My writer’s group and I are planning on attending two conferences this spring, the Dreamin’ in Dallas hosted by the Dallas Area Romance Authors on April 1 & 2 and the OWFI Conference hosted by the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc on May 5 & 6. We’ve all registered, and now it’s time for conference preparations.
Here are some things to have ready prior to any conference:
- Know your genre and target audience for your completed manuscript. This is actually a three-in-one. People at conferences will ask what you write. The target audience refers to the demographic of the people you think might want to read your book: middle grade, young adults, adults, men, women… Knowing what kind of people might want to purchase your book shows you’ve done your market research. Not sure about your genre? Check out the Writer’s Digest – Sub Genre Descriptions. ONLY pitch manuscripts which you have completed, revised, revised and revised again. If an agent/editor asks for your work, you want it to be as close to ready-for-print as you can get it. It shows respect for the agent/editor’s time and demonstrates your professionalism.
- Elevator pitch – Your story in 1-2 sentences. This helps in case some one says, “so what’s your story about?” You never know who might be listening, or who might ask. Practice saying your elevator pitch until it rolls off your tongue and be sure to use a present, active tense. The word “was” in all of its forms have no place in this pitch.
- Pitch – This is a slightly longer description of your story. Something you can say in 3-5 minutes (like a query) that highlights the main character, his/her goals, what stands in his/her way, as well as when/where the story takes place. Be sure the tone of the pitch matches the tone of your manuscript.
- Polished query AND synopsis – Have a couple of copies available just in case, but leave them in your hotel room. Agents/editors usually fly into conference and usually don’t want to tote around a bunch of papers which leads to number 5 on my list. I never take a printed manuscript for the same reason. Who want’s to lug around 200+ pages?
- Business Cards – Carry them with you. Business cards should be easy to read, contain your name (or pen name), website and/or blog address, email address. Be sure not to put too much personal information on your card because you never know where they’ll end up. I use the tagline “Where will you face your nightmare?” on mine. It reinforces the genre I write and adds a little fun while remaining professional. You can print business cards at home (I strongly recommend buying business card paper) or find an online source for free business cards.
- Professional Attire – Approach the conference like a job interview, because that’s what it is. People are judged on appearance, so make sure you look presentable.
- Conference Etiquette – Going to a conference may feel like a vacation, but attendees should still behave like professionals. My favorite tip ever is “don’t give a pitch for your manuscript to an agent in the bathroom.” Really? This has happened enough times to make an agent’s pet peeve list? Hard to believe, and yet it’s not.
- Agents/Editors can smell desperation – So relax and be yourself. Remember, you’re there to have fun, learn, and network.
- Networking – this is where tip 5 comes into play again. Don’t be shy about meeting and talking to new people, but don’t pitch your work or yourself to everyone you meet. That’s a sure way to turn off potential fans. Ask questions, listen to answers, or in other words be an active listener. Hand out cards to people who ask for them. Or, as I have often done, flip your card over to take down contact info for a new friend who may not have one.
What tips, recommendations, or suggestions do you have for conference goers?
Check out what Dawn Allen has to say about attending conferences.