I look forward to participating in writers conferences and other events each year as they provide opportunities to reconnect with colleagues and meet authors who have self-published or are considering doing so. I am always impressed with the authors I meet at events, but there usually seems to be a few authors who are ready to stand and deliver when opportunities present themselves, and they obviously reap the rewards from their preparation. Over the years, I’ve asked some of those authors what they did to prepare for the event and compiled their feedback into the following list of best practices for maximizing the results from a conference instead of just being another attendee.
Figure out what you are getting yourself into at least four weeks in advance
Spend time reviewing the written materials and website for the conference. Schedule the important sessions on your calendar. Enter any contests. Get on the list for any consultations or writing critiques that are being offered with agents, editors, or publishers. Further familiarize yourself with each speaker or faculty member by Googling them. Make a list of who you want to meet, their contact information, what your objectives are for each meeting, and what questions you want to ask. Send a query to each of them to request an appointment. Find out if anybody from the online author groups participate in will be attending and if so then make plans to meet as a group.
Get your stuff together at least three weeks in advance
Order business cards and obtain copies of the one-sheet for your book. The one-sheet or sell sheet is the flyer or catalog page for your book and includes a variety of important information:
- book cover image
- title and subtitle
- author name
- metadata: release date, ISBN, format, list price, BISAC, trim size, page count, carton quantity
- blurb (endorsement) from respected authority on topic
- sales copy focused on benefits to reader
- bullet point list of 3-4 key selling points
- marketing plans
- author bio with hometown
- publisher, web site URL, and author/publisher contact email address
If you’re working with a publisher then ask your marketing contact if you need help producing your one-sheet. Print several copies of the first chapter of your book regardless of what stage it is in. Follow up on queries and update your calendar with each new appointment.
Finalize your agenda and prepare for the event at least one week in advance
Book your travel arrangements and print a map of the area around the venue (GPS navigation can get you there but it is good to have a map to get your bearings and understand what is nearby). Figure out what to wear (business casual usually). Create your list of what to pack (laptop, charger, notebook, several pens, cash for books, healthy snacks, breath mints, etc.). Continue to prepare mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Make a list of things to remember to do and be (be thankful and let it show by smiling; writing and getting published is the job you love so take it seriously and put in the hours; you can get what you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want; establish connections by exchanging business cards and writing an idea of how to work with the person on each of them; etc.). Finalize your one line bio (summarize who you are, what you do, and why you write in one sentence), the three questions you can ask anybody to get to know them (What do you write? etc.), and the 60-second elevator pitch for your book. Follow up on queries and update your calendar with each new appointment.
Rest and prepare your body and mind in the days leading up to the conference
Maintain your sleep schedule, eat healthy, and exercise. Finalize your schedule of important sessions to attend and appointments on your calendar (you’re there on business so focus on your business rather than being a tourist). Finalize your agenda for each appointment (including name, title, and contact information of each participant) and print each agenda. Block out debriefing and follow-up time on your calendar for the first day or two after you get home.
Be ready to connect and accomplish at the event
As Sandy mentioned in her comment on this post last year:
Opportunities seldom just happen. Be on the lookout to make them happen. Don’t be aggressive, but do be pro-active. Initiate conversations, use people’s names, make the exchange about them, inject humor, give people a reason to like you. Much business is birthed out of relationship.
Follow up immediately when you get back
Review all your notes, add new people to your Contacts, add ideas to your Ideas list, and add action items to your To-Do List. Send thank you notes (short, handwritten, and mailed). Send follow-up messages based on what you wrote on each person’s business card and in your notes. Don’t procrastinate.
If you follow these steps, you’ll be more intentional in accomplishing your objectives and will maximize your success as you participate in (instead of just attend) events.
What events will you be attending this year? What are the tips you found most helpful in turning writers conferences, trade shows, and other events into stepping stones in your writing career?
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