Monday, July 30, 2012

Prepping for Conference - A quick to-do list

Writers Conferences are happening all over the place and I'm sure that you'll have plenty of opportunities to read about how to craft the perfect one-sheet or design the most eye-catching business cards, but I wanted to take the opportunity to offer some other ways to prepare as well.

Here's a short list (or as short as my long-winded self can get :-)

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.

"Please" and "thank you" never grow old.

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. I CANNOT stress this one enough. You will make some of the most wonderful friendships and touchpoints by stretching beyond your comfort zone and engaging people in conversations. If nothing else, start with the simple question, "So, what do you write?"

As you well know, we writers LOVE to talk about our stories.

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. Have FUN! This is an opportunity to celebrate your writing with tons of other people to "get it". I can't WAIT to spend time with my fellow AlleyCats, the gals from Seekerville, you wonderful followers of The Writers Alley, and the other amazing people I've met through writing. View your day through the balance of God's hand, with each appointment (whether planned or not) being an opportunity He's placed before you.

9. Be 'teachable'.It's probably not in your best interest to 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. We should approach writing with the same attitude as our faith - God is continually teaching us, whether through His Word, our experiences, or the people we meet.

10. Pray. Hmmm, didn't I say this already? Well, it's worth repeating. When our heart and mind are in the 'write' place all the circumstances around us come into the proper perspective. God's provided this opportunity for you to go to conference. In the start and the finish, keep Him in view.

What conference tips would you add?


Mary Vee Writer said...

Great tips, Pepper.
And again, I say with you, focus on #1 and 10.
Love the pics.
Can't wait to see you there.

Unknown said...

Awesome stuff, Pepper!

I love your point about meeting people and also the one about having fun. It'd be easy to go to a conference so focused on yourself, your goals, with a thought of "this is my ONE shot!" A) It's so not your one shot. And B) Having that mindset means you'll miss out on so much. Meeting amazing people has been THE best takeaway for me at conferences because you take them home with you...uh, figuratively, that is. (I don't know, maybe some people stuff their new friends in suitcases...??)

And prayer. Yup. Definitely the most important. A related tip--last year before ACFW, I lined up several people at home who were praying for me the whole time. I even sent them a letter with specific prayer requests--it was amazing knowing I had a circle of supporters covering in me in prayer!

Ruth Douthitt said...

Excellent tips! I am so excited to meet people at ACFW this September.

It is most important to pray and prepare. I will bring a one sheet about my book, myself, and my latest WIP.

But you are right, I need to break out and talk to people more. It's hard for me to walk up to a stranger and ask them a question.

Thanks again for the tips!

Jeanne T said...

Pepper, great tips. Thanks so much! As a first-timer to this fall's ACFW, I'm excited, nervous, anticipating. I need to focus in more on the prayer aspect of preparing for the conference.

Thanks for sharing your tips! I hope I get to meet you this fall!

Lindsay Harrel said...

Ah, love the reminder to pray! There are so many details I have in my head now that ACFW is rapidly approaching, but I need to surrender the worry that comes with them to God. He's got this. He's in control. He already knows what will happen.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Great tips, Pepper! So sad I won't be at the conference this year. I loved meeting so many authors and writer friends last year. Aiming for 2013!


Julia M. Reffner said...

I'm with Mary, need to do lots of #1 & #10. Need to do some of the others, too. Aw, man, do I NEED to go beyond my comfort zone?? Sighing, but I know I needed these words today :) Thanks, Pepper. Awesome post as always!

Loree Huebner said...

Great tips, Pepper. Thanks for this post - I'm ear marking this one. I'm planning to go and will need all the good advice I can get.

Ava Walker Jenkins said...

Thanks, Pepper for such great reminders to pray about it all. I tend to do the "worry" thing first and think to pray about it later.
It's time to reverse that process as I prepare for the conference. Hope I get to meet you there.

Carol Moncado said...

Can't wait to see you my twin!!!

Casey said...

GOOD reminders!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Awesome tips, Pepper! Someday I am gonna use them all!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Renee said...

After I read these great tips via email, I had to hop over to comment. Prayer is a biggie. And this year I'm taking steps to add #4 and #8 to all the others. Can't wait for conference!

Pepper said...

Sorry I'm so late to comment, everyone. I just sat down at the computer for the night.
It's been a looooong day :-)

I'm so glad the tips helped you all.

Pepper said...

And I can't wait to see you too. You are SO very precious!

Pepper said...

FABULOUS tip about having prayer support at home!

Pepper said...

The great thing about writers conferences is that we all are there for the same reason...writing :-)
It makes those conversation starters a WHOLE lot easier.

Pepper said...

The great thing about writers conferences is that we all are there for the same reason...writing :-)
It makes those conversation starters a WHOLE lot easier.

Pepper said...

I CAN'T WAIT to meet you!!!

Pepper said...

Worry is such an ungly monster, isn't it?
You're right to surrender those thoughts to God. What a comfort to know He's got it all under control!! :-)

Pepper said...

Oh Susan,
I loved getting to meet you last year. How great!

Argh...that reminds me that I need to get a package in the mail to you. CRAAAAZZZZYYYYY summer!

Pepper said...

And Julia,
Just remember...for better or worse you'll be among friends :-)

Pepper said...

Hope it's helpful. So many people at ACFW are there to help newbies feel welcome.

Pepper said...

I hope so too!
And yes, I'm with you. I switch those two things around WAYYYY too often.

Pepper said...

Back atcha, Carol

Pepper said...

Thanks, Case

Pepper said...

AND YOU SHALL, Sherrinda!

Pepper said...

Prayer is FIRST - but numbers 4 and 8 are WONDERFUL! Looking forward to seeing you!