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by Mary Ann Powers
There is more to a writing conference than showing up and taking a few
notes. It’s an opportunity to promote yourself that you should use
to your advantage. Do a little research and choose one that will further
your career without breaking your budget. With a careful planning you
can get a big return for the dollars spent.
Make a list of all the conferences that interest you and are within your
means to attend. Find them by asking other writers, contacting local writing
groups and searching the Internet.
Now is the time to do your homework. Study the list of speakers for each
conference. Go to their websites. Find out what genre they handle. If
they deal with your genre go to the library. Check out the books they
have most recently agented/published. Their website should contain this
information. Google them. Read interviews and gain some insight into their
personality. This research will give you everything needed to make a good
Once you’ve registered for the conference of your choice, you must
prepare for it. Have business cards printed. At minimum, they should contain
your name, contact information and website address. No website? Then it’s
time to get one. You’ve got to take yourself seriously as a writer.
Serious writers have websites.
Perfect your pitch. The elevator pitch, one or two sentences, needs to
be especially smooth. Practice it on any unwitting soul who asks what
you write. An example of a bad pitch would be: I’ve written an 892
page memoir about my life. My husband/mom/cat really likes it. A better
pitch is: I was an Army nurse in Korea and I’ve written about my
Once you’re at the conference, remember, you’re not only
selling your writing, you’re selling yourself. It’s a package
deal. Appearance and personality count in the publishing game. Be confident
When you talk to a speaker/agent/editor make yourself memorable, but
not in a bad way. No need to discuss the changes your doctor made to your
psych meds last week. Relate something unusual or interesting about yourself.
Can’t think of anything? Make it up, you’re a writer. When
you send follow up emails mention it again. It’ll help them pick
you out of the crowd.
Some conferences encourage you to take a speaker to lunch. If you don’t
get that opportunity because three hundred other people were ahead of
you, don’t give up hope. Speakers are people who are away from their
homes and families just like you. They mill aimlessly in the atrium, eat
complimentary breakfasts and hang out in the bar. Invite a speaker/editor/agent
to join you. They don’t want to drink or eat alone any more than
you do. Have that smooth elevator pitch ready.
Network, network, network with other writers. There’s nothing better
than being around a few hundred people who are interested in the same
thing you are. Hand out those cards. At worst you’ll get a few more
hits on your website. At best you’ll gain a new friend. Gather cards
or at least names and emails from other writers. You can use them to build
your mailing list. Publishers love it when you have a mailing list.
When you get home it’s time for more work. First mail out any manuscripts/synopses/queries/articles
that were promised. Then read back through the conference notes and fill
in any blanks while you can still remember.
Write thank you notes/emails to all of the speakers/agents/editors at
the conference. Put the conference name in the subject line to keep from
being deleted. Don’t forget to mention that unusual or interesting
thing that made you stand out.
Last, email all of those charming writers whose information you gathered.
Just a little nice to meet you note. This should get you on their contacts
list. When you send out a big mailing about your new novel, you won’t
be sent directly to the junk mail folder.
Now you have business cards, a website, a perfect pitch, invaluable contacts,
and a mailing list. Not to mention all that you learned during the actual
sessions. That’s a bargain in anybody’s book.
© Copyright 2007, Mary Ann Powers
Mary Ann Powers is a part time freelance writer. Her award-winning story "Hawks" is featured in the Writing On Walls Anthology available at awocbooks.com. Visit her website at maryannpowers.com