Tenners Top Ten - My Top Ten Writing Conference Tips (For Attendees)
This is the season for writing conferences around my parts, and as I've been gearing up, I've been thinking over conferences past. As I've always gone to conferences as an attendee, rather than a presenter, this post is geared toward attendees. I was fortunate enough to sell my first novel to an editor I met at a writing conference, but I by no means think I've got it covered here. So if I miss something, please chime in under the comments!
10. Know why you're going. Is it to improve your craft? Then make sure to go over the agenda ahead of time and get to your favorite workshops early to get a good seat. If it's to snag an agent, make sure to research all those who will be at the conference. Know who represents you genre, what they love, and what they have sold so you can have a good conversation if you get the opportunity to talk to them.
9. Dress comfortably, in layers (some conference rooms can be very cold or hot), but most importantly, dress to be memorable. It's always nice to have other writers or industry professionals recognize you over the weekend and strike up a conversation because they recognize you.
8. Have a good logline (one or two sentences to describe your book) and a pitch paragraph prepared. It won't come out nicely if you make it up on the spot. Trust me.
7. Always keep your eyes open for opportunities. This doesn't mean chasing agents and editors into bathrooms! This probably won't encourage them to sign you. Be a person before a pitch-machine, but still, keep your eyes open. When one agent talked a little about religion during her workshop, I used that opportunity to segue into a pitch of my book at the end of her workshop.
6. Talk about your book as much as possible with other writers. Even if it's not ready to pitch. Even if it's not finished. The longer you put off talking about your writing, the harder it will be. Start now, with other people who care about the writing process. Ask those you're sitting beside in a workshop or waiting behind in a lunch line if they mind if you practice your pitch on them.
5. If you're overly nervous on the subject of your writing or about talking to agents and editors, remember that no one cares as much as you do. Agents hear pitch after pitch, and as long as your clothes don't accidentally fall off during your pitch, chances are you can't screw it up so badly that it will be memorable for them. And other writers are probably spending much more of their attention on their own pitch than on you. So calm down. Try to remember what you love about your book and talk about that.
4. Tell yourself again and again that industry professionals are people too. They have pets and mates and kids at home. They've probably been dumped by a date before and felt insecure about trying something new.
3. Everyone needs icebreakers. Don't just barrel up to an agent or editor and launch into your pitch. Talk about their clothes, the conference, the weather, something to break the ice first.
2. After the conference, don't rush to send your work, even if it was requested. Not only do agents and editors have a huge amount to catch up on after being out of town, most conference-goers will be super-eager and send their manuscripts mere seconds after they were asked for it. Do you really want to be in that slush pile? Wait a couple of weeks until the rush has died down. This also gives you time to process any feedback you may have received. Does your book need one more once-over?
1. Above all, enjoy yourself. You've paid a lot of money to be at a conference. Take in as much as you can, make lots of notes, meet lots of writers, and give yourself some time to digest things afterward. Decide ahead of time that you won't rely an agent or editor to make your time at a conference worthwhile. YOU will make it worthwhile.
Anything I've missed? I'll be at the Surrey International Writers' Conference in a couple of weeks. What conferences are you planning on attending this fall?