Tuesday, July 8, 2014

10 Things To Make A Conference A Success

I have said it before and I will say it again. Conferences are amazingly useful to authors if done right. On the other hand, if you attend a conference with the wrong approach, it can be nothing more than a time suck and a drain on your wallet.

Here are my 10 recommendations for making your attendance at a major conference highly successful:

  1. Break out of your shell and talk to people. Conferences are about networking. If you are too afraid to talk to people or to sit with others during the meals, you have not business in publishing. Although writing is something that is very individual, this business is about getting your name around. You cannot do this hiding away in some hidden hallway. Talk to people. It doesn't have to be pitching your story, but talk. Who knows what you will learn and who knows you you will meet!
  2. Attend spotlight sessions and editor/agent panels. There is SOOOOOO much information that can be gathered from these sessions. Ask questions and take notes. This is not the time to be discussing their thoughts on e-publishing, self-publishing or trends. This is a time to get to know those people. Discover their likes and dislikes. Get them talking. Hint: A good question to ask is what the last book was they bought and why they think it is the best thing ever.
  3. Take a lot of notes Write, write and write. Don't worry about sorting things out. You can do that later. Just take notes. When you get home, review those notes. Along the same lines, make sure to write down all of the contact information from those editors and agents!
  4. Skip the sightseeing Yes, conferences can be in great locations, but darn it, you paid for the conference so attend it. If you want to see the sights, do it before or after the conference. This was a big one for the Anaheim RWA conference. People spent a lot of time at Disneyland and not at the expensive conference they paid for.
  5. Don't go to work on your manuscript Your manuscript can wait. Sure, take a pad of paper and jot down ideas when they pop up. Bring your computer if you want to but don't work on the story DURING the conference. Wait until after all of the activities are done with the day and then work on your story in the evening in your room. Of course, if you did the conference right, you will be too tired to write. 
  6. Talk to people about your writing This is a writing conference so talk shop. Take the time to discuss how other writers approach their stories. You might find some useful tips and tricks. Along the same lines, keep names and email addresses. You might find some connections later on, as well as critique partners. 
  7. Don't spend your money at the bookstore (with some exceptions) I know that conferences are going to cringe on this one, but I personally don't spend my money in the bookstores (unless it is a smaller conference and the money goes to the writing group). I do wander through the bookstore and make lists of books I want to get when I return home. Besides, you probably packed far too much for the conference so where do you plan on putting those books? 
  8. Don't travel in packs The thing about traveling in large groups is that it automatically excludes anyone from the outside wanting to chat. As someone who does like to talk at conferences, I might chat with a small group 2-4, but if your group is getting too big, don't expect me to pop in and chat. 
  9. Be professional while in public We are watching you. We are listening to the things you say. We (I am talking about the editors and agents) also talk to each other. Let me give you a little story that might set the tone. I was at the Atlanta national conference several years ago. Someone came in and pitched a story to me. It was OK and I was probably going to look at what she sent me. But here comes the kicker. I heard from several people she was sitting outside talking about how amazing she was as a writer, how much "Nora Roberts was a hack" and how any editor or agent would be blessed to have her. Hmmm, do you thing I would want this person? 
  10. Come prepared to sell that story This is not just having a project finished, or having the project in a printed form. This is about attitude. If you are here to pitch then you come with the positive (but not unrealistic) attitude to sell that story. you worked hard on this so be proud of the work and show that confidence!

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