I am excited about the upcoming annual CAPA-U Writer’s Conference this Saturday in Harford, CT, sponsored by the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association (CAPA), a fantastic organization composed of a group of dedicated independent authors and publishers. This is my third CAPA conference and I’ve met agents and talented writers and editors, while expanding my knowledge of the craft and marketing.
Advance planning will help writers get the most out of these conferences. Writers should ask themselves some key questions:
- Who is the sponsoring organization? Is it a reputable organization? Is the agenda/schedule available? Are the workshop topics appropriate for a writer of your level?
- What do I want to get out of a writers’ conference? What are my goals?
- How can I meet other writers and establish connections?
- Do a have a novel (finished manuscript) to shop? If so what agents do a want to meet? What will I say when I meet them?
- What workshops should I attend.
So many questions…where to turn for answers?
Here are a few tips for writers to get the most out of conferences:
- Study the agenda carefully. Choose workshops based on where you are as a writer. If you’ve just published a first novel, workshops on marketing and maximizing social media may be for you.
- Dress appropriately. Business casual is the norm. Wear comfortable shoes, not sneakers. Don’t walk in wearing a pair of jeans and a rock and roll concert tee-shirt.
- Get there early, collect your materials, and network. You don’t want to walk into a crowded general session late and slink into a seat in the back of the room.
- Bring business cards or a marketing piece. Make sure it has your contact information, website or blog address.
- Select the right agent, if there are opportunities to meet with agents. Review the agent bios and go on their websites. Pay attention to what types of authors and genres they represent.
- Some conferences allow authors to sell their hard-copy books. Take advantage of this.
- Select a mix of craft and business workshops. Take a notebook with you and take notes.
- Network at every opportunity. I found my book editor because she happened to sit down next to me at lunch during a writers’ conference and we got to talking.
- Be as positive as you can be when you meet with an agent. These meetings can seem like cattle calls. You only have ten minutes or so to make a good impression. Be friendly, tell the agent about yourself and your work and engage the agent in a dialogue. Be interesting and engaging. Smiling helps.
- Never vent about frustrations you have experienced in getting your work published or represented by an agent.
- Volunteer to “cover” a session for the sponsoring organization’s newsletter. Volunteer newsletter editors have a thankless job and are always looking for articles. You will make two new friends–the editor and the presenter you write about.
- Make sure you are familiar with the work of authors you came to see. Check out their websites.
- Be nice to everybody. Treat the volunteer who gives you your name badge and conference packet with the same respect you show to the author you came to see. A minute of boorish behavior can undo a lifetime of good will.
- Prepare an elevator speech. Don’t make it long–30 second to a minute on who you are and what your work is about.
- Take an interest in other people’s work. Actively listen to the other writers you meet. Get their contact information and drop them a line telling them it was nice to meet.
- Don’t let a lack of interest by an agent ruin your day. Agents must be selective. Your work might not be appropriate for them.
- Don’t walk around with hurt feelings and a scowl on your face because an agent doesn’t take an interest in your manuscript. It will happen more often than not.
- Finally, if there is a reception where drinks are served, watch your alcohol intake.
For a low-cost resource with a lot more on attending writer;s conferences check out this book by authors Bob Mayer and Jen Talty.
Writer’s conferences will advance your knowledge of the craft, expand your network of contacts and possibly help you to land an agent. I recommend writers attend at least one writer’s conference a year and more if resources allow.
How do you get the most out of writer’s conferences?