I hope you don't mind that I'm sending you this email. [Would you] be willing to address something for all of the clueless writers in the world. *You know, when you aren't reading 416 contest submissions, representing your current clients, and saving the world of course.
Ok, so ... For a newbie like me, it's very discouraging to keep running into road blocks like "its best if you meet me at a conference." In my personal case, I can't afford most of the conferences, I missed the most recent one in SF, and the next one that is even somewhat close to me is sold out. So, I've had to chalk those particular agents up to 'never going query.'
Now, in a seemingly opposite point of view, I follow a lot of agents on Twitter, and a couple of them have been tweeting about all the authors that are randomly approaching agents at Bologna, as though it is a VERY negative thing. Having never been to a conference, I have no idea what it even looks like, so I could be way out of line in saying that isn't that conflicting information? "You must only meet me at a conference. However, don't you dare approach me." I'm confused. (Now, that's not to say I would condone interrupting an agent's night out for sushi, but randomly approaching an agent in the hallway OF the conference seems the only option.) Right?
Again, I've never been to any conferences, so maybe they have a specific 'meet and greet' type of thing that I'm unaware of. But seeing how agents are unhappy about this happening right now in Bologna, maybe many authors are confused like me. (Who knew!?) I thought, maybe, just maybe you'd drop some knowledge on us, and possibly save the sanity of a fellow agent in the process. :-)
There's a key piece of information you don't have yet: Bologna is NOT a writing conference. It's a trade show. So is BEA. So is ALA (American Library Association).
That means that agents are there to work their REAL jobs: selling. They are not there to meet/help writers.
The same is true for some fan conventions like Bouchercon and Malice Domestic.
When an agent says they like to meet authors at conferences they mean writing conferences like:
Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers
Grub Street's Muse in the Marketplace
PennWriters annual conference
Those are places that pay my expenses to attend (BEA, ALA, Bouchercon and Malice do not) and in return, I offer my time and knowledge to the attending authors. I prefer you not pounce on me with your novel, but it's an ok place to say hello and expect as pleasant a response as I'm capable of (varies by hour of the day.)
Now back to saving the world.