Skip to main content

Writing Conference ROI: Before the Conference

Last time, I gave the example of spending $1000 on a writer's conference. In this and the next few posts, I will give you some ideas of getting your money's worth (or ROI, Return On Investment), above and beyond what you learn while you are shivering in those overly air-conditioned meeting rooms.

You've planned your writing conference trip. You know the location, you've browsed the break-out sessions and weighed the pros and cons of choosing one over the other. OK. What else can you do, before the conference, that will maximize your investment, and provide the best returns for your writing?

Put the "Social" in Social Media
Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Goodreads, your blog... You may have virtual friends in one or all of these. Find out if any of your writing buddies are attending. Put the word out that you are heading to the conference when you sign up, a few weeks prior, and immediately before you go. Discuss the breakout sessions. If you are truly torn between two in the same time slot, your friend may be able to share a few notes or insights later for the one you missed.

Card-Carrying Writer
Create and print your business cards. Even if you find yourself in a time crunch an hour before you are supposed to get on the road because you had to work your day job all morning and part of the afternoon (who me?!), have something available to hand out to new contacts. Business cards are relatively inexpensive to get made these days. Learn from my mistakes; you are not going to save enough money printing them yourself to justify the added aggravation and/or smeared cards from your personal printer. Vistaprint is a popular option. I also saw some great ones created at local office supply stores. It doesn't have to be fancy, just have enough information so people can contact you, find your blog and/or social networking listings, and learn about you (10 books published, newsletter available, etc.).

Need a Lift?
Practice your elevator speech. Be ready to succinctly answer the most common question: "What do you write?" We are creative people, we wear many hats. On an elevator ride, you don't have time to show off/model/painstakingly describe each hat in your collection. Be a quick change artist. Give a vivid glimpse of all you do ("I'm a personal essay writer who is also interested in literary and mainstream fiction, and I provide writing inspiration and help on my blog," If you still have time add more. "There's a monthly writing contest and market listing included with my newsletter subscription. You'll find the link on my card, here, or can scan the RF code to go directly to the sign in sheet." [The RF code is still a bit of a conversation starter, and many people are excited to learn that their smart phones really are smart!])

If you are going to the conference with the intent of selling your new work, be able to describe it in one or two sentences. Nobody has time to hear the whole story, and many (especially agents) will have the patience for "well, it's kinda like a romance, but not all romanc-y and it has some coming of age elements, but I think it's more of a thriller with a backstory of a fling between some young people, but it's not young adult, at least I don't think so...". Practice describing your work quickly and with confidence. You have put a lot of time and effort into your work. Act like it. Be proud of it. Know it. And...

Get it in Writing
Prepare your Summary or Synopsis. If your work is complete, make sure you've printed out a few summaries. (Read about short and long synopses here.) How great to have that immediacy, rather than having your email get lost among the agent's flooded inbox a few days after the conference, when all of the other writers have scrambled to edit (or write) the requested summary.

If you fail to plan, plan to fail. By preparing ahead of time, you will walk into a conference with confidence, prepared to seize any opportunity that presents itself. Because you've prepared, you won't be fumbling around with words, papers, or self-defeating guilty thoughts (I should've...) when you should be focusing on the speakers you traveled to see.

More on maximizing your writing investment, during the conference, next time.

Happy Writing!

P.S. Hmmmm, it's becoming more obvious that my day job editing for a financial planner is seeping into my own work... Does this happen to you?


  1. What a great idea to meet up with your online writing buddies and to share notes at a conference so you can get optimal gain from all of the speakers!

    And writer business cards is a great ideas, as well. I love Vistaprint. I got their free business cards, 250, with shipping, twice. Once when I was creating an event and needed tickets. I used this business cards as tickets. And another time to create fake business cards for fun. The next time I use it will be when I actually create myself business cards, which will be soon. :)

    This is a great tip:

    Practice your elevator speech. Be ready to succinctly answer the most common question: "What do you write?"

    Also good advice:

    Prepare your Summary or Synopsis. If your work is complete, make sure you've printed out a few summaries.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Emelina! Creating "real" business cards is such a stepping stone: it's like saying, "This is who I am, can't deny it, it's written down, over 250 times!"

  3. I was so thrilled to order my book markers this week! I have not been to a conference in a long time...Thank you for reminding me just how valuable they are.

  4. Have a great conference, Doreen!


Post a Comment


Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Experience

The popularity of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books is beyond extraordinary. What started out as a multi- rejected book idea has turned into a multi-million dollar book empire. More than 110 million Chicken Soup for the Soul books have been sold. Many of the books have been translated to 40 different languages. I'm proud that my personal essays have been included in some of these books, and I hope to continue being a Chicken Soup contributor.
My Story
I thought I would share a bit about being published in these collections. I'm very happy with my Chicken Soup experiences, and part of that may be that I went into it with little expectations at first. I started with them because I had a few stories that seemed to fit what they were looking for, and I thought I had nothing to lose. Unlike some of the other markets and contests I was looking at, submitting to Chicken Soup could be done at no cost to me, and I didn't even need to worry about a postage stamp, because they had a…

All the Right Ingredients to Writing Advice

Last time, I talked about people in our lives that are pretty sure they know how to be successful writers, because they spent much of their time reading. Sometimes their advice can be a blessing, sometimes just the opposite. It is the same with the plethora of advice available from other writers. Have you checked out almost every book about the writing process from your local library at one time or another? Are your shelves lined with your own copies of "the-perfect-writing-advice-that-will-get-me-published-once-and-for-all"? Are you a member of multiple online writing communities? Do you hold your breath just a little bit when waiting from the critique from that "certain someone" in your writing group?

Yeah. Me too. And I don't think that gaining knowledge is a bad thing. We just have to be careful.

Don't Let Too Many Cooks Create a Recipe for Disaster
I love great food, I savor the tastes and textures of all kinds of cuisine; but unless I have specific, de…

Why Ghostwriting? Guest Post by Kelly James-Enger

Is it Time to Disappear?  Why I Became a Ghost--and Why you Should, Too
I never intended to become a ghostwriter. After all, why would I spend months of my life toiling away on someone else’s book? No thanks. I only wanted to write my own books, and that’s what I did.
I soon found, however, that the life of a book author wasn’t quite what I’d envisioned. I was working long hours, yet making less money than I had before, when I wrote only articles. The reason was simple—the time I spent promoting my books left me less time to write articles and other books, which cut into my income.
            Fortunately for me, I was approached by a nutrition expert about coauthoring her book. I found I enjoyed collaborating with her, but the real payoff came when we finished the manuscript. As the author, she now had to start promoting it—but I was all done!
That was enough for me. I decided to pursue coauthoring and ghostwriting, and “my” next book was ghostwritten for a client. (Typically a “coau…