By Jax Hunter
Hello, Campers. The time is almost here for the 2015 conference. If you haven’t already registered, do it today. It is worth the time and money. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t be flying clear across the country to come.
For some of you, this will be your first conference. For others, your nth. Either way, here are some tips to make the most of your conference... in no particular order.
1. Be sociable - no wallflowers allowed. This might be harder than it looks on the surface. Writing, by its very nature, is a solitary experience. We writers tend to be those who stand on the periphery taking notes, watching the story unfold. So, for these three days, work hard to get out of your shell and make new friends. If you’re attending with a friend, don’t hang out exclusively with your friend. You can do that anytime. This is the time to network with new people and rekindle relationships with folks you don’t see but once a year.
2. This tip goes hand in hand with the first: Approach. I haven’t yet met a single author at a PPW conference (well, maybe one) that was unapproachable. Most authors love to talk shop with anyone who will listen. Agents and editors are, for the most part, the same way. CAUTION - schmoozing with an agent or editor is not the time (unless THEY ask) for you to sell your book. Be yourself, have your 25-word synopsis ready on your tongue (see #3) and don’t pressure yourself to sell.
3. Write and memorize your 25-word synopsis for the piece you’re working on or wanting to pitch. You may have the opportunity to rattle it off to an editor or agent. But certainly, you’ll have the opportunity to use it with other authors when they ask, “What are you writing?” If you need more information on writing a 25-word synopsis (a.k.a. logline), here’s a link to my article on the subject: http://pikespeakwriters.blogspot.com/2012/10/story-tips-1-monthly-series.html.
4. Bring plenty of business cards. If you don’t have printed business cards, make them. The pertinent information is your name, your email and your website if you have one. If you have questions for a workshop presenter, and don’t have time to ask it in person, jot it down on the back of your card and hand it off.
5. Speaking of questions, it’s not too early to start listing questions you have that you’d like answered.
6. Write down your goals ahead of time. Goals for learning, goals for meeting, goals for helping. Spend some time with the brochure and select workshops specific to your listed goals, if you can. For example, if you feel you’re weak in the area of plotting, target your learning to this area. Make sure, though, that you take at least one workshop that is something new or off-target. And, remember, most workshops are recorded. Make use of the CDs.
7. If you have an editor/agent appointment, try to attend that person’s workshop or panel ahead of time. That will give you a feel for the person and answer some of your questions. That way, you don’t waste your precious appointment time with questions you could have answered elsewhere. As a matter of fact, Google that person before you even go to the conference. Find out everything you can about them and read every interview you can find. Preparation is confidence’s twin!
8. If you’ve even started a piece of fiction, you’re a writer. Don’t discount that fact - EVER. Be that writer. Be a professional. Start thinking of yourself in those terms and you will begin to act like it.
9. Remember, it’s not just during workshops that you can learn. Sit for a moment with someone you admire. Ask questions. Be prepared with a business card to jot down your question so that the other person can get back to you after the conference with an answer.
10. Stash a few small thank-you notes in your bag. There’s nothing better than getting a thank-you (written, not just verbal) from someone at a conference. 'That was a great workshop, I learned XYZ about character building. Thanks.' Or, 'Your speech at lunch yesterday was very inspiring. Thank you.' Make sure you put your name and email address on these notes. You may just strike up a friendship. (Note: the key to great thank-you notes is to include three points of cognition, which personalizes the thank-you and lets the receiver know the note is not just a form letter. These three points are specific to the recipient). For example: 'Hank, I enjoyed your Friday workshop on finding an agent so much, particularly the bit about cover letters.'
Follow up afterwards. Send that manuscript. You’d be surprised how many authors don’t do this - duh. Return the emails you promised. Send after conference thank-you notes. You can even ask questions by email weeks later.
11. Most of all, have fun. Don’t be afraid to miss a session and just sit in the lobby chatting. While many authors have been successful selling a manuscript at conference, don’t put so much pressure on yourself to sell that you miss having fun and learning.
Well, that’s it for this month. I invite each of you to say hello when you see me at conference.
In the meantime, BiC-HoK.
About the Author: Jax Hunter is a published romance writer and freelance copywriter. She wears many hats including EMT, CPR instructor, and Grammy. She is currently working on a contemporary romance series set in ranching country Colorado and a historical romance set in 1775 Massachusetts. She lives in Colorado Springs, belongs to PPW, RMFW and is a member of the Professional Writer's Alliance.