Writers conferences come in all shapes and sizes. Virtually anytime of the year you can attend a conference anywhere around the country. But, why would you? Just when your manuscript is gaining momentum, why on earth would you put it down to go hang out with a bunch of writers you’ve never met? Because despite the notion that writing is all about isolating yourself, isolation is not a good thing. No one can live in a vacuum and these days, it takes a lot more than a good manuscript to hook an agent or publisher. It takes a savvy author and savvy authors are not born, they develop over time.
If you’re so tired of hearing about the shrinking publishing market you want to scream, then you really need to leave the comfort of your office and hustle yourself down to a conference. There, you will begin to experience every facet of writing. You’ll even get the opportunity to make an appointment or get “face time” with agents, publishers, publicists, and even a producer or two. But before you send in your registration form, there’s a few things you should know about conferences.
First off, keep in mind that not all conferences are created equal. Some are more advanced than others. Some conferences are for published authors offering them unlimited promotional advice and classes, while other conferences focus only on the craft of writing. Determining what you want to get out of a conference will go a long way to helping you decide which one is right for you.
When selecting a conference, don’t get caught up in the glitz of meeting your favorite author if none of the other speakers seem to suit your project. Face it, if the author you so adore goes on tour, chances are pretty likely he or she will be stopping by your city to do a signing anyway. But agents and publishers are a different story. Unless you make it a habit of “doing lunch” in New York City on a regular basis, the likelihood of an agent coming within pitching distance outside of a writers conference is minimal.
So, let’s say you’ve decided on a conference and have your eyes set on several literary agents or producers you want to make appointments with. Before you schedule times with any of these folks, you’ll want know a little bit about them. For example, nothing will end a meeting faster than sitting down with someone who doesn’t handle your type of work. Doing your research can really benefit you. If you’re meeting with an agent, peruse their web site for a list of current and future projects. If they don’t list their projects, pick up a copy of the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents which will give you this information as well. If you’re targeting a producer you should be able to get a list of stories they’ve covered off of the show’s archives (also on their web site). If your target is a publicist, their web sites usually indicate the type of projects they manage.
Once you have your appointment, be ready to pitch all of your work. If you have more than one project, be sure you have your “elevator pitch” ready (remember we discussed this in our April 10th issue). You’ll want to keep your pitches quick, succinct and interesting! If the agent/producer or publicist doesn’t look interested, move onto the next item and try to learn from the rejections you do get.
One of the things people don’t often consider at these events is the networking factor. Done correctly, networking can bring about amazing results. You never know who knows someone who knows some who can help you further your project. Or perhaps you’re looking for an editor or illustrator, I can almost guarantee you you’ll find what you need by networking. Writers conferences are not a place to be shy. Walk up to people and start a conversation with them and don’t be afraid to speak to a presenter if you catch them between talks. As a frequent presenter at conferences I can tell you, this is why we are there – to help you, the author. Our sole purpose for attending these events is to share what we know.
If you are attending a conference that lasts longer than a day, you’ll quickly start making friends with other writers and want to ‘hang out’ with them. This is great for building relationships but terrible for networking. Mingle and talk with as many other attendees or presenters as you can. During lunch, make sure you sit at a table with people you don’t know. Introduce yourself, ask your fellow conference attendees about their projects and then start talking about yours. Tell people what you need, if you’re looking for a literary agent, say so. If you need a publicist, ask for referrals from other writers. Ask lots of questions, take your business cards (or bookmarks) and always keep a pad and pen handy.
With the right planning, a writers conference can be enormously successful and while they may not lead to immediate publishing contracts, they are certainly a step in the right direction!
Here are a few upcoming writers conferences you might want to think about attending:
PMA Publishing University
Maui Writers Conference – Labor Day Weekend
Whidbey Island Writers Conference
About the author:
Penny C. Sansevieri
The Cliffhanger was published in June of 2000. After a strategic marketing campaign it quickly climbed
the ranks at Amazon.com to the ##1 best selling book in San Diego. Her most recent book: No More Rejections. Get Published Today! was released in July of 2003 to rave reviews. Penny is a book marketing and media relations specialist. She also coaches authors on projects, manuscripts and marketing plans and instructs a variety of coursing on publishing and promotion. To learn more about her books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at www.amarketingexpert.comTo subscribe to her free ezine, send a blank email to: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright ã 2004 Penny C. Sansevieri