Monday, May 5, 2014

Registering for ACFW...IMO

So, this might be old hat for some of you, but as I was going through registering for my fifth ACFW conference, I realized my approach has "evolved" over the years. I thought I'd share a few IMO tips on some of the options you'll see as you register.

Honestly, I shied away from this each year. First, I had a baby in, my parents stayed in the hotel room babysitting while I attended the conference. Yeah, didn't think that would be a great year to volunteer. The next couple of years, I was just plain scared to commit. It took every ounce of my extrovertedness (is that a word?), and courage, to "rub elbows". I just didn't have the confidence in committing to a volunteer time slot. I just wasn't sure that I could juggle one more thing.

This year, I checked the box. I did! Besides being soooo appreciative for all those who put this conference together and wanting to help where I can, I also know there are great benefits in volunteering! You get to meet new friends and colleagues (something that is hard for me as I am an introvert at first glance), and you get to understand the work it takes behind the scenes to make such a successful event happen. I am excited to help in a small way this year!
photo by Stuart Miles on

Spotlight On: 
It is super exciting to have the chance to hear about your favorite publishing houses from the editors themselves. To sit in the audience and dream that you just might be their next debut author. Yeah, I've gotten over-excited at that one thing the editor is looking for which seemed to make them a perfect fit. Yep. My dream publisher did not let me down when I sat in their spotlight.
Remember, if you have a "dream" publisher, and you know a ton about them, then it might suit you well to go to a spotlight on a publisher (or agent) that you aren't as familiar with. Of course, find out if they even publish your genre, but zeroing in on that dream publisher/agent without understanding who else is out there, might set you up for disappointment if your "dream" doesn't pan out--and you might be pleasantly surprised to find out there are more options for you out there. (I might have to write a post in the near future about the dangers of assigning "dream" to a publisher or any other person or avenue in this business...hmmmm....).

Continuing Ed:
I just had to stick this in here for newbie attendees. The first time I signed up for conference, I considered myself an amateur in the most undeserving way. Therefore, the idea of continuing ed didn't appear to be something for me because I hadn't even done the "ed" part to continue with! I am hear to say five years later, You CAN and SHOULD chose a continuing ed course regardless of your experience. This is for everyone, so sign up (and they have a prerequisite listing so you know what level you are signing up for).

When you look at all the options, it is important to do a quick self-evaluation of your journey. Being an artsy type, the workshops that appeal to me most have to do with elements of a novel and brainstorming. But, when I think about where I am at, the less artsy, more business-type sessions are what I should sign up for. It would benefit me to have the knowledge of the business aspect now, having spent the past years focusing on the craft. My initial instinct might not have me choose these less familiar topics this year, but in order to get the most out of my experience, I want to strive for learning as much as I can about all aspects of the writing biz.

I will never forget when I went to an editor appointment and said, "I read that you really want..." and she looked at me like I was speaking Greek...(which I should be able to seeing as how I am 100% Greek..but I don't, and I wasn't speaking it then, either). I have learned to not rely only on the bios on the conference website, but to check out the agency or house's website, look at their authors/books, and get an overall feel of what they tend to represent/publish.
Something else to consider, that I would not have realized was necessary five years ago, is to understand what YOU are looking for. Know your expectations for what an agent or publisher should be. For example, some publishers don't expect their authors to do a lot of marketing on their own (although, this might be less and less in today's market), and some rely heavily on the author's effort. Some agents might be more hands on in the actual manuscript prep, and some might want to work with a submission-ready proposal.
Basically, what I am saying your homework! Look at writing blogs, interviews, Facebook pages, twitter...dig deep in social media and on your bookshelves to understand who you'd like to choose for these appointments. If you have a good grasp on who you are meeting with, then you will most likely feel confident in presenting them with your work.

I hope this gets you as excited for conference as I am. Just writing about it makes me want to pack my bag and get those one sheets printed!

Be sure to head over to ACFW and check out all that will be offered at conference this year. It's one of my most favorite places to be. Good friends, good writers, and good times!!

Hope to see you there!

Did you register already? Have any tips to share? Please comment below!

Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across cultures. She is an ACFW member and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.


Ashley Clark said...

Ang, this is such a helpful list! I agree with the above, especially with the importance of volunteering-- I have so much fun doing that each year. I would also add in the importance of studying for appointments (which you kind of mentioned already)-- a lot of people go to those things without even knowing what an agent or editor is acquiring, and they miss out on a great opportunity! Also, be on the lookout for God-appointments. You never know who God may align your path with, and when.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Great tips! Volunteering is a great way to meet people and to give a little bit back to this wonderful event!

Can't wait!