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.
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, ExcuseEditor.com." 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.
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?