If someone asked you what the most important part of a conference was, what would you say? The agent appointments? The writing classes? Though great answers, both of those are wrong. The correct answer is the connections, the networking.
Through your connections, you’ll find people who will encourage you, critique your work, introduce you to other writers, and give you advice. Practicality aside, just meeting people is awesome. Don’t be surprised if you walk away with a few life-time friends or a bigger family than you had before you went to the conference. Of course, you might be an introvert. Most writers are, though I’m an exception–in case you can’t tell 😉 Maybe making friends and meeting people isn’t one of your strengths. If so, then this post is for you. Today, I’m giving you several tips on…
Tip #1: Socialize
It’s not what you know. It’s who you know. Meeting people face-to-face is what makes conferences so much better than just recordings of writing classes. These connections are extremely valuable. The connections I made during last year’s ACFW conference were and continue to be a huge blessing. My writer friends are essentially my extended family. 🙂
“A conference is a great place to learn new things, but keep in mind that who you meet there can be more important for your long-term career. You can learn most things on the Internet nowadays, but an in-person meeting is priceless…
I know as writers, we tend to be shy. But a conference is the one place where we have to be brave! Remember that speakers, editors, and agents are all real people just like you–and the whole reason that they came is to meet writers! They know that they will be approached by attendees, and they are expecting it.
That being said, use common sense and courtesy when approaching people. Don’t talk to agents in the bathroom or while they’re trying to serve themselves lunch. Be genuine and kind, and they’ll open up to you in response. ”
Author of the Sentinel Trilogy and Emberhawk
Tip #2: Smile
I know this is pretty basic, but it’s one of the best things you can do. And if you’re not a natural smiler, make an effort. People want to know that you’re approachable and that you’re happy to see them.
Tip #3: LISTEN
Genuinely listening to someone is hard, and it’s a skill that can take years to develop, but there are few people more charismatic than a good listener, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn. But don’t just lurk in shadows, eavesdropping on people. Ask those around you questions. They’re a writer. You’re a writer. So start asking about what they write.
“Get to know people, listen to them talk about their work (everyone loves that). Listen to others at least twice as much as you talk. It will win you friends. Since the Christian publishing community is so small, it can very much be who you know.”
Genesis Semi-Finalist and Finalist
Tip #4: Pretend Everyone’s Your Friend
Because they are. Or rather, they will be once they know how awesome you are 😉 Actually, a better way to make friends is to let people know how awesome they are. Don’t flatter, but if something positive pops into your head, make sure it works its way out of your mouth. Compliments can be great conversation starters. And—this might sound crazy—but run over all the things you like about them in your head. Think about what an awesome person they are, about how you’d love to get to know them. Your goal is to treat them like a rock star, but to do that you must first think of them as a rock star. Your thoughts always—always—appear in your actions, so capture your thoughts, control them. And remember: You don’t have to be interesting; you just have to be interested.
Tip #5: Take Pictures!
Pictures not only let you keep a few memories in pristine condition, but they also give you the opportunity to tag your new friends and connect with them through social media. And—who knows—you might just meet your one of your favorite, best-selling authors there, so keep a camera (or iPhone) in hand!
Tip #6: Hunt Your Writer Friends Down
On social media. If you’ve exchanged business cards, then you probably have their username to various social media accounts. Make sure to stay in touch. Both plants and relationships need tending or they’ll wither.
Tip #7: Read before Buying
At conferences, you’ll meet authors with an amazing pitch. Naturally, you’ll want to support your writerly friends, but before you do remember…
“Never buy someone’s novel until you’ve read the first page. Over the years, I’ve heard some awesome novel pitches. I went directly to the book table and wanted to buy their books. A few I did. And then I read the first page. When someone tells you about their book and they make it sound so wonderful, it might very well be. But then again, it might not be. Especially if it’s self-published. Read the first page before you put any money into it.”
Tip #8: Have Business Cards
Business cards (aside from smiling and listening) are the best way to make the most of your networking. Not only are they handy if you want to give them to agents, but it’s also a great way for other writers to keep your contact information. And as far as agents are concerned, just remember that they may not take your card.
“Create some business cards. You can get 100 at Staples for pretty cheap. That’s what I did. I’ve also printed my own out before. You will get this cool little name tag, and you can keep your business cards in there. People will exchange business cards with you. You’ll leave with quite a few. The important thing is you need to give the person you meet something to take home with them so they will remember you. I typically paperclip my business card to my query letter when I hand it to them.”
Tip #9: KISS (Business Card Design)
Abbreviation for: Keep it simple, stupid. No offense to my readers, of course 😉 Have all your information neatly and professionally laid out on your business card. Include your name, a photo (extremely important), email, phone number, and social media accounts. Use colors that contrast against each other, but again, keep in professional. And remember to include of picture of yourself. People often remember faces better than they would names. And try to look for little ways to make your business card stand out. For example, my entire business card is gray and my picture isn’t just confined to a tiny square. I received a few compliments on the business card’s design, which was made for me by Callynth Photography.
“A business card should never take the place of a real relationship. Don’t hand them out like candy–it won’t do anyone any good. Only give out your card after you’ve made a meaningful connection with a person, and take one of theirs with a genuine promise to connect with them after the conference.
“An idea that I think has helped me has been to pay a little extra for a second design on the back of my business cards. The front is very simple with just my name and contact info, but the back is basically a small ad for my books with review quotes, so people can see what type of books I write and where they can buy them.
“Less is always more when it comes to design in general, and business cards are no exception. Keep it simple!”
Writers’ Conference Tips Part 3: Network
Have you been to a writers’ conference? If so, what kind of networking did you do? Did you make any good friends? What have you learned about networking at writers’ conferences?