Rocking the Writer Conference Circuit

rockstarsAs an extrovert, I LOVE attending conferences and I’m gearing up (with much anticipation!) for those I’ll be attending this year. I get buzzed meeting all of those talented writers, agents, and editors. This is not the case for some of you. Many writers are introverts and cower at the thought of working a room or being on the spot. How do you beat the conference jitters?

1. REGISTER IN ADVANCE  It cuts down on the stress of arriving early. It also ensures you’ll get all of the proper tags, meal tickets, seating, and extra crapola like goodie bags.

2. STUDY THE ONLINE BROCHURE  Print it out and read it cover to cover. Star the seminars you think you’d like to attend. Some may overlap so rate them according to importance. On the day of the conference, you’ll know what to expect and be able to spend more of your time actually meeting people instead of hiding behind your brochure.

3. RESEARCH THE STAFF  The brochure provided by the conference is great, but there are many more nuanced bits of info you can learn about a particular agent, for example, by reading the agency websites, their blogs, etc. Just because Agent Joe reps historical fiction doesn’t mean he prefers Russian historicals. Maybe his thing is westward expansion in the U.S. These are important distinctions an author should know before pitching their work. It also saves unnecessary stress and rejection.

4. DRESS COMFORTABLY, BUT LOOK HOT I’m not recommending spike heels and suits, necessarily, unless that’s your “thang”. There’s a fine balance between looking great and being comfortable–find your zone and stick with it. You’ll feel more confident if you’re looking good.

5. PRACTICE YOUR PITCH  This goes without saying. Record it, perform it for your pets, your kids, your husband, or better yet, your writing group. Listen to their feedback and make adjustments so it flows the day of the conference. But please don’t memorize it. You sound like Johnny Robot when you spew a memorized pitch and it’s reallllllly awkward to listen to. P.S. Even if you aren’t pitching formally, you’ll still have to talk about your book constantly so be prepared.

6. GEAR UP TO SPILL THE BEANS  People want to know what you write about, why you chose to write about it, and other interesting hobbies or background info that led you down the writer path.

7. DON’T BE FREAKISHLY ANTI-SOCIAL  Resist the urge to make a beeline for the deepest, darkest corner of the conference room. Circulate, especially during meals. They’re a great time to chat, plus eating  gives you something to do to mask the awkwardness in starting a conversation with someone new. If all else fails, spike your coffee or order a cocktail. Speaking of cocktails, happy hour is often the best time to network. If you don’t drink, order a fancy coffee beverage.

8. BRING BUSINESS CARDS & A NOTEBOOK Give away your cards, accept cards from others. Take lots of notes. People love to talk about themselves. Get it all down and add it to your list of people you know in the biz. Keep all the cards you collect in a binder or file folder of some sort at home. This will come in handy later as you’re building your platform.

9. BE A PHOTOG  Snapping pics are fun and are also a great way to remember people you met. Post them on your blog or Facebook after a conference. It shows that you’re out there and active in the publishing world. Agents like that. Other writers like that.

10. CONFERENCE AFTERMATH Follow-up with the people you met, then friend or follow them on Facebook or Twitter, or wherever they may be on the web. Send them messages. Check in to see how their book(s) are coming along. Make enduring connections. This is what building your platform is all about.

BE YOURSELF! What makes writing conferences great is the very different people they attract, from all walks of life, in varying stages of their craft, in dozens of sub-genres. Being yourself is the real key to rocking the conference circuit, or, frankly, anything in life.


What are your favorite conferences? 

Author: Heather Webb

Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, her debut historical (Plume/Penguin 2014). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her Twittering @msheatherwebb, hosting contests, or hanging around as a contributor to the Editor's Posts. She is also the Twitter mistress for the popular Writer Unboxed. She loves making new reader and writer friends. Stop on by her website, Between the Sheets!

12 Replies to “Rocking the Writer Conference Circuit”

  1. Lucky you, you extroverts! Now I know who I’m hanging out with at DFW 😉

    Kidding, I promise I won’t cling to you. That’s actually what I love about conferences—it’s a great opportunity for introverts like us to come out of our shells.

  2. This is a great list, Heather! Wish I’d had it to refer to when I was first starting out. I’m an introvert who fools people–because I’m quite social actually. I get verrrry tired though, so I have to have downtime in the hotel room. The my introversion shows: talking all about myself, my book, whatever. But I’m getting better. 🙂

    1. I definitely bumbled my way through the first conference or two. Funny thing about extroverts…I must be more toward the middle of the spectrum because I, too, get exhausted by all of the talking, and I take breaks in my room. But overall, cons energize me to write!

  3. Thanks for all the tips! I have a rookie question. Should I use my regular business cards or have special cards made?

    1. When I started going to conferences, I got cards made that just said, “writer” and my email, phone number and website. I’ve heard some writers say things like Historical fiction author, etc…to describe their genre.

      What do you think, Heather?

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