Monday, August 9, 2010

TOP conference tips

Okay everybody – I don’t know how many of you are planning on attending a writers conference anytime soon, but I want to take a few tips from The Writer’s Digest, as well as personal experience, and help us all get ready for our next conference.

I’m attending ACFW in Indianapolis in September (YIPEEEEEE!!) and I’ve been doing some research on how to get ready. Since ‘elevator pitches’ seem to be a hot topic on the First Time Orientation loop, I think I might try to talk about them next Monday. Or what about one-sheets? What do you guys think? I’ve learned so much from the discussion. Would you like to hear about it?

So – who’s going to ACFW? Or some other writers conference soon? Since you’ve taken time out of your busy schedule, paid money (lots of money), booked tickets, and blackmaile…er…found a roommate, the very least you can do is be prepared.

One of the BEST morsels of advice I’ve discovered in all my research is…

BALANCE - Yeah, yeah, I know. Writing is serious business. BE PREPARED. But also, it’s just a conference full of people who are just like you and me – or they used to be. ;-) In the middle of all the lecture notes, schedules, book signings, author visits, and editor pitches – stop and enjoy. Laugh. BREATHE. It’s so easy to become so overwhelmed that we miss the small opportunities to make more than just ‘paper’ memories, but friendships. One of my all-time-favorite things about conferences is being with people who talk and think like me. It’s awesome…kind of scary, I know, but amazing. It’s the fine line between business and pleasure – so make room for both.

PREPARE- What does this mean? Do your research. Know some of the editors and some of their titles. What types of ms are they looking for? (You can find this out under their descriptions). And you won’t need your entire manuscript. I’m taking the first chapter of each of my projects with me, but that’s it. One sheets and one-pagers are great opportunities to present your novel ideas without having to carry around bulk – they are also good ‘cheat sheets’ for your pitch too :-)

PRESENTATION – preparation is just the iceberg of presentation. Professionalism is another foundation for making a good impression. Appropriate attire, usually business casual, and professional courtesy will be more impressive than the slickest pitch. Remember your manners. Don’t pressure or be rude about how they MUST publish your book because it was given to you by God. Who likes telemarketers here? Any hands? Nope, I didn’t think so. :-)

PITCH –You may come in relaxed, but that’s not to say you don’t work on your pitch. Who knows what editor you might run into – or sit down with at lunch. I’m a firm believer in Providential circumstances, and being prepared for that ‘divine opportunity’ is one of the perks of being at a conference. Next week (maybe) I’ll try to go over a few tips to writing a pitch. I’m still learning about it myself –so we’ll see how I do. Basically, it’s your hook & book in less than fifty words.

PALS – Take time to make friends, exchange business cards, and make connections. Some of these may last a lifetime. One of the MOST exciting things about attending ACFW is getting the opportunity to meet some of my cyber-heroes in person. The Seeker gals like Julie Lessman, Mary Connealy, Audra Harders, Janet Dean, and even Cara Lynn James who will be with us this Saturday. Other fabulous authors who have been so encouraging to me, like Laura Frantz, Kaye Dacus, Liz Curtis Higgs, Cathy Marie Hake, and Deeanne Gist. And authors I’ve met in the past, like James Scott Bell, Steven James, DiAnn Mills, and Deb Raney.

PERSPECTIVE – Make sure you’ve set realistic goals for yourself. People usually don’t leave from a conference with a contract. What’s your focus for the conference? If you don’t have a manuscript finished, maybe your goal will be to learn and create a network. If you have several manuscripts finished, maybe you want to perfect those pitches to meet with editors, or focus on advanced courses.

Whatever your focus, remember in the middle of it all, God has you there for a reason. For HIS glory. Isn’t that the heart of why we write? He’s given us the desire, the talent, the joy – and we give our creations back to Him to do with as he will. (ooh, scary. I think FAITH has a lot to do with it ;-)

Get ready, get set, and enjoy a wonderful opportunity to grow as a writer and a person. The meet others of like-mindedness, and to laugh together with people who ‘get’ you.

So – if you’re getting ready to attend a writing conference for the first time, what are you looking forward to the most? What has been some of the best conference advice you’ve ever heard?


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I know you will have a great time and make a lot of great contacts! Good luck!!!!

Melanie N. Brasher said...

Great tips! I look forward to meeting you there:)

Krista Phillips said...

Not getting ready for conference this year:-( But I went the last 2 years and your tips are wonderful! I'm PRAYING Annabelle will be doing wonderfully next year so I can go!

Pepper said...

Sorry I'm late to the party everyone. First day of SCHOOL for the kiddos and it was CRAZY.
Thanks Sherrinda, Melanie, and Krista.
And Krista - still praying for sweet baby Annabelle and God's blessing on her life, and comfort for yours.