A friend who’s never been to a writing conference is headed out at the end of October, and she asked for tips from conference veterans. I haven’t been to a huge con in a loooong time, but I have enough experience to be dangerous. So I gave her my own con-hacks.
Bring a sweater. Not kidding. Hotels are freaking freezing all the time. I don’t care if the conference is held in Houston in July, I always bring a sweater or wrap of some kind.
Update your blog/FB before you go, but I wouldn’t make any major changes. If you’re just starting out and there will be panels and workshops at the con about websites and social media, try out those tips when you get home.
Tweet the con! They probably have their own hashtag, so use it. You’ll get replies and RTs from other attendees, and boost your visibility.
Bring your own water bottle/travel cup. Cheaper than buying multiple $2 water bottles throughout the day. Plus, they frequently keep the coffee handy in those giant containers. I prefer my travel cup to paper cups with dodgy lids.
Carry one decent sized bag. Not your purse, plus your bookbag, plus your laptop bag… It’s just unwieldy.
Hit the goody/swag room early if you’re into collecting authorial doo-dads, or really want a paper copy of someone’s book.
Dress professionally. Not a suit, but nice business casual. You’ll see everything there – holey jeans to what amounts to feather boas. Unless you want to be remembered as “the lady in the Hawaiian print muu-muu,” just dress neatly.
If you’re a shoe person, splurge on awesome looking shoes and bring band-aids for the blisters, as well as a pair of ballet flats that fit in your bag for doing any real walking. Otherwise, wear what’s comfortable and matches your professional look.
Hang out at the bar. You don’t have to drink at all, but you’ll find TONS of people – editors, agents, other authors – who get together and network and talk business there. Best place to make new friends.
You don’t have to attend every workshop. Obviously, you want to get the most bang for your buck, but if you’re an introvert, take an hour to recharge alone in your room if you need to. You can get notes from someone else on whatever you missed.
Practice your pitch out loud. Whatever you have in your head will tie itself into knots on your tongue if you’ve never actually said the words out loud before. And have an “elevator pitch,” as well as a formal pitch. Pretend you’re in an elevator alone with your dream agent and you have only a minute or two – the length of time it takes to go from the top floor to the bottom – to tell him/her about your story. Boil it down to your genre, your setting, and your MC’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict.
You can find more info on crafting your pitch at Nathan Bransford, Help! I Need a Publisher, and at Pitch U (scroll down for the sidebar).
And my biggest tip? Have fun! Meet new people! Enjoy yourself! And come back motivated to write more!