Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Making The Most Of A Conference

Let's start with stating the obvious. Attending a writing conference is expensive. Airfare, hotel, food, registration and certainly the book store adds up fast! So if you are spending a ton of cash, you need to make sure you take advantage of the time you have and really use it wisely. Please note the following suggestions are in no particular order. I am working without my morning cup of coffee right now.

First of all, remember that attending a conference is about networking. I bring this up because I see far too many authors hiding away in a corner with their laptops working on their story. Look, if you want to go to a hotel to write, that's fine, but why waste your registration money just to do this. Put the darn computer away and get out there to talk to people.

It is crucial that you are out and about as much as possible. I don't care if you are an introvert, this is not the time to do so. Start talking to people. Meet strangers at the conference and start talking "shop". You might be surprised as to who you meet and what connections you might make. Heck, your future editor or agent might be around the corner. No, this does not mean to start stalking people and pitching your story. Just talk. Let the conversation flow.

I should also add to quit moving in packs. There is nothing wrong with hanging with a friend every now and then, but when the group gets too big, other people will not come and talk. This is especially true with the meal time. I don't know how many times I have come in to the ball room for meals and find the entire chapter from Potunk, Montana (nothing against people in Montana) have taken up an entire table. Remember, leaving a seat open might give you the chance to sit with an editor or agent. Invite them to your table.

Workshops are always at conferences, but you have to choose wisely. Attend EVERYTHING you can get to, but make sure the material is for information you need at this particular point in your career. Review who is teaching the session and really look at their background. There are a lot of really good sessions out there as well as some pretty pathetic ones.

I personally recommend heading to every one of the spotlight sessions for the publishers. This is a great place to ask questions about the type of stories that editor likes, the voice they look for and so forth. Two words of warning through - A) don't pitch; and B) don't ask questions that can be found on their FAQ pages. Go for understanding who these people are.

Avoid the bar! No, I am not saying that you cannot socialize, but remember the conference is a professional meeting and people ARE watching you. You never know who is watching and what they are thinking. I am someone who is always out people watching. Bad impressions out there will certainly lead to not so pretty results.

I get that a conference can be tiring. Who cares! You spent a lot of money and you need to make use of it. You can always sleep when you get home.

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