By Debby Giusti
New York, New York! In two weeks, the National Romance Writers Conference will be in full spring so I thought it might be time to review a few conference do’s and don’ts.
Not going this year? What about ACFW? The majority of the information applies to that conference as well as state or regional gatherings in your area. Being prepared helps calm nerves and ensures you make the most of your conference experience. So…
DO your research. Check the workshops and speaker lineup ahead of time to determine which presentations you want to attend. Ask other writers about programs that SHOULD NOT BE MISSED FOR ANY REASON. Which leads to the first don’t…
DON’T be late, especially if a presenter is a big name draw. Rooms fill up fast. You don’t want to be without a seat or barred from entrance because the venue has reached maximum capacity.
DO make the most of every opportunity. Strike up a conversation with folks on the elevator. Sit next to someone you don’t know at lunch. Introduce yourself to the people beside you in the workshops you attend. Keep a notebook and jot down their names and email or, better yet, exchange business cards. When you get home, stay in touch. RWA has more than 10,000 members; about 2,000 attend the National Conference. After a few years, you’ll know everyone!
DON’T be handicapped by shyness. Set a goal to talk to five people you don’t know each day. Come up with an equal number of opening lines and then practice saying them to strangers. “Where’s home?” and “How long did it take to get here?” are universal icebreakers, especially at the beginning of the conference. “Wasn’t our lunchtime speaker inspirational? Have you read any of her books?” “Are you going to do any sightseeing while you’re in New York? What do you plan to see?” You decide on the questions. Having them ready will ensure you meet lots of people.
DO talk to authors at the literacy book signing. The big name writers attract long lines of readers, while the majority of authors have very few people stop by their table. If you enjoy an author’s work, tell her so. If you’ve never heard of her, ask about her book and her genre and any tips she has on getting published.
DO keep paper and pen handy. Ask authors for a quote on literacy or the conference or New York City that you can use later in a blog article. Most writers enjoy having their picture taken with readers. Those photos will make a nice addition to your website, blog or Facebook page.
DON’T feel obligated to buy the authors’ books at the RWA signing. The publishers donate the books, and the proceeds benefit literacy each year. It's a great cause, but conferences are expensive so don't worry about not buying. Plus, with the airlines' luggage weight restrictions, most folks wait until they get home to buy books. Or download them to their Kindles!
DO take part in the Love Inspired authors’ contest at the literacy book signing this year. Collect a Little Inspy Trading Card from participating LI authors to be entered in a drawing for a $100 Amazon gift card.
DON’T forget to stop by my table. I want to give you a big Seekerville hug…plus, a Little Inspy Trading Card.
DO frequent the Goody Room. At the beginning of the conference, the room is crammed with tons of informative and fun giveaways. After the signing, I usually leave a stack of leftover books in the Goody Room so check back often to see what new items are up for grabs.
DO think about what you’ll place in the Goody Room when your book sells. Before “The Call,” I collected bookmarks and other cute author giveaways. That collection helped me decide on promo items when my first book sold.
DO wear your badge high enough so folks can see your name. Think of it as a marketing tool. Add an interesting pin or conversation starter that will help you stand out from the crowd. This year, I’ll clip a Little Inspy Trading Card to my badge, along with the Cross My Heart logo pin I always wear.
DO have a one-line pitch prepared, so when people ask, you can succinctly tell them about your book. One line won’t tell all, but hopefully, it will hook their interest.
DO print business cards to pass out at the conference. Attach a small label on the back with your upcoming book releases, contest wins or other information you’d like people to know.
DON’T hand your card to editors or agents unless they ask for it. More than likely, they won’t need to contact you before you submit to them. Be sure to get their cards so you know where to mail any material they’ve requested.
DO attend workshops presented by editors and agents you’re targeting. At the end of the program, introduce yourself and mention your work. Sometimes they’ll ask you to submit a proposal on the strength of that short conversation.
DON’T stalk editors or agents. (Of course, Seeker friends would never stalk anyone!) Give them space, especially in the restrooms. Be friendly, but take your cue from them. If they seem interested in chatting, strike up a conversation. If they’re rushing to keep an appointment, smile and say hello in passing.
DO ask editors and agents about their submission guidelines when they request your material. Some want only electronic submissions. Others require hard copies.
DON’T interrupt when you see an author or writing friend talking to an editor or agent. Most meetings between authors and their agents or editors take place in the hotel lobby or coffee shop. They’re working and don’t want to be interrupted.
DO attend the Spotlight On… Sessions hosted by the publishing houses to which you’d like to submit. Take notes and ask questions. If you can’t make the session, buy the CD to learn the latest information about the publisher.
DON’T give your manuscript or proposal to editors or agents at the conference. Mail the submission to them once you get home.
DO pack comfy shoes. Conference hotels are large and require lots of walking. Also be sure to bring a sweater or light jacket in case the hotel is cold.
DON’T hole up in your room at the end of the work day. Writers love to congregate in the lobby or bar area. Find a friend and mix and mingle. You never know who you’ll meet.
DO enjoy yourself. You’ll come home enthused and ready to write.
Share your tips or conference do’s and don’ts. Leave a comment and your email address to be entered into a drawing for a copy of The Officer’s Secret, book 1 in my new Military Investigations series.
Hope to see you in New York!
Wishing you abundant blessings,