Friday, February 5, 2010

To the Conference... And Back Again

Have we convinced you that the next best step for your career is to attend a writers conference? I hope so, because this is the way I and most of the writers I know have found our way to publication.

Perhaps at this point you need only decide which one you will attend. Would a list help? You can find one at Sally Stuart's website, complete with dates and web addresses and contact information.

Let's now assume you're going, and just for fun, let's suppose you can bring only one treasure home from the conference. Which will you choose?

  • a friend
  • an agent
  • a book-contract

I have a little experience here. The day I came back with a book-contract, my husband threw a party. When I signed with my agent, Janet Grant, he merely took me out to dinner - not because it was less special, but because only a week had passed since the party.

Long before all of that, however, the day I came home from a conference having found a brand new writer-friend, I simply emailed her. No party, no dinner out, just an email. And yet...

As great as the contract was (it was a dream-come-true), and as proud as I am that the uber-professional Janet has agreed to represent me, it is my writer friends who do the most, day by day, to encourage me, and to restore my sense of humor and perspective when things get stressful. I don't think I could be a writer without them.

So I hope when you go, you will make it your first goal to find at least one friend at the conference.

Then what will you do when you get back home?

First, attend to your correspondence. Send thank you notes to anyone who advised or helped or encouraged you. Like Bonnie said, it's all about relationships.

Then contact your new friends. Consider throwing a little party - even if it's only a happy-dance. They are worth celebrating.

Then follow up on any promises you made. Did an editor or agent ask to see more of your project? Fantastic! Study Wendy Lawton's guidelines for creating a book proposal. Get it done, and send it off.

Next, pore over all those notes you took while at the conference: new directions for your writing, marketing ideas, organizational tips. Form them into a to-do list, and get to work.

Oh, and one last thing: get some rest. You've hardly slept all week.


Laura said...

Such good advice! While I've never brought home a book contract, four years ago I met an agent who became a friend! And remains one to this day. Wouldn't trade him for anything. :)

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I feel blessed to be able to attend two conferences this year. I am going to make friends. I love that aspect of the publishing industry--there's an immediate understanding of the passion.
~ Wendy

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

The value of connecting with other writers cannot be overstated. Writing is such a solitary pursuit and we need each other!
Thanks, Katy, for pointing out to "follow up on any promises you made" in regard to manuscript proposals at conferences. I'm amazed when I hear editors say they ask for proposals and never receive them, or they get them six months to a year later.

Jan Cline said...

Timely message for me. I am considering 2 possible conferences. One conference has only a group pitch session instead of one on one. They give you 3 minutes to pitch your book in front of the others in the group. Then if the editor/agent is interested, they may ask to see more of you and your book. Im not sure if that's the way I want to do it. It's my first conference and I want to make the most of it. I totally agree about the writer friends - what a treasure they are. I will be copying this post to have when I come home from my first conference!

Bonnie Grove said...

Okay - the group pitch thing scares me just thinking about it! Just saying!

Patti Hill said...

Let me just add my amen to the thank you notes. The editors and agents leave a lot of work on their desks to come to the conferences, not to mention their families. A thank you validates their investment of time and effort. Your excellent writing, however, is the best thank you.

Kathleen Popa said...

Jan, congratulations on going to your first conference! I think you're going to feel you've found your true element. As Wendy said, you'll find yourself among kindred souls.

Wendy, two conferences! Wonderful.

Laura, many blessings upon your friendship, and your writing.

To add to that last bit about sleeping - one of the best bits of advice I ever got for conferences was to bring Tylenol PM - to calm the billowing new thoughts that kept me awake nights. It works - unless, (ahem!) those writer friends of yours keep you laughing till the sky turns purple. I don't have a cure for that.

Steve G said...

This is a great post on Relationships - they are the heart of our faith, and they are the heart of ministry. I'd be interested in seeing y'all post about not just building, but maintaining good relationships in the CBA. How does your writing "ministry" translate into relationships? Maybe about the personal touches that make all the difference. I would guess integrity is a close ally of good relationships too.

Even if we don't become a best-selling author, we could be best friends with one!