Kieran Kramer is a bestselling author of humorous regency romance and she has graciously written a guest blog post for my readers. Be sure to check out her site at www.kierankramerbooks.com
“Ten Important But Oft Overlooked Things to Do at Writing Conferences.”
I've been to enough writing conferences now to have picked up on a few helpful hints for both newcomers and people who are returning. Most of these ideas have to do with keeping a positive attitude and always behaving in a classy manner. You can still karaoke at the bar and have fun with your friends , but never lose track of what's going on--this is a business event, not a personal holiday.
1. At workshops, always keep it professional. We sometimes tend to turn back into teenagers when we’re in big groups, don't we? Especially after a long day of sitting and listening to speakers! It's normal to want to relax, but until you get back into your hotel room, do your best to be polite in group settings.
So in those workshops, please turn off the ringer on your cell phone. And don't text right in front of a speaker, put on lipstick, fix your hair, or chat with your neighbor in the middle of the speaker's talk. Most importantly, ask good questions and at the conclusion of the workshop, clap loudly for the speaker--someday it may be YOU up on that podium!
2. If it IS you up on that podium, please sound animated and sit up straight behind the microphone. There's nothing more demoralizing to a conference attendee than walking into a workshop in which the speaker sounds like he or she doesn't want to be there. If you have stage fright--fake confidence! Do so by standing and walk around. That projects a lot of self-assurance, and it makes the presentation more lively.
3. Consider not talking so much when you network--and start listening. Yes, you should still try to meet at least one new person at every meal, if possible. But how many of us do that and then do all the talking? Instead, LISTEN to that person's stories. You'll pick up a lot of interesting tips about writing and publishing this way. You already KNOW what you think--this is the place to find out what others think!
4. Make sure that when you speak to the editor or agent you're pitching to that you don't read off an index card, even if you have an attack of nerves. The editor's eyes will be open and she'll nod, but she'll be dozing inside. Quite frankly, if you can't talk freely about your story idea, it might mean you don't know your story well enough or that you're not enthusiastic enough about it. Either way, that's a turn-off! I don't care if it takes you a whole year to practice your pitch before you can dump the index cards--do whatever it takes!
5. Actually SUBMIT to the agent or editor who just asked for your manuscript. I've heard the majority of conference attendees NEVER SEND IN THE REQUEST, for one reason or another. Don't be one of those. And don't assume the agent or editor will be deluged with requests right after the conference. Again, most people never submit. So strike while the iron is hot and get that request in as soon as it's in top shape.
6. Wear a smile. Don't be a cynic. And stay away from the whiners. There are always people at every conference who sit together at the bar and moan about how unfair everything is in publishing. Avoid them. Wave and walk right on by. You don't have time for that.
7. Thank every person who does you a good deed at the hotel, including your maid, the waiters, the conference volunteers, and the speakers, if you manage to interact with them. You and your roomies should take turns tipping the room maid every day. You'll get fabulous service in return. In general, just remember that lousy guests leave awful impressions. Diva-like behavior makes you look bad and makes every writer in the hotel and your writing organization look bad. So for your own sense of well-being and for all of us, please be courteous and kind to everyone you meet.
8. Focus on what kind of environment you want to have in your hotel room, starting from what roommate(s) you'll stay with to mundane things, like making sure you pack enough hangers if you're going to be sharing the closet with several people. Maybe you'll even want to arrange a snack or "party" area where all of you contribute portable food, wine, and drinks for general consumption.
Sometimes roommates are a random choice and you just have to make the best of it. You do this by being considerate and hoping the roommate will return the favor.
Be as tidy as possible so you don't aggravate the other roomies (unless you know all of you have "relaxed" standards of neatness!). Ask if people snore, and please, please volunteer that information if YOU do!
Most importantly, arrange to have a "roomie" get-together every night or morning so you can stay in touch with each other and everyone's goals. Try to create a special "roomie" memory to take home with you. I'll never forget one year when my roommates and I all went to a great dinner at a rooftop restaurant and told each other our big writing and personal goals.
9. Always keep a granola bar (or easy snack) and a bottle of water with you as you walk around the conference. You might get hungry between workshops, and you don't want to miss out on the beginning of the next workshop because you had to wait in those long lines that form at the hotel snack bars/coffee shops. As for the water, hotel environments are notoriously dry. Stay hydrated.
10. If you're waiting in a long line to get a book signed by your favorite author, when you get to the front of that line, please be aware that the people behind you are waiting, too. Help the author by ending the conversation at a reasonable time--don't put the burden on her to turn you away. I always keep my conversations with authors at booksignings short on purpose. I know they're under the gun to keep everyone happy. So be respectful of their time and the time of the people behind you.
I hope your conference experience will be memorable (in a good way ) and extremely productive! Happy writing, practice those pitches, line up some great roommates, and prepare to have a fabulous time.