I recently attended my first writers’ conference, the 37th annual Midwest Writer’s Workshop, in Muncie, Indiana. There were people in attendance that had been coming to this conference each year for years, as well as those like myself, who were first timers. It was an amazing experience of laughter, listening, and learning the overall process of the writing industry. One of the key points made during this conference were the Do’s and Don’ts of any writers conference you attend. Each keynote speaker gave tidbits of what they experienced over the years and what impresses them and what doesn’t. Here are ten tips from the experts of what to do and what not to do:
It is strongly recommended that you research all of the speakers, agents, authors, editors, and publishers before attending any writers conference. This will help you decide who best to talk to about your manuscript, as well as any classes that they will be teaching.
Make sure you bring plenty of paper, pens, pencils, and even a laptop, if allowed, to take notes. I strongly recommend a digital recorder to help you remember all the information that you will be flooded with.
Dress To Impress
Remember that you are at these writers conference to do two things. One, to learn from those who know the environment. Two, to find interest in your manuscript. Conferences should be looked at as business meetings. You want to show them you are a professional and someone they would want to build a business relationship with.
Most conferences offer time with an expert in the publishing field, whether it be an accomplished author, editor, agent, or publisher. You want to make sure you take advantage of this important opportunity. I was privileged to meet with accomplished author Dr. Dennis E. Hensley and publisher for Writer’s Digest Jane Friedman. I gleaned priceless information from both of them to further my career as a writer. These meetings are usually fifteen minutes long and cost $25. Again, it’s priceless.
Pitch Your Book
Most conferences offer you time to pitch various literary agents who are attending with the hope of finding that next great read. Included in the price of the conference, you are allowed ten minutes to pitch your manuscript. If it is what they are looking for, they will ask you to send a proposal. When attending a conference with the intent to pitch your book, they are looking for polished, ready to go, all editing done manuscripts. I had the privilege of meeting with Robin Mizell, a literary agent.
If you have a scheduled time to meet for a pitch or an evaluation of your manuscript, never make the expert wait. Be on time, even if the expert is not. If you show up late, it could cost you your time.
If you have business cards, bring them! Mingle and get to know other writers who are also attending. You all have the same thing in mind-to get published! Most conferences will have receptions and social time. This is a great opportunity to make lasting friendships.
Most people attending writers’ conferences don’t realize that what they need to sell the most is themselves. If you meet with an agent, he/she might like your book. But if you don’t make a great impression, they won’t want to work with you. Be yourself, but don’t go thinking your book is going to make them lots of money. They are actually turned off by those kind of characters. Don’t drink too much during receptions. Look at conferences as a job interview and know that the experts are watching you just as much as you are watching them.
Next Year’s Joke
In all your eagerness to get your book published, do not become next year’s joke. Never, ever pitch your book idea to an agent in the bathroom! Plan ahead and schedule an appointment time and meet them in a professional way.
After getting unpacked and you have some time, please send a thank you note to each author, agent, editor, and publisher you were able to meet up with and talk about your manuscript. This is just good business procedure.
There are hundreds of writing conferences offered each year. Pick out several that you would be interested in attending. Check out the classes that will be offered, as well as who the speakers and teachers will be. Then narrow your list down to a couple. Don’t let the conference price keep you from attending. They are worth every penny you will spend to attend.