This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Monday, August 06, 2012

Guestpost: "Preparing for and Making the Most of Conferences" by Candy Arrington

A writer's conference is one of the best ways to get a proverbial "foot in the door" in a tight publishing market. But often, people spend lots of money on conference fees, lodging, and travel without doing the necessary preparation, interaction, and follow up to make the most of their investment of time and money. Following are some ways to ensure you get the biggest bang for your buck and a chance to make your publishing dreams a reality:

Prior to the conference:
  • Do your homework – Read the conference brochure or website to determine which publishers will be represented. Then study publisher websites, current book titles, and submission guidelines. Notice the professional writers on faculty also. Look at the class schedule and decide which classes suit your needs. If you wait until you get to the conference to look at the class schedule, you'll end up confused, frustrated, and miss classes you really wanted to take.
  • Gather a clip folder – If you already have publishing credits, compile these in a notebook so you have examples of your work available to support your ideas.
  • Create a one-sheet or pitch sheet – You can do one for each book idea you are pitching. Or have a list of article topics with a one-paragraph synopsis.
  • Prepare an elevator pitch – Come up with a 30-second spiel about your book project or magazine article idea. Then, when an editor turns to you at the dinner table and says, “So, what are you working on?” you won't sit there with a slack jaw until she moves on to the next person.
  • Proposal/Manuscripts – Work weeks or months ahead to get a proposal and sample chapters ready in case an editor wants to look over these once you give a verbal pitch. While an editor may not take your proposal or manuscript at the conference, you're a step ahead when you get home and can email requested material immediately, before the editor has time to forget who you are and what sparked interest about your proposal.
  • Make business cards – Have some writer business cards made (or create them on your computer) that list your contact information and include a picture so editors can remember who you are when they get home. Opt for a professional-looking card rather than a cutesy one.
While at the conference:
  • Be friendly/network – Some conferees are so intent on getting their book published they sport a grimaced face and a barge-ahead attitude. Introduce yourself to everyone, not just editors, and be personable.
  • Be teachable – Attend the conference with an open mind and a teachable spirit. There is a lot to learn in the publishing business so don't go with a know-it-all attitude. You'll appear foolish, plus annoy everyone.
  • Take advantage of freebies – Many conferences offer free copies of books, magazines, publisher catalogues, and writer guidelines. Check out the freebie table and take copies of what interests you.
  • Make appointments with editors and professional writers – Don't be afraid to meet with editors and professional writers. They will not bite! It’s crazy to attend a conference and not make any appointments because you're too nervous or unsure of your writing. Also, realize you'll have to schedule appointments during workshops. Don't "cut" a whole workshop because you are afraid your arrival or departure will interrupt. Presenters expect a revolving door and understand folks will be coming and going.
  • Attend workshops – You paid for them! You can sleep later. You'll never have this much information in one spot until the next conference. Absorb as much info as you can. Make notes and then debrief and distill when you get home.
  • Follow through – Many aspiring writers are plagued by self-doubt once the conference is over and never follow up on the opportunity to send a manuscript or book proposal. You can do it! Don't let the fear of rejection cause you to miss an open door.

Candy Arrington is a multi-published author whose credits include Focus on the Family, Thriving Family, Clubhouse, Living with Teenagers, Encounter, The Lookout, The Upper Room,, The Writer,  and Writer's Digest. She is coauthor of When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House Publishers) and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H Publishing Group).

Candy's writing provides support, encouragement, and practical advice, often on tough topics. In addition to her writing, Candy teaches at writers' conferences, speaks on various topics, and does freelance editing.

A native South Carolinian, Candy lives in Spartanburg with her husband, Jim. They have two adult children. She is currently in the process of overseeing the renovation of her childhood home, a house constructed in 1951 by her builder father.