Monday, August 13, 2012

Conference Networking! It's ALL about People

I LOVE meeting people.

That’s why when I attended my very first ACFW, I went with one overarching goal – meet the fabulous ladies of Seekerville. (Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE the Seekers!

Poor Mary Connealy put up with my stalking her.  Audra Harders took me under her wing and prayed with me.  Missy Tippens southern sweetness shone through in her encouragement and guidance.

And Julie Lessman? She always had a flock of people following her bubbly personality around. It was amazing!
Last year, my goal was to meet my fellow ALLEY CATS!! Can I just say it was REMARKABLE!

Casey Herringshaw and Mary Vee had to put up with my snoring, Angie Dicken got to show off her sweet smile (and even sweeter baby girl), and God worked his beautiful divine appointments in bringing Ashley Clark and Karen Schravemade into my life in the most unexpected ways.

Who else? I finally got to love on my Writing Mama, Ruth Logan Herne, and meet my 'twin' Carol Moncado :-)


Why am I telling you all this?


I know, there are wonderful editors to be wooed and talented agents to impress, and those two sets of individuals were on my list too – but first and foremost I wanted to meet people who had inspired my writing (and my life) for the previous three years.

And I wasn’t disappointed. It was a blessing straight from God.
1. Because they really are as wonderful as they seem online
2. They will be continual encouragers of my life and future supporters of my writing.

So, why is it important to get other people involved in the publication process?
Let’s face the hard truth. Very few people break into the world of fiction on their own. Dan Walsh is an extreme exception with his quick and easy path to publication, but for the rest of us it truly ‘takes a village’.

A village of highly trained or somewhat zealous individuals. J
Networking is the best way to create your ‘village’. And networking at Writer’s Conferences is vital to the unpubbed (and published) author.

Check out this quote from

One editor said that if she had two manuscripts, equally good and both publishable," said author and conference teacher Jack Cavanaugh, "one having been mailed in, the other picked up at a writers' conference where she met the author, she'd publish the conference author over the person she hadn't met." Why? "Because after making gut decisions, publishers invest upwards of $30,000 on the project before it ever hits the bookstore."

Basically, taking the risk and sacrifice of time and money speaks volumes to these people. They may see you as a more ‘serious’ writer when you’ve forked out $1200 to attend a writer’s conference and prepare for it.

I enjoy the networking just for the mutual encouragement- that’s my favorite part. In my ‘real’ world, my husband and kids can get glazed expressions when I go into writer-speak. But at conferences, especially Christian conferences, I find kindred spirits. People who talk to imaginary friends, dream up crazy worlds, and google-search for weird things like various poisons, other words for ‘smile, the body language of a liar, and ‘how long can a person survive in a sinking car’.
So, what are some basic Networking tips?

1. Come prepared

a. Intro and pitch- practice your personal introduction and then your pitch. Personal Introduction: “Hi, my name is Pepper Basham and I write different types of fiction, like historical & contemporary romance, speculative, and YA fantasy. How about you?”
You’ll get more on the ‘pitch’ writing later in our Writers Alley series , so stay tunedJ

b. One sheets – Next Monday Angie is giving a GREAT post on writing One Sheets. More than just your pitching tool, this is a great way to help calm your nerves as you pitch. It’s like your ‘cheat sheet’ J

c. Business cards – a visual source for networking. Don’t leave home without it.

d. People wishlist – Have a goal. Who do you want to meet? My top goal AGAIN this year is to see my fellow Alley Cats. Woohooo!

I have a GIANT 'Thank You" to send to editor Julie Gwinn, a hug for Julia Reffner, a squeeze so hard it will probably pop her eyes out to Sherrinda Ketchersid...and SO MANY MORE.

But have a list - and then expect even more meetings than those on your list.

e. A smile – never fully dressed without one. It’s the universal sign of ‘niceness’ – and for heaven’s sake, if you’re a Christian you should have at least one thing to smile about . Doesn't Laura Frantz have a GREAT smile!J

2. Never eat alone

a. Meal opportunities – Find a place to sit with people you don’t know. Eating is our most social avenue. Take advantage of it.

b. Social gatherings – use other gatherings as an avenue to explore new friendships and connections.

c. Service opportunities – volunteering in the bookstore or at the registration desk puts you in front of a whole lot of people over a short period of time.
Plus you get the added bonus of serving. I met Janette Oke this way last year.

3. Seize the moments (and stretch your comfort level) – take the opportunity to meet new people. Don’t just stay with your ‘group’, but branch out. I stumbled into Erica Vetsch and Patty Smith Hall. Author Cathy Marie Hake sought me out after a year of cyberchat! Woohoo!

I met Cindy Wilson(ALLEY CAT) and Jeannie Campbell in the taxi on the way to the airport!

You never know who you’ll meet and how that will inspire your writing future.

4. Don’t forget to reciprocate

a. I’ll give you my business card if you’ll give me yours ;-) Make sure to exchange cards with the people you meet. Unless you have a photographic memory, this will be extremely helpful 2 weeks later when you’re writing ‘thank you’ notes or googling a website.

b. Your new best friend? Talk AND listen. It’s so easy to monopolize a conversation when you finally have someone who actually wants to hear about your imaginary friends (believe me, I KNOW), but I’m pretty sure when God gave us two ears and one mouth he was trying to make a point. (Melanie Dickerson, I couldn't find the pic I have of you in Medieval attire ;-) But you looked great!

5. The perfect follow through – After you get home, keep the networking going. Follow up with emails, visit website, and send thank you notes. I will NEVER forget Keli Gwynn’s beautiful ministry to me in her personal cards she sends. Not only does it show her generous nature, but it solidifies the fact that if she needs my shout-out about her upcoming debut – she’s GONNA get it!!!!

So, what are some extra tips you have for networking at a Writers Conference?
Anyone you really, really want to meet at your upcoming conference? J


Lindsay Harrel said...

I'm just excited to finally meet all of the people I've met online! It's going to be a blast, regardless of how things go with my editor/agent appts.

Pepper said...

GREAAATTT perspective!
You'll have a win-win at conference with that attitude :-)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I'm gonna make YOUR eyes pop out too, Pepper!!!! I cannot wait to hug you in person!!!!!!

You have the best tips for going to conference. So practical and doable. I love it! I know they will help all those going to conference this year!

Jeanne T said...

Great post, Pepper. I'll be attending my first ACFW. I'm looking forward to meeting the people I've met online through blogs and fellow posters. There are plenty of authors I'd love to meet, I'm just not thinking of them at the moment.

Dealing with the ACFW jitters today. :)

Unknown said...

Oooohhhhh, if I wasn't ridiculously excited for ACFW before this, I'm now triple excited!!

Yes, there are tons of people I can't wait to meet in person...for one, my brilliant CP Lindsay Harrel...and so many cool blogger friends and authors who have so encouraged me. I can't name them because I know I'd leave someone out--it's Monday and my brain isn't fully functioning yet. :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Awesome tips, Pepper! I think you touched on this, but one thing that goes a long way is looking for ways to minister to others first, rather than seeking to have your own needs/desires met. It always seems to come full circle. :) Can't wait to see you soon!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Pepper,

For me, it was all about meeting the on-line authors I'd come to know. So exciting to meet everyone.

Everything else was just icing on the cake!

So sorry I won't be there this year, but aiming high for next year!

Hope you all have a wonderful, inspiring time!


Ava Walker Jenkins said...

Pepper,I needed this post! so many practical suggestions. Sort of nervous about the networking, afraid I'll be a bit star-struck at times.

And I am looking forward to meeting you!

Beth K. Vogt said...

Agreed, Pepper -- conferences are all about those people stuck in gravatars becoming life-size!
And I can't wait to see you and the Alley Cats ... and too many other people to mention. But this year I am going to hug Jody Hedlund -- I don't care how many people she has surrounding her!