Has your writing journey led you to the decision to attend a writers conference this year? Nervous? Eager?
For some writers, attending a conference is the highlight of their year. It’s an opportunity to spend time with others in the industry, to pitch their work to editors and agents, and it’s time to enjoy the company of like-minded folk.
Here are some thoughts to ponder before you go off to your conference:
Think outside yourself while you are at a conference. There are plenty of nervous souls and introverts putting themselves “out there.” The best thing you can do to assure yourself a good experience, is to reach out and make new friends. At my first national conference, I volunteered to be a meal greeter (aka door bouncer to make sure everyone was wearing a name tag). I still enjoy the friendships I made that year.
Give yourself a minute to sit in the lobby or join other writers when they have an impromptu brainstorming session. Some of those casual friendships you strike up might be the one’s you rely on for support and advice. Be flexible—someone may suggest going off campus for coffee or a meal. These are the times that life-long friendships can be forged.
If you’re going to have an appointment with an agent or an editor, read the conference notes (about their agency/publisher) if provided, or go online to research their company.
Don’t presume on a relationship that doesn’t exist, refer to agents/editors by formal names.
Be kind to the person with whom you have an appointment. Offer to give the agent/editor a bottle of water or cup of coffee. Remember, they may be weary from all the appointments they have to complete.
You may bring a proposal, sample chapters, or one sheet to meeting, but don’t be disappointed if agent/editor does not keep it. They can’t be burdened carrying home reams of paper.
Be friendly outside of the meeting, but don’t intrude on the agent/editor. You can chat about writing, but don’t ask them to stay up tonight reading your manuscript.
Most conferences will post a dress code in their brochure. Some have a very casual dress code. Regardless, present yourself well, don’t wear torn jeans or sweat pants.
Don’t feel you have to fill every moment of time with classes. Sometimes some alone time or some time writing your manuscript is better spent than lectures.
Plan on following up after the conference—and not only with proposals, but also by staying connected to the writers you met.