Monday, May 24, 2010

You Mean I Needed Business Cards? Conference Tips

Hidee ya’ll. Pepper here, and I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference last week for the third time. So, in honor of that wonderful place, I'm bringing some fresh biscuits smothered in yummy apple butter, a bowl of strawberries, and a touch of cheesy eggs on the side. I was going to offer grits, but unless you're a hard-core southerner, most people give a nose turn to that delightful southern dish :-)
(Btw, that's me with Deb Raney - she's a SWEETHEART) Below are a few pics of Ridgecrest, the conference center.

Now, like I said, this was my third Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference...but it was different.
THIS time my hubby came along.

And I’m SOOOO glad!

You see, he’s not a writer, unless you count the sermons he writes every week – which definitely takes lots of time and energy. So, he's always had a little trouble understanding my world, my imaginary friends, and the way I'm fascinated with some of the weirdest or most mundane information. :-)

I remember one time, he walked into the room while I was typing a sad scene. I was crying while I typed.
"What is wrong?" He asked.
"One of my characters died."
He looked at me kind of funny and said, "Um...you're writing the book. Can't you make her 'not die'?"
I shook my head. "She has to die."
(all of you writers out there know exactly what I"m talking about)
My hubby just looked at me like I'd lost yet another piece of my brain, grinned, and left me to my weeping.

So...all the more interesting to have my hubby along for his first conference. After the first day, he began to 'see' me differently. 'Understand’ me better. The writer-side of me.

Some of his comments were interesting.

“It’s amazing. There’s so much energy and excitement among writers.”
“Everyone seems to be encouraging everyone else.”
“Pepper, there are other people who act like you.” (I know what a shocker)

Those are some of the feelings I had at my first conference. Wow, people like ME! People with imaginary worlds, and imaginary friends who actually TALK to them.

I can describe my first conference in one word: Overwhelming.

If I could go back to that first time and have a do-over, there are certain things I would have done differently. Better.
Here are some tips to remember for your first (or other) conference.

1. Pray – The one I need the most, but end up doing last. (Sorry, Lord) As Christians our first response to any situation should be to pray. Pray about who you should meet, which courses you should take. If He guides your writing, He’ll guide you in the industry too.

2. Research – if you have opportunity, check out the websites of the editor and agents you plan to meet at the conference. Even if you don’t have a formal appointment set up with a certain agent, you’ll have opportunities to meet them in other ways – such as in the elevator, at a meal, perhaps in a lecture. Know what they’re looking for and how your manuscript might fit into their line.
3. Etiquette – When you have that opportunity to meet editors and agents, remember your manners  They are people too. Accosting a poor editor with your terrific idea while she’s in the bathroom may make an impression, but not the kind you’re going for. If it is outside of your scheduled meeting time, introduce your question something like this “May I ask you a question?” or “Do you have time for me to give you an idea of my story?” Don’t hog the conversation at meals, but offer an out. Editors know you’re at the conference for that reason, but don’t be pushy. Be confident – but not overbearing. Listen to what the editor or agent has to say too. Listen more than you talk.

Oh, and BE ON TIME for your appointments. That’s a professional touch too.

4. Meet people – If you have spare time, try to meet people. It’s a great way to network, of course, but it’s always just fun. Finding other people who ‘speak your language’ can really be a boost of confidence – and decrease that general loneliness feeling authors have a tendency to feel.

5. Be prepared, as much as you can – If you have novels in the works, create one sheets or one-pagers. Or make a projects sheet. Do NOT take your entire manuscript. If the editors want to see the whole thing, they’ll ask you to send it to them.

Research (like from #1) is a way to prepare. Try to review a map of the vendor before you get there, so you’ll know ‘kind of’ where the presentations will be held – it’s a stress reliever.

6. Dress – Unless the conference is in a temperate setting…I don’t know, like Hawaii, it would be wise to pack with varying weather in mind. For example, at the Blue Ridge mornings were cool, but afternoons were warm, so I'd wear a light jacket over short sleeves in the morning. Easy fix :-)

Also, when you have your scheduled meetings with editors and agents, you’ll want to dress like the professional you are. I don’t mean a three-piece suit. Slacks and a nice shirt will work, but enough to show you are serious about your writing.

7. Make wise use of your time – If you do #4 and prepare ahead of time, you will already make wise use of your time. Knowing the schedule ahead of time and getting a general idea of where you need to be…and then where you WANT to be, will help you make wiser and more effective use of your time.
8. Business Cards – Okay, I put this one in here because I made this mistake at my first conference. Didn’t know I need cards. They’re easy and inexpensive to make through places like Vistaprint. I was told that your business card should have a photo on it, because agents/editors will remember your face easier than your name.


DO:

Be considerate no matter who you meet.

Send a ‘thank you’ note or email. Always a nice touch.

DON’T:

Say you can’t change the book because “God gave you this book and it can’t be changed.” It hints that the editor or publisher will be out of God’s will if they change your story at all.

19 comments:

Cindy said...

Good post. I'm bookmarking this for the ACFW conference. Along with your one sheets, would you say it's wise to bring a few chapters just in case an agent or editor asks to see a few pages of your work during an appointment?

Casey said...

LOL! The sure fire way to turn an editor away is tell them that this story is one God plopped in your lap. Uh, they are fast searching for the nearest exit. :D

LOVE what your Hubby said. SO funny!! YES other writers like you ACTUALLY EXIST! And which character had to die??? :)

Though I am very disappointed you didn't include pictures. :(

Great post!

Pepper Basham said...

OKAY, CASEY!!!!
I posted some pics - just for you :-)

Mary Vee said...

Pepper, If only..if only I had this article when I first went. I felt worse than a fawn struggling to stand for the first time. Helps like this strengthen our drive, and make us feel confident. Kudos!
Cindy, I wouldn't suggest bringing chapters. They keep those editors hopping. If they want them, they'll ask you to send it to them.

Sherrinda said...

Oh this was some GREAT information! I know that when I am ready to go to a conference, I will be digging this one up to guide me along the way!

I loved the things your husband said! There is nothing like experiencing the world of another person to give perspective! ;)

Pepper Basham said...

Cindy,
I agree with Mary. Don't bring your chapters - unless it's just the first chapter. Editors have so much to lug around at conferences, the last thing they need are large packets to add to their piles :-) But, like Mary said, if you show them a hint of your writing through your one-sheets, or synopsis, then they can ask for more.

Pepper Basham said...

Right, Sherrinda.
It really was an eye-opening experience for him. Just like visiting nursing homes with him is for me.
I just bought the book by Les and Leslie Parrot about marriage called "Trading Places'. Sounds like an interesting idea :-)

Casey said...

YEAH! Thanks for the photos! They are great and I am so jealous you got to meet Deb. I hope to meet her in person someday. I am taking a class from her right now and though it just started I am really enjoying it. :)

I'm with Sherrinda, this is a great articale to dig out of the archives for my first conference. :)

Krista Phillips said...

a note. I always bring my first three chapters JUST IN CASE! You probably won't GIVE them to anyone... and I only bring one copy. but I did have at least one agent want to read a sample. a lot of time they can tell even in the first page if it's soemthing they MIGHT like to see... and a lot of times they can tell for sure if it's definately something they wouldn't want to see.

Not all will ask for it, but it doesn't hurt to have it there just in case! But definately not your whole manuscript! A chapter is fine:-)

Pepper Basham said...

The 'just in case' idea is good, Krista. At BRMCWC, I brought one copy of the first chapter of each of my novels. I used to bring the first 3, but then I realized a lugged a load of stuff around that I never took out of the bag :-)

Sherrinda said...

Always be ready, I say...not that I would know. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Great tips, Pepper.

I'm glad your hubby was able to accompany you and gain a better understanding of writers as he witnessed the energy and generosity that abounds at a writers conference.

Karen Lange said...

Good advice! Glad you had a good time:)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Great post, Pepper! I've been to the ACFW conference four times. Would love to make it to the Blue Ridge one of these years, since it's in driving distance! Would be great to bring the fam!

You gave great advice! Really. I don't think I can add anything. And I CAN'T WAIT TO MEET YOU IN INDY THIS SEPT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Krista Phillips said...

Okay, my previous comment was written on the fly because I was at work, ha!

GREAT post Pepper!! Great tips! Just great all around:-) Totally ditto business cards, although I hand them out more to fellow writers than anyone, LOL.

I am so jealous of everyone going to Indy in September!!! LA LA! I went to ACFW the last 2 years, but... I get a beautiful little baby who trumps writing conferences everyday:-)

Pepper Basham said...

Keli,
I'm glad he came too. It was fun...and funny to watch him 'observe' all the beautiful chaos.

Pepper Basham said...

Thanks, Karen.

Pepper Basham said...

Melanie,
I'm so glad you stopped in for a visit.
We HAVE to have you come visit The Writers Alley - especially sometime this fall when a certain glorious event occurs.
You know. It has to do with a bound book. In stores. With YOUR name on it.!!!! Woohoo

Pepper Basham said...

Krista,
You win hands down for best reason NOT to go to ACFW.
It's second ONLY to a free trip to Europe.
(JK ;-)
Nothing beats babies.