Okay, I’ll confess. I love writing conferences. They are a great way to get away from everything else in the world and go hang out with a group of like-minded people, network, and hopefully pick up a few lessons to help improve your craft.
If you haven’t attended a writing conference before, you should really consider doing so. Regardless of what each conference has to offer, here are three things should do if you attend, no matter what.
Most writing conferences will include one or two pitch sessions with an agent or editor as part of the entry fee. If you’ve got a manuscript ready for submission, take advantage of this! Most agents will give an unsolicited query about ten seconds of consideration before tossing it aside and reading the next one in the pile. In a pitch session, you’ve got a professional’s attention for a whopping 10-15 minutes.
Don’t waste the opportunity, but make sure you’re prepared in advance. By that, I mean research the agent or editor and make sure that your work is appropriate. Also practice your pitch out loud beforehand. Finally, don’t bother pitching if you don’t have a complete–and unpublished–manuscript.
Attend sessions that aren’t in your regular genre
This might not seem fun, but you attend a writing conference to learn more about writing. I don’t write romance, but I can guarantee that if I saw a presentation by a well-known romance writer on “how to write a good sex scene” I’d be signing up. Why? Because I’m terrible at writing anything remotely related to love, sex, or even kissing. In fact, sometimes I wonder if I could convincingly write a handshake scene.
Talk to as many people as possible
It’s fine to hand out business cards, but don’t try to sell anyone anything. The other attendees are writers like you. They are not potential fans; they are potential partners. Advertise your stuff only if there is something in it for them. For example, I might give another writer my card if I think they’d be interested in writing a guest post or submitting to Theme of Absence.
Remember: you’re not there to promote yourself, you’re there to make connections.
So that’s what you should do at a writing conference, but there are also a few things you should not do.
Here are three of them:
Yes, it’s important to have a good time and make some friends. Just don’t have too good of a time, otherwise you won’t be making any friends; you’ll be making a fool out of yourself.
One of the biggest reasons you’re there is to meet like-minding people and make connections. Conferences are not the time to be an introvert. I know it can be difficult for some of us to approach a stranger and say “Is this seat taken?” buy it’s something you need to learn how to do.
Have an attitude
You’re there to learn. If you hear something you don’t like, or if you “know better than the presenter” keep it to yourself. Nobody—and I mean nobody—attending the conference wants to hear you telling them how big of an idiot that last presenter was. It will only make you look unprofessional, or even worse: envious.
There are plenty more things you should and should not do at a writing conference, but these were a good starting point. So if you haven’t yet attended an conference, go sign up for on right now!
And if you happen to live in Nebraska, you should check out the 2015 Nebraska Writers Guild Fall Conference this October.
Have any other writing conferences to suggest? Leave a comment!