Thursday, July 20, 2006

Backspace Writers Conference

Tomorrow morning I'm heading out to the Backspace Writers Conference, where I'm scheduled to speak on a panel first thing Saturday morning and take appointments Saturday afternoon. It's been a while since I've attended a conference (almost a year), which is a long time for someone who used to participate in five to eight conferences a year.

I've cut down on my conference participation over the past year or so for a couple of reasons, the biggest one being that I just don't have the time I used to. While I know that people think I attend conferences to find new clients, the truth is that I attend conferences to teach more people about publishing. Finding a new client is a rare and delightful bonus when it does happen.

So what am I hoping for from the Backspace Conference? I'm hoping to teach people what I know about publishing and, yes, I'm hoping to promote BookEnds. And, of course, wouldn't it be great if I found that diamond in the rough? What do most writers (at least from my point of view) hope to gain from a conference? Those who are unpublished usually hope to find an agent, and those who are published usually hope to sell books.

For those of you attending this conference, or anyone going to any other conference this year, I have a few suggestions:

Take notes—bring a pen and paper wherever you go, including your pitch appointment. You are going to learn so much and be given so much information that I can guarantee you won't remember everything. Don't be afraid to jot down what editors and agents tell you (it's okay to do so while sitting in front of them), especially in the nerve-wracking pitch appointment.

Collect business cards. Whether you have an appointment or not, the primary reason for a conference is to network. Connect with agents, editors, and other writers. Even if you're not yet ready to submit, this valuable one-on-one time will let you know which professionals might be best suited for your book, and meeting with other writers is not only a great source of information, and good for bonding, but you never know when you might need a quote in the future.

Have fun! Conferences can be stressful, especially for introverted writers, but don't forget to have fun. Some of the best contacts I've ever made have been at a conference bar.

I'd love to hear any conference tips you might have. And of course I'll be taking notes during my appointments and panel in the hopes that I can bring more valuable information to next week's blog.



The Queen-a Athena said...

A few hints my friends & I have found useful over the years:
- if it's your first time at a conference and there's some kind of orientation session offered, do attend. If nothing else, it will give you a chance to meet others in the same position
- for a large multi-day conference such as RWA National, bring lots of dollar bills (tips, vending machines, etc)
- if you're attending with friends, don't spend all of your time with them. Reach out and network.
- if you can see the schedule ahead of time, plan out the sessions you wish to attend - but stay flexible.
- it's a good idea to choose one topic to focus on at each conference - plotting, description, creating a business plan, whatever - and then attend as many sessions on that topic as you can. (Needless to say, this should be an area where you wish to improve, not something you've already mastered.)
-prepare some starter questions for when you find yourself in a line or an elevator with strangers, a favorite author, or an industry professional. Kicking yourself over a wasted opportunity is never fun.
- don't feel you have to attend a session in every time slot. Build in some down time. If there's a pool, grab one of the free books you probably received, head down there, and sit. Relax. Remind yourself that there is life outside of plots and characters.

There's lots more, but I'd better leave space for other comments!

Sally Jane Driscoll said...

I've only been to three conferences (Desert Dreams 2004, RWA National 2005 and Prepare to Pitch 2006), but it struck me that they're job fairs.
This is our industry. At a conference, we're all trying to find people we can work with. We can't go wrong by remembering that and acting accordingly.

Kate Douglas said...

Conferences are an amazing networking opportunity for both the published and the unpublished. One suggestion I would make is, when you exchange business cards with someone you've just me, jot down the reason you're interested in them on the back of the card, or any pertinent facts to help you remember them. I'm forever coming home with stacks of cards and no clue who the person really is or why I even wanted their card!

jolinn said...

OMG...tipping. *cold shakes*

I haven't been to a conference in years, but I think the thing I learned in the meanwhile is that good solid business dress is very important. How can anyone take you seriously if you're carrying a bag with little pictures of poodles on it and bling flip flops?