Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Things You Need to Know to Get Ready for a Writers Conference

Last week I addressed pitching at a writers conference. Today I want to back up a little bit. and give you more of an overview of preparing for a conference. This post will give you the basics of the things you need to know to get ready for a writers conference. 

One of the most important things you’re going to do at an conference is network. You’ll meet with editors agents, and especially with other writers. Often these other writers will be some of your most valuable contacts in the years to come.

But you need to be prepared.

Networking is the easiest to prepare for. If you're just going to meet other writers and professionals the main thing you need is a good business card. Please take note, I said, good, NOT expensive.

These are the things a good writers business card includes:
  • Your picture - I know, I hate to have my picture taken and I always hate how it looks. But, in this business you need to be remembered and recognized and your picture is the best and easiest way to do that. If someone has a card with your picture on it, they'll remember who you are months longer than if it's just got your name. Also, it's harder to throw away a card with a picture on it than a card with just text on it.
  • The name you use when you write - if you use a pseudonym, be sure it's on the card. Here's an example (I just made up the names - they're not representative of a real person): Susie Stone, writing as Catherine Milo.
  • Your email address - this is going to be the main way others will contact you.
  • Your website or blog address - never pass up the opportunity to encourage new visitors to your sites. Also, many people will follow up on what you've told them and this will be a way for them to get to know you better.
  • Social media information - you need to include your Twitter handle, Facebook page info, Pinterest, etc.
  • Cell phone number - this isn't absolutely necessary, but it helps if your email goes down and someone has a hot lead for you.

Please take note of the one thing you should NOT include on your business card: 
  • You do not need your physical address on the card. Actually, it's a liability. It can be dangerous to give out your home address, so if you feel you must include an address, invest in a PO Box.

It is possible to make your own business cards, using Avery brand sheets that go through your ink jet printer. The trick to successfully printing your own cards is to keep them simple! Another inexpensive way to go is by using VistaPrint. This online company is very reputable and I personally know a lot of writers who get their cards through them.
Bring some writing samples

These are good to have simply because you'll probably find yourself in a group, or at a table, where everyone is sharing something they've written. It might not happen, but chances are, if you don't have anything to show, you'll be disappointed.

This is when you attend a conference because you have something you want to sell to a publisher or if you want to get an agent. The things below that you'll need are specifically for those wishing to sell a fiction or non-fiction book.

It's important to keep in mind that everything you prepare for the conference to pitch a project is incremental in nature.
  • Your tag line or hook should make the editor or agent ask to hear more about your project (this is the time for the elevator pitch).
  • The elevator pitch should lead them to ask for your one sheet.
  • Your one sheet or pitch sheet should lead them to ask you to send them a proposal when you get home.
  • Your proposal should lead them to ask you to send them your entire manuscript.
  • Your entire manuscript should lead them to offer you a contract.

These are the generic steps in publishing. God can step in at any time in the process and something completely different can, and often does, happen. But, until that happens, I try to take it one step at a time.

Now Let's look at what's involved in each one of these components.
  • tag line or hook - this is one sentence, preferably 15 words or less. It should NOT be a synopsis of your book, but rather it's to intrigue the editor/agent and make them want to know more.
  • elevator pitch - this should be short, around 45 seconds. It will sound a lot like back cover copy or what is on your one sheet. Again, it's to make the editor/agent ask to see more.
  • one sheet or pitch sheet - this gives the blurb about your book, information about yourself (bio) and general info, like genre and audience for your project. If it's fiction, it states that the project is finished. If it's non-fiction it gives a completion date if the project is unfinished. 

You won't need a full proposal or manuscript for the conference. If an editor or agent is interested they'll ask you to email or snail mail them one when you get home.

Again, as with networking, you'll need to bring some samples of your writing.

This is just a general overview of what is needed. If you have specific questions, feel free to use the contact form at the bottom of the blog and send me your question. You can also post your question in the comments section. In the next few weeks I'll address each of these components individually or in groups and give you some examples to see exactly what others have used successfully.

If you're looking for a good resource with all the information you need to prepare for a writing conference, check out this book put together by the My Book Therapy staff (and yes, I have several articles included in this guide):

Don't forget to join the conversation!


  1. You are such a good resource, Edie!

  2. I followed you advice and felt well prepared for my first conference!

  3. Thanks for helping me revise my business card. I know pictures are important as I have hundreds of cards that I can not put together with a face. The irony of that is I take tons of pictures at the conferences and know I have almost all their pictures. Info that you can't organize is almost useless info.

  4. Thanks Edie. I'm behind the curve in getting ready this year, but I'm planning to utliize what you've shared here. Thank you!

  5. Love all this great advice, Edie! Looking forward to seeing you again soon!