When hundreds of attendees are vying for attention at a writer’s conference, how can you to stand out?
Attending a writer’s conference is arguably the best way to meet the very people who can get you published. But being apart of a conference packed with publishing professionals can be a bipolar experience. You soar one moment and feel intimidated in the next instant. That’s not going to help get your book published.
Here are some writer’s conference mantras for keeping yourself grounded while working a writer’s conference to your advantage. Repeat as needed.
Mantra #1: I am here and ready to be an author.
At a conference you are showcasing yourself as much as (if not more than) your book. Have you been tweeting using the event hashtag or posting on the conference Facebook page? You are already a stand-out in the crowd. It is quite possible that presenters and attendees at a conference will already ‘know’ you… thanks to your online presence.
Mantra #2: I am a professional writer.
You’ve made the commitment to become a professional writer by plunking down your money and scheduling the time to be at the event, haven’t you? Now you’ve just entered the real world of publishing. Presenters you meet at conferences will be there to make connections and build long-term mutually beneficial working relationships.
Agents, editors and publishers succeed when they team up with the right writers. They need you—a writer with promise. Show them who you are. Don’t lug multiple copies of your manuscript to the event. If an agent or editor is interested, you may be asked to mail or email it after the conference. Instead, compose a one-sheet ‘resume’ with a bit of your writing and perhaps a short bio. Business cards with your contact information are always a good idea.
Mantra #3: I have the Perfect Pitch.
The magic of a writer’s conference happens when you meet the right people and perfectly deliver that 2-line/30-second ‘elevator pitch.’ It’s as if the world stops for that brief moment and listens. Early on Michael Larsen, co-director of the San Francisco Writers Conference said, “If your book was turned into a television movie, how would TV Guide describe it?” That’s the start of a good pitch. But you need to invest the time and deep thought to develop it so that anyone who hears your pitch says, “Please tell me MORE about your book.”
Mantra #4: I know you!
You want to be ready to interact with as many of the right people during the event as possible. Research the presenters — literary agents, publishers and editors — you want to work with as an author before you get to the conference. Most conference websites make it easy with a list of presenters and links to their websites. When there is an opportunity for one-on-one time — whether in a scheduled session or a fleeting moment in the hotel lobby — you will know who they are and what you need to say! A stand-out-from-the-crowd attendee will deftly reach out to a presenter, but never be annoying. Walk the fine line of being polite while being memorable.
Mantra #5: I am a party animal.
Writers have a reputation for being loners. Please, not you! Although it may feel as if your head will explode with ideas long before lunch time, try to attend the evening social events at writer’s conferences. There are usually parties, book signings, ‘open mic’ readings, and impromptu group dinners with other attendees. Some of the best networking takes place there.
Mantra #6: I am focused on the goal.
A writer’s conference, at its core, is all about getting your book published. Often, the most crowded sessions are about subjects you wouldn’t have even seen on the schedule even a few years ago. Classes on innovative book marketing, social media, technology, ebooks and self-publishing explain what these important changes in the market mean to you and your book. Some conferences also have exhibitors who can spend one-on-one time with you explaining the difference between traditional and self-publishing… and you can get the answers you need to decide which publishing method works best for your book.
No conference can promise you will be discovered and your book will be successfully published. But I know from personal experience that a writer who comes prepared will find a writer’s conference to be the absolute best investment they’ll ever make in their writing career. Now go have the time of your (writing) life and make that conference work for you!
This article was written by guest contributor Barbara Santos, marketing director for the San Francisco Writers Conference. She was also co-director of the Maui Writers Conference for many years. She is the author of the Maui Tacos Cookbook, Maui Onion Cookbook, and co-author and editor of Practice Aloha. Yes, she met her first publisher at a writer’s conference!