happens, the twitter hashtag is #dbw11.

If you’re interested in becoming a Cub Reporter for Beyond Her Book and planning on attending a conference I won’t be at, please let me know by sending me an email bvey@publishersweekly.com .

You can also follow me at Twitter and Facebook.

Bottom Line: Thanks to Nancy for being our eyes and ears at Writers Digest and we’re looking forward to her wrap up of Digital Book World.

53 thoughts on “Writer’s Digest Conference

  1. Dianna Love

    That’s a great review, Nancy. I enjoyed the WD conference the year Mary Buckham and I presented workshops there. We tell writers about it all the time. Kudos on getting a coffee maker – nice to have anytime, but especially when it’s cold as the devil outside and you just want a cup of coffee without leaving your room or waiting for room service to start if you’re a real early riser.

  2. Nancy Naigle

    Hi Dianna :) I still giggle when I think about the coffee pot you, Mary Buckham and Barbara bought in NYC a couple years ago during ThrillerFest. Wish I’d been there for the hall party, but I did get to use that very pot in DC the following week. I mailed it back to Barbara saving her from hulking it back on the plane haha.

    It’s snowing here again this morning. Br-r-r-r. I wonder if I’ll actually be flying out tomorrow night as scheduled??

  3. Debbie Kaufman

    Hi Nancy! Great job on the conference overview. Three minute pitching increments? Wow. Challenging for both sides. How cool that they were using twitter during the conference. I may have to finally break down and learn to tweet :)

  4. Tracy March

    Hi Nancy,

    What a great synopsis of all of the information and fun at the Writer’s Digest Conference! Aren’t you glad you weren’t in that pitch line? It had to feel good to attend your first conference as a soon-to-be-published author. We are all looking forward to the debut of OUT OF FOCUS in November!

    Tracy :)

  5. Sandy

    good post — but the essential question — do you have a good vet? My daughter is outside of Luray and they can’t get decent vet care for their goats.

  6. Susan in AZ

    Goats and Marketing… hmmm… how to train your Goats to do your marketing for you…. Could be that you will give your own seminar next year! Good luck on your book release, with 7 months to prepare, you should end up with a super marketing strategy!

  7. Alicia Legg

    This was a really nice article, Nancy. Well done! You captured the essence of the conference nicely. It was exhilarating and challenging all at once. I too have pages and pages of notes from each day. It was a terrific conference and the very best part is that it connected me to wonderful authors like you. I am looking so forward to reading OUT OF FOCUS this fall.

  8. Nancy Naigle

    It was so fun making new friends at this event. Authors, publishers, editors, techno-savvy geek (that’s a compliment by the way!) guys, pr folks, journalists, agents, aspiring and inquisitive folks. SO NEAT. It was a great event, and I made it home despite changing flights 4 times and missing the late afternoon sessions (sadness). I feel energized and encouraged about my own sales at the end of 2011 and the industry in general.

    Ahhh…and as for goats. Sorry partner, goat vets are indeed hard to find. BUT thank goodness they are generally pretty hardy animals. Since you’re here in Virginia you might contact my sweet husband for advice. He keeps all of our goats alive and kicking on his own. His website is http://www.holland-farm.com

    AND YES — there are some goats in OUT OF FOCUS :) You’ll have to wait until November to see how I found a way to weave those adorable creatures into the story.

    Thanks for letting me play in your space, Barbara. You’re the BEST!

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