Recently I gave away query letter critiques as part of a fundraiser. I said "send your query, get a critique, then send it back with revisions, get another."
It was very gratifying to see how fast those query crits got snapped up.
And once we started working, it was clear, yet again, that most writers need only two or three revisions to get a good solid query. And I don't mean little tinkering changes here and there, I mean, tear down to the floor boards and start again revisions. TWO or THREE!
So, why the hell aren't writers conferences offering this instead of pitch sessions? It boggles my mind.
First: getting your query, your WRITTEN query, in front of an agent is 100% more effective than pitching.
Second: pitch sessions are one and done. You get ONE shot to entice an agent. With query revisions, you've got a chance to revise, and try again. Moreover, I can explain why something doesn't work, suggest an alternative, or ask a question that helps you clarify your plot. With pitch sessions all I can say is "yes" or "no" and you have no idea what went in to either answer.
Even if there's a chance to say more like "this doesn't work" you're not in any kind of headspace to hear and consider it. You're focused on keeping your self pulled together for the next pitch.
Third: if you revise your query with one agent, you've got a MUCH better shot at enticing another agent. With pitch sessions, you simply repeat your pitch on and on with no sense of whether it's effective.
I've been ranting about this for YEARS. I don't seem to be making much headway which really just breaks my heart and fills the oceans with salty shark tears. It's damn hard to get ahead in publishing, and writers conferences are the one place that should give you the tools and the practice to get better.
I've seen this over and over: helping authors revise queries WORKS. It's EFFECTIVE.*** Why the hell aren't writers DEMANDING this??
**here's a writer talking about her experience with crit donation mentioned above.