Monday, July 8, 2013

Preparing for Writers Conferences

We'll be off again for another writing conference next week. We attend several each year. It occurred to me that some of you might be interested in what we do to prepare for conferences.

Just like any other trip, we make our travel arrangements well in advance, starting with registration. Some conferences have a limit on the number of attendees. We register as soon as we decide to go. (We are already registered for two for next year.)
We like to arrive the day before the conference starts so we're not rushed. It allows us to meet a few people and offer to help. This strategy takes some of the awkwardness out of the experience. It's a win-win for everyone.
Conferences get special rates if you stay at the conference hotel, and you can usually extend your trip at the same rate. If we have friends in the area, we often attempt to spend a little time with them while we're in town. So once we've decided how long we're staying, we put those dates on the calendar.
When our schedule is set, we make our hotel reservations. Then we decide how we're going to get there. Will we fly, drive, take the train? Will we rent a car or use public transportation? Once we know that, we shop for the best deals.

We print and save a copy of each of the confirmation emails and put them into a dedicated folder for the conference. Once we get the conference schedule and our assignments, if any, copies of those are added to the folder.

This is normal, particularly when attending a new conference. For an extrovert like me, sitting down next to a total stranger is the opportunity to learn something new. But to an introvert like Larry, it can be painful. Over the years, he's learned to join in and has found his experience richer for it.
We remind ourselves we'll be spending our time with other people who also love books. What could be better?

As soon as we get the conference schedule, we determine what workshops and presentations we will attend. It seems very foolish to go to a conference and then not hear any of the speakers. We have not yet failed to bring home useful and helpful information. In fact, at a recent conference, one of the speakers offered a chance at a free edit on the first 100 pages of our WIP. I won! And the comments made a world of difference. (Yes, I am an editor. Yes, I also need a fresh set of eyes on my work!)

During presentations, I always ask questions to get more information or to have ideas clarified. The give and take is all part of the experience.

If invited to take part in a panel or to give a presentation on a subject with which we are familiar, we grab it! We have spoken at quite a number of conferences and will take part in panels again next week. Those appearances, along with our published works, have helped us to establish our expertise on the subject of writing. We get name recognition, and people become interested in our books.
What do we speak about? Over the years, we've learned a great deal about the intricacies of writing as well as the publishing industry. We have also figured out how to present the material in a way that others can understand. Larry and I speak much the same as we write. We begin with our subject, then each of us chooses the areas we wish to cover. Somehow it works. (The list of our speaking topics is on our website

If the conference provides for pitch sessions and we have a new project, we take advantage of them. Editors and publishers want to find the next great talent, so we try not to miss the chance to share our latest project. But we go prepared! We write and practice our 'elevator pitch' of twenty-five words or less. We polish it to make it interesting enough to grab and keep the person's interest. If they ask for more, then we elaborate. But we keep our initial pitch brief.

We also pitch only to agents, editors or publishers who work with our genre. We study each of the people and their imprints ahead of time to be sure they're good matches. Otherwise, we set ourselves up for rejection.

These are the periods when we may have the opportunity to sit with industry professionals and peers to learn from them. And we don't miss the chance!

Most conference presenters, including the big name folks, are there to meet others who appreciate the art and craft of writing. Being able to talk to them one-on-one can be a real thrill.

The best approach we have found is to have few expectations before we go. We're always surprised by the wealth of information available. So we pack our bags, get to our destination, check in, begin meeting people, and take part in the event. We've never been disappointed.


  1. Good advice, Lorna, but I think you meant to say you are an extrovert. I never met anyone easier to talk to than you--Larry is great just as he is.

  2. You're so right. It's fixed now. (I was having issues with my laptop yesterday. Had to send the file to my PC to finish it, and the gremlins invaded. :)

  3. That was a nice, clear post. I'll see you at the conference. Very much looking forward to it. I'm what Myers-Briggs calls an "X". It has nothing to do with my sexual proclivities, but rather, it means that I am a combo of extro- and introvert.

    Sometimes, it's hard for me to connect with new people. Sometimes, it's easier. I like how you demystify the entire experience here.

    You're nothing short of super-organized. I am impressed!

  4. Looking forward to seeing you, too, Marta!