Monday, February 18, 2019

Prepare For Writing Conference Success

by Karen Whiting @KarenHWhiting

Writing conferences offer training to network opportunities, so prepare to gain the most out of attending one. Conferences became my launch pad to success and it can be that for you! Amazingly, these steps also help build your marketing skills  as you define ideas, pitch, and expand your network.

1. Explore the conference web site and blog
Use the conference website to learn about the faculty and courses offered. Explore each faculty member’s website (or their publishing house/business site) and social media (friend or follow them). If it includes the editor’s needs, that can help you match ideas with the right editor.
Fill out an index card for each faculty member and note what you’d love to ask the individual. Add any pitch to make to that person and why it fits that agency or publishing house. If the faculty is large, use colored index cards and choose a color for each genre or area of expertise.  Use the filled cards as a prayer list to pray for the faculty.  

Read the conference blog or social media posts and make note of people who  will conferees. If the person posts messages that interest you, or they write in your genre, friend the person and make plans to meet at the conference. With hundreds of attendees it’s hard to simply find someone at the conference, so setting a time and place to meet, so scheduling ahead or exchanging phone numbers and emails is the first step to building new friendships.
Glean other information from the blog: what to wear, notes about food, and even posts from faculty members to get to know them that lets you get to know them and prepare for appointments.

2. Golden Opportunities: Appointments with Experts
Pray, research, and figure out who you want to meet with at the conference. This can be a possible match to a publisher, an expert in your writing genre or area of need, or a publishing house you dream of writing for one day. Find out the rules of how to book appointments and follow them.
Once you know who you want to meet with, get out the index card (or make one) for that person and list topics you want to discuss and ideas to pitch. Bring it with you when you meet so you won’t forget.
Edie Melson wrote much more about these network opportunities so checkout that post too.

3. Catalogue Ideas
You might have a gazillion ideas, but that also makes it hard to recall a specific one in an instant. Or, you may be better at describing your idea on paper than rattling off elevator speeches. If so, create a catalogue of your book and article ideas. 

I did this for one of my first conferences, handed a copy of pages to an editor at my fifteen-minute appointment and started pitching the book on my heart. The editor stopped me, and said, “That doesn’t fits our current needs, but tell me more about this .” He pointed to one of the ideas I had listed.
Separate your ideas by genre and readership. I create separate pages for children’s books, women’s NF, devotionals, articles by readership, and other categories. For any idea already developed as a proposal, bring a copy or have it easily accessible in your laptop. This method makes it easy to turn to the right page when I meet with an editor or and find we have some common share with a reader when we find common interests.

Also, catalogue marketing plans and unique promotional ideas for each book.

4. Network With Everyone You Meet
Prepare to expand your network as you meet new people, reconnect with friends, and get plugged in to the writing and publishing industry. You never know what doors will open from connections. At my first writer’s conference I sat beside another newbie. We shared our dreams and publishing hopes. When a publisher not at the  gave him a contract, he referred them to me in response to a need the editor mentioned. That led to a number of contracts and I still write for that publishing house.
Pack business cards. Design ones that include a photo since it’s easier to recall someone when there’s a picture with the name. Include your brand or statement of what you want to give readers.
Add an app to your smart phone that reads and sorts business cards into categories you create, such as (get the free version). That makes it easier to follow up.
Connect via social media with people you meet. It helps you stay connected in the coming year. Post on their page or message them to follow up.
5. Set Conference Goals
Set a few obtainable goals and sprinkle in some dreams. This can include finding a critique partner, making new writer friends, or pitching to at least two agents/editors. 

Include goals of what you hope to learn from each class. That helps you ask questions if your topic wasn’t covered. Classes are limited in time and the faculty tries to choose the most popular of needed point to cover. They are  happy to answer questions and want to meet your needs, but cannot read your mind.

Another goal might be to discover new resources that will help you in your writing journey. That means asking people what resources most help them.

Measurable goals move you forward!

Prepare for #Writing Conference Success - tips from @KarenHWhiting on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

5 Tips to make your next #writing conference a success - @KarenHWhiting on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Karen Whiting ( is an international speaker, former television host of Puppets on Parade, certified writing and marketing coach, and award-winning author of twenty-five books for women, children, and families. Her newest book, The Gift of Bread: Recipes for the Heart and the Table reflects her passion for bread and growing up helping at her grandparent’s restaurant. 

She has a heart to grow tomorrow’s wholesome families today. She has written more than seven hundred articles for more than sixty publications and loves to let creativity splash over the pages of what she writes. She writes for Leading Hearts, The Kid’s Ark, and BCM International. Connect with Karen on Twitter @KarenHWhiting Pinterest KarenWhiting FB KarenHWhiting


  1. Thanks for sharing these ideas. It helps to have a resource like this at hand to organize thoughts when getting ready for a conference.

  2. I like the idea about making index cards to write down potential topics of conversation with agents and editors.
    Great article, Karen!

    1. It jogs the memory and helps us when we are nervous.

  3. Wonderful tips! Thank you. I will be attending the Carolina Christian Writers Conference and the Serious Writer Boot Camp Conference in SC and these tips are very helpful.