What I Learned In New York
I learned nearly as much about the publishing industry just by going to New York as I did by going to the conference. Not to say I didn't learn a lot at the conference, I certainly did, but this was my first time in New York and I learned a lot about the people who live and work there by visiting it. I've been to Hawaii, Oklahoma, and now New York attending writer conferences and this is the first time I felt like I really got what the publishing industry was all about.
The publishing industry can feel like a very cold, callous place at times, what with all the form rejections and good writing that is passed up. Much of what I've been told about New Yorkers reflects that. But I have to tell you, they aren't the rude stereo types you've heard about. There are a lot of people in New York and everyone is busy rushing off to do something so there isn't time for small talk and niceties. Until you see New York you can't grasp the scope of just how many people are struggling to break out in this industry.
You and your work have to stand out from the masses, and by masses I mean thousands upon thousands of other writers who want it just as bad as you do. You have to want it more and work that much harder. There must be something that is not just great, but unique about your work that will snap publishers to attention and make them want to read it. Most importantly though, you must know deep down what your book is really about. You have to cut through all the prose, back story, and plotting and get straight to the heart of it. Publishers want someone who gets that. They have no time for those who don't. Don't wait for a trip to New York or a big conference to do this, do it in your query. Best of luck!