Conference Activities

Due to the coronavirus and social distancing mandates, we’re seeing what we can do online. We’ve temporarily closed registrations until our adjustments are in place based on what our guest agents, editors, and workshop speaker is able to do. Once plans are in place we’ll reopen registrations if there are openings in the remaining activities.

The conference on May 8-9, 2020 consists of SEVEN parts and you may participate in one, some, or all of these events based on your interests, goals, and budget:

  1. Manuscript Sample Critique
  2. Pitch
  3. Query Letter Critique
  4. Friday Workshop: “Troubleshooting Your Manuscript: Essential Techniques for Identifying and Solving Problems”
  5. Editor Q&A Panel
  6. Agent Q&A Panel
  7. Pre-Conference Edit [Deadline February 17]

1. Manuscript Sample Critique

One-on-one manuscript sample critique sessions on the morning of Saturday, May 9, in the privacy of a hotel meeting room, where the 2018 Nov AWC Day 2 - MS Critiqueacquisitions editor(s) and/or agent(s) you’ve selected share their evaluation and discuss your project for about 15 minutes. The editor/agent will provide you a written summary of comments and make notes about your work (they won’t do line-editing, but they shouldn’t have to; that’s why we’re offering the Pre-Conference Edit ahead of time–see activity #7 below–so you can make sure your work is free of errors and other content problems before you submit it). By the end of the session, you might be asked to submit corrected pages or your full manuscript for consideration. You can register for up to two of these sessions. 

If you select this activity, you will need to submit the first 19 pages of your novel/memoir plus a query letter and 1-page synopsis; your 21-page nonfiction book proposal; or your entire picture book by April 7, 2020. NOTE: if there are waitlists for editors/agents, some will be shorter than others–use the link at the bottom of this page to contact us about who has the shortest waitlists among those who are a good fit for you and your work.

2. Pitch

For the pitch sessions on the afternoon of Saturday, May 9, in the privacy of a hotel meeting Pitch Queueroom, you will bring a one-page query letter and discuss your project for about 10 minutes with an editor/agent of your choice, talk about your writing and your publishing ambitions, and ask the editor/agent for reactions to your query and the description of your book. If the guest is interested, you will be asked to send sample pages or even the whole manuscript for consideration. You will not submit anything in advance. You can register for up to two of these sessions. 

Unlike most other conferences, you will bring your query letter to the pitch session on Saturday afternoon for the editor/agent for review immediately prior to your session. The query letter does the hard work of introducing your manuscript concept and yourself to the agent/editor, allowing you to build on that foundation in a natural conversation, with no recitation of a memorized spiel. To help you succeed in your pitch session(s), you can also register to get your query letter critiqued on Friday, October 25 (see activity #3 below) by an editor and agent who you will NOT be meeting with on Saturday, to give you a chance to improve your query letter ahead of time without hurting your chances with your choice picks.

If you also want 1-2 manuscript critiques (see activity #1 above), pitching will give you the chance to introduce other editors and/or agents to your work. Do NOT choose the same individual for manuscript critiquing AND pitching. It’s much wiser to increase your chances by meeting with as many individuals as you can who are seeking your genre/topic.

NOTE: if there are waitlists for editors/agents, some will be shorter than others–use the link at the bottom of this page to contact us about who has the shortest waitlists among those who are a good fit for you and your work.

3. Query Letter Critique

Writing a great manuscript is only part of the challenge on the road to publication. You also need to write a “bulletproof” query letter–one that won’t be rejected for errors of commission or omission–because agents and editors are not likely to ask for your manuscript if they aren’t impressed by your query. Therefore, we offer the “Query Letter Critique” on the afternoon of Friday, May 8, after the Editor Q&A Panel and prior to the Workshop (i.e., no schedule conflicts with these). For about 10Query Letter Critique minutes, in the privacy of a hotel boardroom, a panel of one editor and one agent–who will NOT include the editor(s)/agent(s) you may be meeting with on Saturday–will review and discuss your query letter with you. They will give you advice about how to make your query letter more polished and professional so you’ll do your best on Saturday and/or have guidance you can use on query letters long after the conference is over. At the October 2019 conference, more than 90% of Best Pitch awards by an agent or editor went to those who participated in the Query Letter Critique, so this activity really does improve your chances to shine!

The Query Letter Critique on Friday, May 8 is the rare chance to share your query letter with publishing professionals for completely objective feedback. This agent/editor team will be randomly assigned to participants (with the assurance that the team assigned to you will not include anyone you’re meeting with on Saturday, if applicable). Their role in this activity is not to accept or reject; rather, their goal is to help you improve your work so you can shine on Saturday and/or in all future queries. But, who knows? If you submit a great query letter at this Friday Query Letter Critique session, one or both of the panel editors/agents might ask to see your work too! It happens often at our conferences.

You will not submit anything in advance; you’ll bring copies of your query letter with you for the agent-editor panel to read and discuss before you meet with them, so you can craft it right up to the last minute. Two weeks before the conference, we will let you know which editor and agent will team up to help you.

Note that you do NOT have to register for the Saturday pitch in order to register for the Friday query letter critique–maybe you want to just try out a query letter with some talented industry professionals and get their feedback with no pressure or stress, or maybe you want to improve your letter for future queries. These are excellent reasons to take advantage of this unique chance to get important feedback about a submission that is usually just a “yes” or “no” proposition. In fact, since we introduced this feature in 2013, most of our guest editors and agents have reported the query letter critique panel was their favorite activity and considered it a must-do for all participants who are serious about getting their best work out there.


4. Friday Workshop: “Troubleshooting Your Manuscript: Essential Techniques for Identifying and Solving Problems”

Steven James is a national bestselling novelist whose award-winning, pulse-poundingSteven James thrillers continue to gain wide critical acclaim and a growing fan base. Equipped with a unique Master’s Degree in Storytelling, he has taught writing and storytelling on four continents over the past two decades and has spoken more than two thousand times at events spanning the globe.

Steven’s groundbreaking books on the art of fiction writing, STORY TRUMPS STRUCTURE and TROUBLESHOOTING YOUR NOVEL, have both won Storytelling World Awards. Widely recognized for his story-crafting expertise, he teaches regularly as a Master Class instructor at ThrillerFest, North America’s premier training event for suspense writers.

In his podcast “The Story Blender,” he interviews leading storytellers in film, print, and web. Listen now to any of the dozens of archived podcasts for free by visiting his website

On Friday, May 8, following the query letter critiques, he will provide a workshop for fiction and creative nonfiction writers, designed just for the Atlanta Writers Conference, Troubleshooting Your Manuscript: Essential Techniques for Identifying and Solving Problems.

In this practical workshop packed full of specific, time-tested advice, you will explore how to pinpoint weak spots in your story—and solve them—examine how to adjust elements of story progression, develop riveting characters, master narrative techniques, and ensure reader engagement. You owe your book more than just a polish and a proofread. This workshop will help take it to the next level.

5. Editor Q&A Panel

On Friday, May 8, before the query letter critiques, eight acquisitions editors who representEditor Q&A Panel-sm Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, St. Martin’s Press, and others answer your questions about the craft and business of writing from the publishers’ perspective, including how they work with authors, the current state of the publishing industry, the different roles within publishing firms, creative control and collaboration, and whatever else you want to ask about.

6. Agent Q&A Panel

On Saturday, May 9, before the manuscript critiques, participate in a candid, Agent Q&A Panel - 2freewheeling discussion with all eight literary agents, who will educate you about their changing roles and the expanding responsibilities of the author, with advice about working with agents and expectations about marketing one’s work. Also get answers to your questions concerning everything from queries and contracts to publicity and social media.

7. Pre-Conference Edit [Deadline: February 17]

To help you prepare for your conference Manuscript Critique–or simply get feedback on the start of your book to guide its development–the Pre-Conference Edit enables you to select a professional freelance editor who will content- and line-edit the first 19 pages of your book, a 1-page synopsis, and a 1-page query letter almost two months before the submission due date for the Manuscript Critique, to give you time to correct, rework, and otherwise improve what you submit for feedback from the agent(s) and/or acquisitions editor(s). Even if you’re not interested in a Manuscript Critique, the freelance editor can improve your query letter and synopsis and spot issues that can help you develop the rest of your book and make it more saleable.

The Pre-Conference Edit will improve your chances with the agents and acquisitions editors and also give you crucial guidance about changes you need to make in the rest of your manuscript. At our October 2019 conference, 65% of all awards–for Best Manuscript Sample and Best Pitch–went to writers who participated in the Pre-Conference Edit.

When you register, you can select one, some, or all of these activities. We offer a Conference All-Activities Package, which includes two manuscript critiques, two pitches, and all of the other activities, with a $175 discount because the two Q&A Panels are free when you select this option. Until February 17, you can choose the same Package deal but also with the Pre-Conference Edit, which is free as well when you choose the “Conference All-Activities Package with Pre-Conference Edit” option.


Bonuses (free and open to anyone who purchases at least two of the Conference activities above):

Steven James booksOn the afternoon of Friday, May 9, national bestselling author and ThrillerFest Master Class instructor Steven James will offer two 45-minute talks before his workshop, at 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. respectively: “Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules” and “Pulling the Rug Out: How to Craft Twists Your Readers Will Never See Coming.”

Mike Shaw Mixer Music PosterOn the evening of Friday, May 8, from 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., we inviteMixer - 1 Conference participants purchasing for two or more activities to gather in a private room at the Westin Atlanta Airport Hotel for informal conversations with the editors and agents and to network with your peers. All the editors and agents will attend this free mixer, and we will have live musical entertainment.

Rona SimmonsOn Saturday, May 9, while the morning critiques are held, we will feature two talks by Rona Simmons, nonfiction author and novelist: “Getting Serious about Serious Nonfiction” and “Crafting the Mother of all Marketing Plans.”

That afternoon while the pitch sessions are held, we will feature two Steven Cooper talks by author and award-winning former investigative reporter Steven Cooper: “Myths and Realities of the Publishing Process: What It Really Means to Get a Book Deal and What to Expect” and “How to Research Your Book Like a Journalist: Creating Believable Storylines in Believable Places with Believable Happenings.”

To close out the Atlanta Writers Conference on Saturday afternoon, we will offerDoresa Jennings prize giveaways, including critiques, pitches, and other activities for the next conference and lifetime membership in the Atlanta Writers Club. And then our award ceremony will commence, with all 16 editors and agents announcing awards for Best Manuscript Sample and Best Pitch. Many participants who were awarded one or more of these certificates later received book deals from editors or representation contracts from agents. See who shines on May 9th–it might be your name our guests call!

All bonus activities are free for anyone purchasing at least two of the following activities: the manuscript critique, pitch, query letter critique, workshop, editor Q&A panel, agent Q&A panel, and/or pre-conference edit.


Our Policy on Sexual Harassment

The Atlanta Writers Conference staff, Atlanta Writers Club (AWC) volunteers, and the presenters at its conferences are committed to helping provide safe, inspiring, informative events. The Atlanta Writers Club will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind on the part of attendees, presenters, or anyone connected to any event sponsored by the AWC. We urge anyone who experiences or observes a problem to notify Atlanta Writers Conference Director George Weinstein ( immediately. We appreciate your cooperation.

Our Photo Policy

Atlanta Writers Conference volunteers will be taking photos during the conference to share on social media and use on the conference website to advertise the event and celebrate the participants and our guests. By registering for this conference, you are giving us permission to use your image for these purposes.


Please contact Atlanta Writers Conference Director George Weinstein at

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