6 Things to Do Before Your First Writer’s Conference
As a self-published author, your first writer’s conference is a chance to connect with other writers, impress literary agents, and build buzz about your own writing projects.
But without the right preparation and focus, you could miss out on career-changing opportunities.
From pre-conference networking to nailing your elevator speech, there are ways you can make the most of your time at a writer’s conference. Here are six ways you can prepare for your first writer’s conference.
1. Write Down Your Goals
It’s important to set tangible goals before you arrive at the conference so you accomplish more than simply networking.
Do you need help fleshing out the critical conflict scene between your main character and their brother? Are you looking to exchange reviews for your new book of poems? Are you dying to get face time with a literary agent or publisher?
If there’s a panel or networking event with your favorite author that you can’t miss, sign up early.
If you plan to meet with an author, agent or editor to discuss your book, sign up with the person who can provide the most appropriate feedback for your subject matter. For instance, a children’s book publisher isn’t the best individual for your adult horror series, so plan accordingly.
2. Network Before the Conference
Chances are, a big part of why you chose the writer’s conference that you did is because of the other writers, panelists and agents who are attending.
Identify who you want to meet before the conference and engage with them — read their blog, follow them on social media, and send them an email to introduce yourself and get a conversation going before the conference even begins.
Follow hashtags on various social platforms as they relate to the conference before and during the event. If there are blogs about the event from previous attendees, read up on them so you have an idea of what to expect at the conference ahead.
Some conferences might have Facebook groups or other online communities where you can join and network virtually — before, during and after the event.
3. Dress to Impress
Although you might do most of your best writing in your pajamas at home, looking good for your first writer’s conference can help open the door for professional opportunities.
Remember, literary agents and editors are looking for someone to do business with — so looking the part is critical to making a great first impression.
Don’t go over-the-top with a three-piece suit or fancy gown, but do choose a dressy shirt or blouse and nice slacks or a skirt. Think business casual — avoid t-shirts, worn jeans and tennis shoes.
4. Come Prepared
Prep your elevator speech about your book before you attend the conference, and keep it to no more than two sentences. If you have a meeting with an editor or literary agent, be prepared to discuss your book and yourself in 90 seconds.
Bring any additional marketing materials for your writing that may come in handy, but respect the rules if the conference says writers shouldn’t bring their full manuscript. And always bring lots and lots of business cards — you don’t want to run out right before you have a meeting with a literary agent or publisher.
5. Stay Organized
Establish a system before you arrive to the conference to get the most out of every workshop or panel. Bring letter-sized envelopes to file other writers’ cards by session, so it’ll be easy to remember where and when you met each person.
At the end of each day (or in between sessions), go through your materials and make notes on action items or highlight important details.
It’s much harder to remember who to follow up with if you wait until you return home to go through your notes, so set yourself up for success by doing a routine check-in at the end of each day.
6. Eat With New Friends and Contacts
Meal breaks and cocktail hours are a perfect time to meet new people and start conversations. Make it a goal to never eat at the same table twice. It’s easy to fall into a comfortable niche, but expanding where you sit is a great way to also expand your network.
Talk about your projects when it’s fitting, but don’t be too pushy. Take time to be yourself and let your personality shine. Everyone at the conference is there because they love writing, so stand out not only for your great writing, but for who you are!
After the writing conference is over, your new connections and experiences can be valuable assets in your book’s marketing campaign.