Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune of attending conferences of all shapes and sizes and I’ve grown from greenhorn to full-fledged pro. As I launch into the final stages of preparation for the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference (ACFW) in Denver, I realize there may be writers out there struggling to figure out exactly how to prepare. Since a little knowledge goes a long way, I’ll share a few tidbits I’ve picked up that may help those of you in preparation mode to bring your A game.
Decide what you want to gain from attending the conference.
This may seem basic, but believe me, knowing your motivation going in can be a big timesaver. For instance, if you’ve never attended a conference and you have not completed a manuscript that is “publisher ready,” then your main objective maybe to network with other writers and meet agents and editors to begin building relationships. This being the case, you won’t need a polished proposal because you’re not at the “pitching stage.”
Conversely, if you’ve written a manuscript, had it critiqued, and have polished your words to a finished product you’ll want a top-notch proposal and a strong pitch. We’ll talk about pitch in a moment. The key is in knowing why you’re attending the conference and what you hope to gain.
Do a little research in advance.
Whether you’re attending your first writer’s conference or your fifth, it pays to read up on the faculty, agents, and editors who are scheduled to attend the event. The more you know about the people you’ll be interacting with, the better you’ll be able to formulate questions that lead to clear answers. Not only that, if you’re pitching you’ll be able to determine the guidelines for the agents and publishing houses you’re interested in.
**Word of Caution – If an agent or publishing house indicates they’re not accepting material from the genre you’ve written your manuscript in, do not present it. Tempting as it may be, stay the course and save your pitch for the person who is open to what you have to offer.
Get a second, third, and fourth opinion.
You’ve heard me mention the term pitching a few times in this article. A pitch is simply a brief—20 to 30 words—synopsis of your story. There are scads of resources available on the internet that explain the mechanics of a good pitch, but if you’re stumped, search the archives of the following blogs and read the advice from these professionals: Randy Ingermanson, Rachelle Gardner, and Camy Tang.
Once you’ve written your pitch and perfected it to the best of your ability, try out your spiel on as many writers as you can. Based on their feedback, refine your message to be as short and intriguing as possible. Once you’ve whittled your pitch to a fine point—practice, practice, practice. Say your pitch out loud over and over again, to anyone who will listen, until the words roll off your tongue effortlessly.
Bring professional business cards.
With online printing from suppliers like Vista Print, business cards can be obtained for a fraction of the cost of traditional printers. Much like a calling card, your business card represents you. As with all things that represent you, lean toward quality every time. You only have one opportunity to make a good first impression, so why not put your best foot forward?
Prepare a one-sheet.
Even if you’re not pitching, I’d still suggest creating a snappy one-sheet to bring with you. If nothing else, the practice will be invaluable. In case you’re unfamiliar with a one-sheet, here is a guideline of what it should include. On one sheet of paper, indicate the title, word count, genre, and status of completion of your novel along with your contact information. In addition to these basic details, a one-sheet should include a one or two paragraph synopsis along with a brief writer bio and picture. Once again, there are numerous ways to lay out this information. Feel free to search the previous blogs I listed above for suggestions and possible examples.
Filed under: Tools for Writers, Writers Conference Tagged: | ACFW Writer's Conference, American Christian Fiction Writers, LinkedIn, one-sheet, pitching a novel, preparing for writers conferences, Vista Print, Writers Conference, writing a pitch