Preparing to Attend a Writers Conference

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It’s all in the preparation

By Cindy Sproles

Attending a writers conference is the single most amazing thing. Right before your eyes sit agents, published authors, publishers…and they’re all there to see you. Yes, to see YOU! So what do you do to prepare? How do you make the best of this opportunity?

Besides finding a pair of comfortable shoes, you can take a deep breath. Conferences are learning situations. So here are a few tips to prepare you.

Learn about the Faculty: Every conference offers its own variety of publishers, agents and author teachers. Look through your work, decide your genre and then study the faculty. Most conferences list their faculty. Many provide photos of these people on their websites so you can familiarize yourself. Pick and choose the faculty that best suits your writing then plan to meet with them one-on-one.

Purchase Business Cards: Business cards do not have to be fancy. You can print very nice cards from your home computer. VistaPrint.com runs awesome specials on smaller quantity orders. It’s important to have a card with your name, photo, email address, blog or website information, and the genre you write. You can give your cards to faculty members with all the necessary information they need. (Hint: As an editor, receiving a business card with a photo is a plus. It helps me remember the person and make a connection. It’s costs a tad more to add a photo, but well worth the cost.) Business cards are easy to carry for you and for agents and editors.

Prepare a One-Sheet: If you have a work in progress you want to pitch to an agent or editor, prepare a one-sheet. A one sheet includes a precise one or two paragraph synopsis of the story, add a short bio and your contact information. If an agent/editor is interested, the one-sheet travels easy, and again, has the vital information they’ll need once they’re back in their office. Print one-sheets on 24# paper. This is nice, a bit heavier and looks very professional. Remember it’s a ONE-sheet. That means ONE page…the front page. Not front and back. One-sheets give you great practice at writing that oh…so important conciseness editors love to see.

Choose Your Classes: Conferences will list their classes and workshops on the website. It’s important to be wise in your choice of classes so be truthful with yourself. Look at your writing level and choose classes in that range. Do the same with your writing genre – pick classes that will benefit your writing in that genre. If you’re new to writing, it behooves you to attend an orientation class. These classes will usually offer you information on conference jargon and important procedures i.e. how to handle your 15 minute appointments, what to give an editor/agent and what NOT to give them. Attend the keynotes, they’ll usually cover specific topics important to you as a writer both on personal and professional levels. Don’t take a class that will not benefit you just because you like the faculty member teaching. The great thing about conferences is the faculty is accessible. You can generally share a walk to a class or even a mealtime with these folks. You’ve paid good money to attend. Make the most of your money.

Dress the Part: You are meeting and working in a professional setting so most conferences recommend business casual dress. Leave the torn jeans and tees at home and respect your profession. NOW, here’s the exception to the rule: Weather and Conference preference. Check the websites for the appropriate attire. Most conferences are relaxed and the business casual is perfect and comfortable for you. For Writers ADVANCE! Boot Camp…we want you 100% comfortable and warm. It’s a winter conference in the mountains. So for us and The Cove, nice jeans and warm sweaters are very acceptable.

Plan to Purchase Conference DVD’s or CD’S: Again, money well spent. Those classes are with you when you get home. You can listen, listen, listen. Another plus: the classes you wanted to attend but couldn’t work in…are in your hands. Consider it an investment in your career.

Take these tips and study them. Start to prepare for your next conference. Make it the best “value” you can.