Conference Activities

The conference on May 7-9, 2021 consists of FIVE 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. Sunday Online Workshop Doubleheader
  5. Pre-Conference Edit (DEADLINE February 3)

Due to COVID-19, we are offering phone meetings rather than in-person critique and pitch activities with the agents and editors (phone meetings offer faster, more reliable connectivity and are more dependable than online meetings). We also will not be able to hold our usual large-group events (Q&A panels, educational talks, mixer, award ceremony) because our desire is to ensure your safety at all times. We’ll resume providing in-person activities once COVID-19 vaccines become widely available. In the meantime, we hope you take advantage of the phone meetings with the industry professionals on May 7-8 and the online workshop doubleheader on May 9.

1. Manuscript Sample Critique

One-on-one manuscript sample critique sessions on the morning and early afternoon of Saturday, May 8, via phone meetings, where the computer & phoneacquisitions editor(s) and/or agent(s) you’ve selected will call you according to a schedule to share their evaluation and discuss your project for about 15 minutes. In advance of these meetings, you will receive the editor/agent’s written summary of comments and notes on your pages (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 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 phone 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 and then add a third confirmed/waitlisted critique by contacting Atlanta Writers Conference Director George Weinstein at

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 5, 2021. 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.

After the final manuscript critiques are discussed on Saturday afternoon, all 16 editors and agents will select one or two participants to receive a Best Manuscript Sample certificate, to be sent after the conference.

2. Pitch

For the pitch sessions via phone on the afternoon of Saturday, May 8, you will submit a one-page query letter in advance (by May 3) for the editor(s)/agent(s) you selected to read in advance. This can be a placeholder if you are also registering for the Query Letter Critique (see below); after your Friday query letter critique calls, you can rewrite your pitch letter and submit it before midnight on May 7 so the agent(s) and/or editor(s) can review it in advance. On May 8, each agent and/or editor you selected will call you according to a schedule and discuss your project for about 10 minutes. You can also talk with them 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 may be asked to send them sample pages or even the whole manuscript for consideration. You will not submit anything else in advance. You can register for up to two of these sessions and then add a third confirmed/waitlisted pitch by contacting Atlanta Writers Conference Director George Weinstein at

Unlike most other conferences, the editor/agent gets to review your query letter prior to your pitch phone meeting(s). 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, May 7 (see below) by a pair of editors and/or agents 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. Remember, if you register for the pitch and the query letter critique activities, you can send an updated pitch query letter by 11:59 p.m. on May 7, so it can be provided to the agent(s)/editor(s) ahead of the pitch phone meetings.

If you also want manuscript critiques (see 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 fiction genre or nonfiction 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.

After the final pitches are discussed on Saturday afternoon, all 16 editors and agents will select one or two participants to receive a Best Pitch certificate, to be sent after the conference.

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 7. You will submit your query letter by April 26 for review. Then, on May 7, for about 10MS Crit 1 minutes each, you will receive separate phone calls from two editors and/or agents–who will NOT include the editor(s)/agent(s) you may be meeting with on Saturday–who will 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 provide guidance you can use on query letters long after the conference is over. At the November 2020 conference, nearly 70% 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 7 is the rare chance to share your query letter with publishing professionals for completely objective feedback. The agents and editors will be randomly assigned to participants (with the assurance that the pair 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 else in advance. Two weeks before the conference, we will let you know which editor and agent will be calling to help you, in case you want to address them directly in your query letter.

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 was their favorite activity and considered it a must-do for all participants who are serious about getting their best work out there.

You can register for one of these sessions and then add a second query letter critique by contacting Atlanta Writers Conference Director George Weinstein at

4. Sunday Online Workshop Doubleheader: “Judging a Book by Its Title” with Peter Hildick-Smith and “The Path to Bestsellerdom” with NYT #1 Bestseller Lisa Gardner

On Sunday, May 9, from 1:45 to 3:45 p.m., US Eastern Peter Hildick-Smith–the President and Founder of the Codex-Group LLC, a book audience research firm–will discuss “Judging a Book by Its Title,” where he will present extensive research his company has done with book buyers to determine what most appeals to consumers when they’re deciding what books to purchase.

You will be able to submit your own proposed title, any sub-title, jacket copy verbiage (no more than 200 words), and book cover (if available) as well as the target book category and audience you are trying to reach (so there is a clearly defined context to assess the message against) a week before the conference so Peter can provide as much live praise, critiques, and suggestions during the workshop as time will allow. He will also administer an interactive Book IQ test so you can test your own book message evaluation instincts and get a better understanding of what high impact titles and covers look like before the individual message reviews so everyone leaves with a framework to work with going forward.

Then, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., Lisa Gardner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-three suspense novels, will present “The Path to Bestsellerdom.” Lisa has transformed her interest in police procedure and criminal minds into a streak of internationally acclaimed novels, which have been published across 30 countries and received numerous awards. She’s also had four books become TV movies. Join her for an in-depth look at the publishing journey. Drawing on moments from her own thirty-year career, Lisa will provide tips on developing a query letter, submitting a novel, finding an agent, launching a published novel, and then riding the ride. From first book publication to midlist slump to rocketing success, Lisa will share an insider’s view on how to ultimately achieve your publishing goals. Be advised, this talk will involve chocolate.

If you will be traveling on Sunday or will be otherwise unavailable, you don’t have to worry about missing these–both workshops will be recorded and sent to all workshop registrants.

5. Pre-Conference Edit (ACTIVITY NOW CLOSED)

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 November 2020 conference, more than a third of all awards–for Best Manuscript Sample and Best Pitch–went to writers who participated in the Pre-Conference Edit. 

You can register for one of these sessions and then add a second or third pre-conference edit by contacting Atlanta Writers Conference Director George Weinstein at

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 $135 discount because the Sunday doubleheader workshops online are free when you select this option. Until February 3, you can choose the same Package deal but also add in 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 available to anyone who purchases any of the Conference activities above):

Due to COVID-19, we can’t pack the ballroom as usual for educational talks and award ceremonies or offer a mixer so participants and guests can mingle. However, we do want to offer you bonuses for purchasing any of the activities above, so we’re going to send all conference registrants links to presentations from successful Atlanta-area authors so you can get even more from your Atlanta Writers Conference experience.

Chris NegronDan UnmaskedFor example, middle grade novelist Chris Negron, author of Dan Unmasked, will discuss Rejection: the secret door to strong revision” – If distance is the key to revision, then rejection might just be the secret door that key fits into. This discussion will focus on turning negatives into positives – using rejection as not just fuel but an actual tool for revision. Chris will share the submission history of his debut novel, Dan Unmasked, and how it fed into the revision process to produce a book that could not have existed without all those rejections, as well as the techniques that emerged from the experience.

The bonus activities are free for anyone purchasing any of the activities.


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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