Monday, March 12, 2018

Writers’ Conference Secrets for Success

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Author of the multi award-winning
HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers

L Diane Wolfe, one of the forces behind The Insecure Writers Group asked me to share my enthusiasm for writer’s conferences with this video made at one my recent presentations at Bookbaby’s first ever conference in Philadelphia.

So, now you are convinced how much fun they can be—for both attendees and presenters!—I want to share some information on how to make conference more successful by planning in advance. You want to treat it like a garden and bring home all the ripe stuff that suits your palate. That means you have to organize. This partial excerpt from the chapter on writers’ conferences in The Frugal Book Promoter will help you do that.

Your notebook—either the old-fashioned paper kind or the one you set up on your laptop—is key to getting the most from a conference. These ideas come from the old fashioned way of doing it, but most can be adapted to your iPad or laptop.
  • Bring a seven-subject notebook (or seven files in your computer). Divide the notebook into sections that match your goals. These might include: Agents, Publishers, Promotion, Writing, and Other Contacts. Leave one section open for a category that crops up after you arrive.
  • On each separator page tape a number ten envelope in which you slip business cards, bookmarks, mini notes to yourself, and small brochures. When you arrive home, part of your filing and sorting will be done.
  • Take blank mailing labels to make custom index tabs that stick out from the edge of your notebook.
  • On the first night of the conference, clip and paste separate parts of the conference handouts and programs into corresponding segments of your notebook.
  • At the back of your conference notebook, make a directory section. Use the label index markers to delineate each one.

The first page is a name and address list for publishers. They should be listed in conference handouts but you may glean more from seminars. Star the publishers you spoke to personally. Make notes. What have they published that is similar to your book? Jot down anything that will help them remember you when you write to them and mention your encounter. Query letters work best when you indicate you are familiar with the person or company being queried.

Big Hint: When you talk to publishers always ask them what they do to promote their authors’ books. Pin them down to specifics.

The second directory page is for fellow authors. Jot notes on them, too. It’s no fun to arrive home with a useless business card.

Ditto for agents and for conference planners. You may be surprised at how often you’ll refer to this page and the good it will do you when you start to shop your next (or first) book.

A page for “Other Resources” includes information on anything from other conferences to books fellow attendees and presenters recommended to you—including the books you bought at the conference. This is the continuing education aspect of a writers’ conference.

Designate a few pages for writing ideas.

The final pages are for new promotion ideas.

Hint: Bring a small pouch of tools—I use one I received with an Estée Lauder gift-with-purchase. Toss into it color-coded pens, snub-nosed scissors (sharp ones may not get you through airport security), a small roll of cellophane tape, your index labels, paperclips, strong see-through packing tape, hammer, tacks, razor, ChapStick, hole puncher, breath mints, elastic bands, Band-Aids, and your personal medication. Don’t unpack this when you get home. You’ll need it in the future for other conferences, book signings, book fairs, and other promotional events you attend and eventually may become a presenter or key note speaker!

You can use a conference to promote, too.
  • Some conferences offer tables where participants can leave promotional handouts for their books or services. Before you leave home, ask your conference coordinator how you might utilize this opportunity and print and pack anything you might need.
  • Ask the conference coordinator if they publish a newsletter or journal. If so, send the editor media releases as your career moves along.
  • Take your business cards to the conference. Give them out liberally. They won’t do you any good in your pocket.
  • If you have already published a book, take your bookmarks to give to others. And a few books, as well. Authors tend to forget to give their books to people who are in a position to recommend it.
  • If you have an area of expertise that would interest the conference director or programmer, introduce yourself. She may be busy, so keep your pitch very short and follow up later.
  • Think in terms of gathering endorsements for your book to use in the future. You are always building a network but you’ll find influencers—maybe some with name recognition—at conferences.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of book for writers. Learn more about them at How to do it Frugally. She also invites you to subscribe to her writers’ resources blog, Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites pick Sharing with Writers. Follow her tweets at @FrugalBookPromo And that new edition of The Frugal Book Promoter? It won a USA Book News award, its second—one for the first edition, one for the second--and the e-book edition was honored at Dan Poynter's Global EBook Awards. As an aside, please leave a comment and a like on YouTube; it’s part of “pass it forward” and “sharingwithwriters” concept for marketing success.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's so organized. And a lot I wouldn't have thought about. Great tips, Carolyn.
Is the hammer for those annoying people who won't leave you alone?

Natalie Aguirre said...

I never thought of being so organized at a conference, but it makes sense. Thanks for all the tips, Carolyn.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

So many good ideas here! Definitely bookmarking this post for future reference.

Bryan Fagan said...

Excellent ideas.

One more thought to add to your list: A winter jacket no matter what time of year it is. Our conference in Portland, Oregon was held during a major heat wave. 100 degrees plus outside, freezing cold inside. One poor soul who had arthritis suffered the most. Prepare for hotel break downs just in case.

Thank you!!!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thanks again for sharing this with us, Carolyn.

Heather M. Gardner said...

Great information!
Thank you for sharing with us today!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Great info! Thanks for all of the organizational help.

Pat Hatt said...

Great info indeed. Organization sure is fine by my ocd. Great tip on having different pages, never thought of that.

nashvillecats2 said...

I used to be organized but somewhere along life's way I take each day as it comes.
A wonderful post Diane and good to read.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diane - great to see Carolyn here ... and for sharing some of her thoughts - she's obviously so well organised and knowledgeable - that this post must be a 'go to' article for many authors and conference attendees. Cheers Hilary

cleemckenzie said...

I love the suggestions here. I'm sure if I used these, I'd maximize the benefits I'd get from a conference. Thanks so much fo thisi, Diane and Carolyn.