If you’ve never attended a writer’s conference or festival, you’re missing out. Not only are they a great way to learn, it’s also an avenue to connect with other writers, readers, agents, and editors.
Last week, I attended a local conference and thought I’d share a list of ways to help you prepare for your next writing mixer.
Prepare For A Successful Conference
Pack the obvious: notebook, pens, laptop, tablet
Blue Pencil Sessions
These are usually five or ten minute sessions where you can sit down with an agent or author. They will read the first few pages of your manuscript and give you constructive feedback.
You may decide to join a class that involves your work being read out loud in front of the other attendees (Don’t worry. It’s often anonymous). Then you will receive feedback and perhaps tips or instructions on how to improve.
Looking for an agent? Want to go directly to an editor of a publishing house? This is your chance to meet with one and pitch your story directly to them. A chance to be a real person to them, not just another faceless e-mail. Check out the conference’s website for details about each one who will be participating. Do your research carefully and choose the one that’s right for your story.
Don’t miss a moment. Sometimes classes will be back to back, or perhaps you want to skip lunch and get in line early for a good seat. So pack a snack and eat on the go. Besides, depending on the venue, the menu can be hit or miss.
You’ll be meeting a lot of great new people. Make it easy to keep in touch. Print out cards with all of your contact info and social media links. Make it interesting, and print it on a pocket-sized booklet to hand out with a pen. Maybe a tattoo is more your style. Think of creative ways to make yourself memorable to the people you meet, potential friends, connections, agents. Just remember, no one likes pushy pests. It’s just a fun way to introduce yourself.
Sign up early to get the best choices for the classes with limited seating. While it’s important to choose the classes that interest you and relate to your genre, sometimes it’s the lessons that you want to steer clear of that will do you the most good. Are you avoiding a class because you’re intimidated? Perhaps you’re afraid to receive feedback. Or maybe mystery, or crime fiction, or YA isn’t your thing. Stepping out of your comfort zone can push your writing to new levels and can introduce new depth to your plot, your characters.
Some conventions don’t have pre-registration for classes and you must sign up the morning you arrive. Lineups can get long, and the classes you want might be full before you get there. Avoid disappointment and get there early. Also, get familiar with the venue so you won’t get lost on the way between classes.
Attend the Extras
Is there a banquet? A dance? A luncheon? It could be a chance to chat up an agent or one of the presenters in a social situation. SOCIAL. That means minimal shop talk. It’s easy to be on the prowl for info, always seeking more writing gold and how to’s. Keep it light. Don’t make them regret sitting next to you. Even if you’re keen to promote your Indie novel, first be someone they want to get to know. The interest in your work will come after and will be that much more sincere.
Don’t stress. Conferences are only intimidating until the moment you step foot through the doors and realize that the place is full of other writers just like you. And like you, they are there to learn and meet other people with similar interests. Writers are known for their sense of community, so slap on a smile and go ahead and introduce yourself!