Conference Faculty Blog – Shari Stauch

 Getting the Most Out of Your Conference Experience


When you’re investing your hard-earned dollars on a writer’s conference, especially one where you have the chance to interact with top authors, agents and editors, it pays to know how to squeeze the most juice out of the experience.
Here are a few “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to help you enjoy a productive and engaging conference:

DO Register Early. And this is especially important if planning on getting a critique as agents and editors are on a first-come first-served basis and you’ll have the best shot of meeting with whom you want to meet. Also, the more folks who register early, the better conference staff can plan for faculty, events, etc.

DO Prepare! Research who will be speaking, and if there are break-out sessions, which at what time will best serve you where you are on your current road to published author. Research the authors, agents and editors who will be attending, and check back often for schedule changes. If you’re attending with a friend(s), you may want to split up and each take on a different session, then compare notes afterwards.

DO Bring: An “elevator pitch” – meaning, a memorized single sentence that tells anyone what your book is about. You will be asked; it pays to not have to scramble for an answer. Also, have with you:

a)      business cards

b)     a singe page synopsis of your work

c)      a proposal (if non-fiction) or sample chapters (if fiction)

d)     a bio (please no longer than a page)

e)      a full manuscript

This collateral isn’t meant to be randomly distributed but rather to have on hand if you’re asked for it.

DON’T Ignore the Authors.Too many attendees think a conference is just about face time with agents and editors. The fact is authors (and frankly, fellow attendees) have plenty of insights. We’ve known attendees that have made great contacts with author faculty that resulted in speaking engagements, book blurbs and more.

DO Respect Conference Organizers and Volunteers. These good people, fellow writers themselves, volunteer countless hours to ensure a smooth conference. Appreciate their efforts and if you can, volunteer to help a bit, too.

DON’T Oversell. Your work will resonate with some people (yes, agents and editors are people, too) and not with others. And while on this topic, avoid the newbie mistakes that agents love to talk about, such as trying to slide a manuscript under a bathroom stall door of your favorite agent, or talking endlessly about your work. You’d be surprised to learn what a very “small town” this is and a writer who behaves badly will be talked about – and not in a good way.

DO Listen to Criticism and DON’T Argue. No matter how much you disagree with an agent or editor’s assessment of your work, even if it’s obvious they didn’t read everything you sent (it happens). Let them know that’s an interesting perspective you hadn’t thought of and you’ll have to mull it over. First, it may indeed be a perspective you can appreciate days after you feel stabbed in the gut. Second, it shows that you’re an eager learner, open to opinions, have class and exude self-confidence. That’s the writer agents and editors want to know!

DO Take Advantage of EVERY Mingling Opportunity. Before and after sessions, at mixers, dinners, etc. These are all opportunities to meet other authors as well as to interact with agents and editors in a less formal atmosphere. These provide more “organic” forums for talking about what you write (when asked).

DO Have FUN! Writers are relegated to long, solitary hours honing their craft – This is a chance to get out and be part of a fantastic community of creative, thinking folks with great ideas. Most you meet will be eager to help you, too – that’s the beauty of the writer world – with all of us writing something quite different and unique, it’s easy to encourage each other’s success.

We’ll see you at SCWW 2012 and look forward to a brilliant and productive weekend at the beach!

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