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Making the Most of Your Next Writers Conference

Posted by Cynthia on September 25, 2017
There’s a writers conference in every part of the country, for every type of author, all year round (there’s even one on a cruise! Search for “writers conferences near me” to see what you find). Some conferences are restricted to members of a writer’s association while others are open to any kind of writer. Update: See a list of 2018 book conferences here.

Chat You’ll find a Goodreads representative at many writers conferences. Find us at NINC in St. Petersburg, Florida and at Litquake in San Francisco, California in October.

Attending a conference is a great way to learn about the publishing process, network with professionals, and hone your writing skills. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of attending your next writers conference:

1. Practice pitching yourself – as well as your book – in one minute or less.
You never know if the person you’re sharing an elevator with is an agent, publisher, or bookseller (or simply your next biggest fan). Work on delivering a succinct description about who you are and what you do, and be prepared for follow up questions.

2. Research the conference in advance.
Conferences usually post information about top attendees on their website, so identify a handful of people you really want to meet and make sure you attend their panels or signings. Approach them after their event for a quick chat to get in some facetime. Review the schedule of events to ensure you attend the most useful panels (though some conferences also provide recordings), and create a calendar for yourself so you know what to do, where to go, and when.

3. Find, follow, and post to the right hashtag.
You can find lots of real-time information on Twitter; you just have to know where to look. Use the right hashtag to connect with people, share information, or ask a question (“Anyone know the shortest line for coffee?”).

4. It’s ok to take breaks.
With the adrenaline going, you might find yourself entirely depleted by the end of the day. Take the time to unwind, whether that’s a 20-minute stroll outside the conference or a nap in your hotel room.

5. Limit your swag
Remember that the more free items you take, the more likely you will need to check your bag at the airport (or have to mail home). Be selective on what tchotchkes you’re willing to accept and don’t be afraid to say “No, thanks!”

We asked a few professionals for their advice for how authors can make the most of attending a writer’s conference. Here's what they said:

Devora Zack, author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking

“To prepare for a conference, I recommend my three P’s for success – Plan, Process, Pace.

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Plan. Be clear on what you hope to gain from attending and plot your strategy based on your specific goals. Review the schedule and determine which events to attend and who to seek out. Prearrange one-on-one meetings in advance. Prepare items to bring such as a proposal, work in progress, past publications, writing samples, and business cards.

Process. Once at the conference, connect rather than collect. Truly focus on whomever you are speaking to at any given time, ask interesting questions, and set an objective to develop two or three lasting connections rather than collecting twenty business cards.

Pace. Replace quantity with quality. Attend fewer events yet be fully present. Show up at networking events early – when there are fewer people with greater opportunities to have meaningful exchanges. Take recharge breaks; pace yourself.

Finally, send personalized follow-ups within 48 hours. If you’re not following up, you’re not networking. Keep in mind, true networking is the art of creating mutually beneficial, lasting connections for shared positive outcomes.”

Linwood Barclay, author of No Time for Goodbye

"Plenty of aspiring writers attend [writers conferences] without an invitation, and if you are published, you might be asked to be on a panel. You do want, especially when starting out, to get your name out there. Just as is the case for aspiring politicians who hit every church supper and basement constituent meeting, there is a cumulative effect. Any one event may not build your name, but hitting ten or twenty may."
(via Ask the Author)

What do you do to prepare for conferences? What conferences have you find valuable? Share it with us in the comments below!

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Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by J.A.V. (new)

J.A.V. Simson Good advice!

message 2: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Southall Helpful advice.


message 3: by Magdel (new)

Magdel Roets Something to consider.

message 4: by Carolynne (new)

Carolynne Raymond Is there a section under Goodreads Events menu that identifies conferences?

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