Perhaps you are hoping to get the attention of an agent and/or editor for your latest project. Or maybe you want to network. Perhaps you’re there to learn more about the writing craft. Or all three of those.
If you’re hoping for some attention for your latest project, here are five tips:
- Research all the editors, agents, and writers you may be meeting with formally. Paste all their bios into a document and have it ready to study on the day of the conference, printed out or uploaded to your device. This keeps you from madly trying to research at the last minute (once you find out who exactly you will be meeting with) and getting frustrated with possible Internet connection problems.
- Look at exactly what each of those people you could be meeting with says they want from you. One-page synopsis? Two-page? A one-sheet? A proposal? Filling out a form with info on the project? Get all those items ready before you leave for the conference. Make enough copies so each appointment has plenty to look at. Note: the editors and agents normally don’t want to take hard copies of your work home with them. But they may mark it up for you. And they may surprise you and run off with it! So be prepared. Just for fail-safe, email yourself attachments with copies of all these things so you can forward them to someone at the conference if you need to.
- Be ready with your one-sentence “elevator pitch,” but don’t actually use it in an elevator. Remember that editors and agents are at the conference as prospectors, looking for gold, so don’t be too shy about stopping them in the hall or talking at lunch with people you have researched as prospects ahead of time. Most of them can evaluate in a flash whether your work fits they are looking for in terms of genre and basic story line, and will ask to see more if they like what they hear.
- Your one-sheet is a one-page summary of everything you can think of about your project, laid out like a newsletter. Get the basic info on there and don’t obsess about making it look just exactly beautiful. The basic info? A publisher, and therefore an editor or agent, will want to know the genre, whether it’s completed, word count, short summary of the story, some comparable published works, your brief bio, AND what your platform sizes up to. (Platform is a number: number of Facebook followers, visitors to your blog, and so on. ) It needs contact info, too, and a link to your website, because you do have one, right?
- Most important of all, prepare your heart. Be ready and able to quickly absorb bad news. If your story isn’t ready, these people will hint at that. Usually it’s fairly subtle, since they don’t want to make anyone mad. If you get a shrug from them, you can want to ask specifically what you could do to improve your work. Be ready to do that, and don’t miss your opportunity. You’ll kick yourself later if you do.
Of course, being at the conference is a wonderful step in this journey of learning to write fiction. You’ll be able to buy the audio and listen to all the great writing tips from the lecturers. You’ll be able to network with your peers and find out what is working for them.
Learning to write a novel is a process that usually takes several years at least. It’s not just learning the small things, like using strong verbs and chopping out the adverbs. It’s also the big picture. You want a plot that will make people line up to buy the book. Learning to plot a strong story has been the biggest challenge for me.