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Writing conferences offer great opportunities for networking and marketing, with lectures, panel discussions, workshops, chances to hear from best-selling authors, and meet-and-greets with literary agents. And unless you find a way to attend for free, a writing conference can also be a huge financial investment. At Writer’s Relief, we know that with so much going on, there may be possibilities you’ll miss out on if you don’t plan ahead. Be sure to get the biggest bang for your buck and take advantage of every opportunity—even the not-so-obvious ones—at your next writing conference!
5 Writing Conference Opportunities You Don’t Want To Miss
Take the elevator. Though you might think taking the stairs will earn more points on your activity tracker, it’s easier to strike up a conversation with other attendees while taking the elevator. The elevator is also the perfect place to have an impromptu one-on-one with a literary agent where you can pitch your book during the sixty-second ride. Practice your elevator pitch before you attend the conference so you have it ready to go. Keep in mind that there are things you should and shouldn’t do at a conference. For example: Do not follow the agent to his or her room in a misguided effort to close the deal.
Volunteer to help conference organizers. Most writing conferences rely heavily on volunteers to ensure things run efficiently and effectively. If you can work at a book table, usher, or even help prepare welcome packages or gift bags, then you are increasing your odds of running into that agent or editor you’ve had your eye on. And here’s an industry secret: When events at conferences are sold out or overbooked, volunteers usually still have access to areas others do not. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge. Get what we’re saying here?
Attend the mixers and dinners. Writers are often quiet types who prefer solitude over being surrounded by crowds of people. But you’re attending the conference in order to mix and mingle with other writers and industry reps, so it’s important to step out of your comfort zone. Learn to work a room full of agents and editors so you can attend the mixers and dinners with the comfort of a social butterfly—at the very least you’ll get some names to add to your contacts.
Visit the bar after events have ended for the day. Maybe you don’t like the bar scene. But even if you don’t partake in alcoholic beverages, sip a soda and circulate—it’s still a great place to meet other attendees, agents, and editors. Striking up a conversation in this informal, laid-back setting might result in a casual introduction to an editor or possibly a new critique partner who writes in your genre. And if you do drink adult beverages—respect boundaries and don’t get sloshed. Nobody appreciates a slurred pitch, and you don’t want to get a bad reputation when you’re supposed to be trying to impress people.
Have a working lunch. Depending on the conference, there will be a variety of lunch options. Some have buffet-style choices, others have you pre-select during registration. But the most important thing on the menu should be the lunch table you choose. We aren’t suggesting you pitch to your favorite agent while she’s eating or your mouth is full of food. However, at the right table, you might learn about “invitation only” parties held by individual agencies or publishers.
What You Should Do After A Writing Conference
Rest, most importantly. But don’t forget your due diligence. This is where many attendees fall short. You worked hard to obtain that prestigious agent’s attention—make sure you follow through. Wait until three days after the writing conference before reaching out to the agents, editors, and contacts you made. Everyone should be rested by then—and hopefully, you made a glowing first impression so they will be thrilled to hear from you.
Other must-dos after the conference:
- Send out your manuscript with a letter of gratitude to each agent who asked to see your work. Remind them who you are (they meet quite a few people at writing events).
- Organize your notes and contacts.
- Plan your next conference and take advantage of the not-so-obvious opportunities you learned about from Writer’s Relief.