Writers’ conferences are expensive—concerning both time and money, so how can you make the most of yours? With the following tips! Consider this your guide to navigating the world of writers’ conferences.
For the finale of our writers’ conference tips series, we’ll be learning about all the little tidbits of information that didn’t fit into one coherent category. We now have tips on agents, learning, and networking. Today you’ll walk away with tips on…
Tip #1: Take the Following Carry-Ons:
Sweater (you don’t know how cold they’ll keep the building), water bottle, snacks, cash, a map, schedule, notepad, pens, laptop, business cards, and whatever materials you’d hand an agent. Some people print out their entire manuscript to take with them. I personally don’t, but that’s up to you 😉
“Other things I always carry are a map of the venue and my schedule, a couple pens and notebook and/or laptop, water, business cards, and proposal letters written specifically for the agents and editors I might run into at the conference. I’ll also carry several copies of a 1-page synopsis of my manuscript, the first chapter, and the first three chapters. Different people will request different things, so if you carry all of these with you along with some paper clips, you can slap together a combination of whatever is requested.”
Author of the Sentinel Trilogy and Emberhawk
Tip #2: Dress for Success
My dad stubbornly insisted on having me dressed my very best for last year’s conference. Now I have several lovely business dresses and suits to wear on occasions. Aside from the various compliments I received, people thought I was older and treated me more seriously than they would have if I’d gone a more casual route. And dressing professionally not only causes others to treat you differently—it makes you treat yourself differently. So make sure you invest in what you’re wearing. You’ll come across as more polished, confident, and professional.
Here’s another opinion to help you get an idea of how you should dress:
“Check the conference’s website. Some conferences have dress codes or required dress for a specific event. I attended the American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference with you last year, Liz, where they had a formal awards gala. But I also attended Realm Makers, where they had a special costume dinner.
“In general, I think it’s nice when I can tell what someone writes by the way that they dress. If you write young adult, dress like a rock star! If you write self-help, be very professional. Look up authors who write in your genre and see how they dress.
“But when in doubt, always go a notch higher. Talking to agents and publishers is basically a job interview!”
Tip #3: Wear Comfortable Shoes
At the last conference, I wore the most comfortable heels I could buy (though they were about 3-4 inches high). For high heels, they’re amazing. For typical shoes, they’re a bit uncomfortable after hours on end. Though I love the heels, I might not wear them to the next conference. Even when they weren’t uncomfortable, they slowed my walking pace way down. If you’re absolutely set on the idea of wearing heels, then just make sure you have enough practice walking in them so you don’t wobble 😉 It’s always a good idea to take a pair of flats with you in case your heels become too unbearable. And if you buy new shoes before the conference, wear them around the house, so they’re broken in. Just remember that you’ll interact with others and pay attention better if you aren’t uncomfortable.
“Nothing makes you more on edge than sore feet. And you’ll probably walk a lot, even if the sessions are all in a close location.”
Genesis Semi-Finalist and Finalist
Tip #4: RESEARCH
I know I’ve touched on researching before in the post about agents, but it’s a point worth reiterating. Research is your most invaluable tool. Research everything and anything you can: the conference itself, the conference location, agents, writing class teachers, questions you have, the schedule, etc. If you can, get advice from someone you know—like me! I haven’t been to many conferences, but if you message me, I promise to answer your questions to the best of my abilities.
Tip #5: Vent Privately
Criticism is hard to take, but necessary to propel your writing to the next level. At the conference, you may experience rejections and criticism, but don’t let that distract you. Keep your head in the game, and remember that other opportunities will come alone.
“If someone says something bad about your writing, cry privately. Because it’s such a small community, word goes around, so make sure they see you as a professional. It’s really not at all easy, especially not for someone your age. It hurts like crazy when someone slices up your work. However, if they slice up your work, it’s probably because they see some talent in you that needs to be developed. It’s okay to cry about it, but try to wait until you’re alone in your room.”
Tip #6: Stay Spiritually Connected
Conferences are both exciting and scary. You’ll need God by your side for every single moment of it. This is an area I personally need to do better in. Life gets busy, so we forget about some of the most important, yet simple things—like acknowledging God. Conferences are cray-cray busy. Keep your focus on what matters most. Wake up extra early for prayer, meditation, or bible reading if you want to use your day to its maximum potential.
Tip #7: Have fun!
“Don’t expect to leave with a publishing contract. Relax–your number one goal is to learn and make new connections. Expect to leave with a bunch of new friends who can help you along your journey, a lot of new info, ideas on what you should do next in your career, and maybe a follow-up with an agent or publisher who requested a portion of your manuscript.
“Good luck, and have fun!”
Hopefully, all of this hasn’t intimidated you. Writers’ conferences are so different from anything that I’ve experienced. It’s like a crash-course in writing and a party rolled into one. I loved every moment of it, and I know you will too. Don’t stress about this. So long as you do your best, you won’t fail by God’s standards—and His standards are the only ones that matter.
Writers’ Conference Tips Part 4: Miscellaneous
Have you been to any writers’ conferences? Do you plan to attend any? What have you learned from writers’ conferences? What tips in this series have you found to be the most helpful?