Monday, June 27, 2016

The Backpacker's Guide To A Writer's Conference

I've heard of a few writer conferences going on over the next few months so I thought I'd repost an oldie that might help you prepare for that special time. Can't wait to see some of you at ACFW in August!


Besides bringing a passion for your story and the writing craft, there are a few "musts" that you should tuck into your luggage...ahem, or backpack...before heading to that next conference.

1. Business cards-  These are such a great tool to have for networking. Not only do you want to exchange business cards with industry professionals, you want to exchange with new friends and colleagues. I have a pile of cards from over the years, and I love looking back through to be sure I connect with those I have met at the next conference. At ACFW, you get a spiffy lanyard with a name tag that will have a pocket to keep your cards in, as well as any that you collect. Be sure that you reload each night of conference so you'll be prepared to hand them out the next day!

What to think about:  

Brand/look: Think about brand--what impression do you want people to get about you at 
Last year's card
first glance?  I want my brand to be classic, approachable, and timeless. According to all the cards I have collected over the years, having a picture of yourself is always good. I would be sure to use one that is professional, or professional-looking. I think a card with a casual but professional pose, in a natural landscape helps portray my brand. The one I used last year is the same photo (or from the same sitting) as all of my profile pics across social media. It is important that you are recognizable, and using a similar picture will help... from hardcopies of your business card and one sheet to a blog,  a twitter account, and a Facebook profile when you are "looked up" post-conference.

Content: genre, tagline, blog/website, social media connections, agent. Don't crowd it too much with text. Actually, my card from last year might have too much on it. You can also consider using the back of the card for contest wins, or even the pitch of the book you are promoting. I would definitely suggest that less is more. 

Need a place to get professional business cards? I always use VistaPrint. And usually, I will download my own design. This year, along with one sheet designs, I have my first business card customer! I am going to design her cards so they are exactly what she hopes to convey about herself as an author. 

2. One Sheets- A one sheet is great to have in your appointments with editors and agents.
You can use it as a "cheat" sheet when pitching your novel to them if your nerves are crazy, but most of all, you can set the feel of your story with graphics, tagline, pitch, and a back cover copy. Also, your bio and that "profile" pic that makes you memorable.

What to think about:

Graphics vs. Text balance or flow:  You want to portray the feel of your novel, but not overwhelm the page and make it difficult to read the text. Click here for a past post about creating one sheets yourself.

Which ones to bring?  If you have one sheets from past novels you've written, but are pitching a different novel...BRING ALL OF THEM! During my second conference, I had a stellar one sheet for my current novel at the time--it was the first novel to actually place in a contest. Well, after getting the dreaded advice "this will never sell" that first day of conference, and after bawling my eyes out, I picked myself up, grabbed a different novel's one sheet, studied it quickly, then began to pitch it. And you know what, it drummed up interest. I am so thankful I had that one sheet with me!

Need a one sheet designer? I have been busy preparing one sheets for fellow ACFW'rs, and have a few slots left. Check out my blog here, to learn more about what I offer.

3. One Page Synopsis and Sample Chapters- Sometimes you won't need these, but many times you will. Especially if your story grabs the attention of an editor or agent. At all but one conference I have attended, an appointment included an editor or agent reading my one page synopsis, and even part of my first chapter. BRING THEM...POLISHED, just in case! I have even heard of professionals taking the chapters to read later in their own time during the actual conference. 

4. A nifty organizer for all your stick in your "backpack"...or in the ACFW bag they give you at the beginning of conference (and, usually you get a notepad and a pen too!). Here is the one I use. It's spiral bound, and has several dividers for my different novels' one sheets and materials. I print out my elevator pitch and stick it outside the divider pocket so I can practice.

I am sure there are several other things that people fill their bags with that week of conference. I even know one amazing gal who brings a whole container of homemade chocolate chip share. Yes, I will trade "backpacks" with her any time!

Are you a first-time attendee? Do you have any questions? Have you been to a writer's conference before? Do you have any suggestions?

Hope to see you in a few weeks!

Angie Dicken is a full-time mom and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she has written six historical novels and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Angie also spends her time designing one-sheets and drinking good coffee with great friends. Check her personal blog at and connect at:
Twitter: @angiedicken

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