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Monday, August 30, 2010

Preparing for Writing Conferences

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Whether you are planning to attend your next writing conference or your first, a few minor preparations could make the most of your experience.

Creating Promotional Materials
The purpose of attending a writer’s conference is to learn and network. While you will receive a conference packet, you may want to bring an extra folder with a pad of paper and a pen to take notes and in which to place workshop handouts. As you meet new acquaintances and renew old friendships, you will want to leave business cards with people. Once the conference is over, a business card will entice them to look up your blog or website, and perhaps friend you on Facebook when they are back home.

If you’re unsure as to what you should include on a business card, I’ve written a blog post on Author Business Cards Are Different. In this post I discuss how author business cards are different from other industries and give suggestions on what to include and why.

If you’ve signed up for any Editor/Agent appointments, you will need to bring a Sell-Sheet, a one-page flyer promoting a book or series. I’ve written a blog post on Creating Sell Sheets and provided an image of an example.
On occasion an editor or agent may ask for the first five copies, but there would be no need to bring more than that. They do not like hauling more sheets than necessary on their flight home.

Editor/Agent Appointments
If you have an editor/agent appointment, I recommend arriving a little earlier and spending a few moments in the prayer room. It helps one focus, improves confidence, and eases the nerves. Bring your business cards, sell sheets, and sample sheets.
Be prepared to give your Elevator Pitch or High Concept Pitch, one or two sentences that indicates the hero and heroine’s goal. Think of a movie description you might see in the TV Guide. You're Elevator Pitch should be similar to this. Include the word count, genre/subgenre, location setting, time period if it is an historical, hero and heroines goals, and the danger or obstacle to achieving their goals. 

For example, I've written a 100,000 word novel set in Scotland in 1477. The hero is contracted to restore a local castle, but the heroine wants him and his men to leave before they discover a secret that could destroy her future and the entire village where she lives.
You should not sign up for editor/agent appointments unless you have completed at least one manuscript. Even if you are already published and have an agent, there is no reason why you shouldn’t set up an editor appointment if you are looking to try and publish something that your current publisher may not be pursuing in a particular subgenre. Also,even though your agent can submit your work to any editor, a one-on-one meeting will help you determine which editors you would prefer working with in regard to personality, mannerisms and work style.
I have written a blog post on Surviving the Pitch to Editors & Agents. In this post I discuss how to tell when you’re ready, the four elements a pitch should contain, what to expect, and possible scenarios.

Other Things to Consider
Be sure to bring a casual dressy wardrobe with comfortable slacks, skirts, and blouses with matching blazers and/or sweaters. Layers are best as the air condition can sometimes be quite cold. You’ll want to wear shoes that are comfortable since you’ll be doing a lot of walking. A writer’s conference is not the time to break-in a new pair of shoes.
You may want to smell nice, but be considerate of others and leave the perfume and cologne at home. Even a dab of this or that can cause another person’s allergies to flair up and make them miserable. I'm one of them. It isn't fun to spend your entire conference with a runny, stuffy, red nose, pounding headaches, watery, itchy, red and swollen eyes because the person next to you has on perfume or cologne.
You may feel that you have to attend every workshop and opportunity based on the cost of the entire conference, but you aren’t wasting your money if you skip a workshop and gain some much needed rest. Don’t be afraid to take a nap if you feel tired and overwhelmed. You can't pack everything into a 4-day conference. It's simply too much! Do what you can without wearing yourself out.
Remember to network, make friends, learn, and enjoy the conference! 

If you'd like to share some ideas and suggestions for others, please do!