Conquering Conference Jitters

Next week the annual American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference is upon us. While this particular conference is one of the largest in our industry (over 700 will be there in St. Louis), writers can become nervous before going to even the most intimate conference. We all want to make a good impression and show other industry professionals our best. You have already prayed and handed the conference over to the Lord, so here are a few more tips based on questions I’ve been asked over the years:

1.) What do I wear? 

Each conference has its own personality and you’ll need to adjust accordingly. For instance, hiking across a college campus during a spring rain shower requires different clothing than staying indoors at a five-star hotel. Visit the conference web site to glean as much information as you can about what you might expect concerning accommodations and weather. For any conference, the best rule is to select clothing that makes you feel great. Comfortable, flattering clothes that show polish are easily available at different price points. No agent or editor I know encourages writers to spend a fortune on conference clothing. Look in your closet. Chances are excellent that you already own clothes that are right for you to wear. If you’re still unsure, it’s hard for women to err with a simple dress or a blouse or sweater with dark slacks or a skirt. Men can’t go wrong with a presentable shirt and trousers. Both men and women can add a blazer according to personal style.

2.) How do I use my one-sheets?

Conference veterans know about one-sheets, through which authors present their stories, photo, bio, and contact information on one page. Editors and agents often take these home with them, but few will accept chapters and full proposals. Imagine toting fifty full proposals back with you on a plane! However, it doesn’t hurt to have a few pages of your manuscript, and even the full proposal, printed for the agent or editor to peruse during the appointment. Having a writing sample available might help the conversation.

3.) What contact information should I take with me?

If you already have an agent put your agent’s contact information on the one-sheets and the sample chapters you use for editors. This is because an editor usually prefers to contact the agent about a manuscript.And talk to your agent before you go to make sure you are both on the same page with what you are pitching to editors, and even deciding which editors you should see.

Make sure you bring a nice stack of business cards…with your picture on it. That will help when meeting other authors and editors in hallways and at meals. This is a good way to help folks remember you. Some authors are even putting their Twitter handle on their business card. And a few published authors will put the cover of their book on the back side of the business card which can be great advertising! Steve Laube says that each night he gathers whatever one sheets and business cards he collected, and along with that day’s schedule he makes notes in his Moleskine notebook so that he can reconstruct the items that need followup and the people he met. This could be one way for you to absorb all that you heard each day.

4.) What should I strive to achieve during my appointments?

Get to know an industry professional. The one-sheet is not your do-or-die document. A one-sheet will give you talking points and something to present to the editor, but really, you are demonstrating a little bit about who you are. You want to convey your business style and show the editor or agent you are easy to work with, professional, and that you are willing to do as the Lord leads to be a successful published author. I highly recommend you read Steve Laube’s advice on “That Conference Appointment” before you go.

I wish you great conference success, fellowship, and fun!

 

 

 

 

 

12 Responses to Conquering Conference Jitters

  1. Peter DeHaan September 15, 2011 at 5:18 am #

    Tamela, is a one-sheet that same as a query or is it a more general document?

  2. Rick Barry September 15, 2011 at 6:30 am #

    Thanks, Tamela, for a balanced summary to put writing colleagues at ease. It also helps to remember that your publishing fate does not reside in the hands of any one editor or agent. And even if you both decide that the present manuscript isn’t a good match for them, enjoy the conversation! Bounce additional questions off them, and in that way glean extra insight during a nice one-on-one talk. See you at ACFW!

  3. Tamela Hancock Murray September 15, 2011 at 7:31 am #

    Peter, a one-sheet is a document that is generally conference-centric and meant to catch the eye with visuals and color. A query is a letter sent to an agent or editor. Your question is excellent because indeed, some of the elements, such as a brief plot summary, overlap. I hope that short answer has helped. I may decide to offer a more detailed answer in a future post.

  4. Tamela Hancock Murray September 15, 2011 at 7:32 am #

    Rick, your points are well taken. Thank you for your helpful input. :)

  5. Angela Breidenbach September 15, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    I love this post. It’s so true that we can all afford to dress professionally in simple attire. I don’t spend a fortune. I love Ross and all the major sales :) it’s about how we present with courtesy and respect of the other human being. Think job interview for proper etiquette and speed dating for the experience. Using office style courtesy, you’re really just trying to get another appointment for a longer time. Another “date” to chat more, if you will. So relax and just take the time to share who you are, what you write, and find out who they are. You might decide that agent or editor isn’t right for you. But you won’t know if you don’t know about them either.
    Angie breidenbach

  6. gina welborn September 15, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    My conference dressing guideline is WWAW (What Would Angie Wear). Thus I’m leaving my comfy flip flops at home. *sigh*

    Thanks, Tamela, for this very timely blog post. You are my voice of calm. Oh, and I hadn’t considered taking in a proposal on the manuscript I’m pitching, but I guess I will not. Just in case someone snazzy editor is blow-away by my awesome non-flip-floppy shoes and wants to see a snippet of my writing. Title of my next book about Author heroine: “These Boots are Made for Writing.”

  7. Tamela Hancock Murray September 15, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    Angie, what great advice! Gina, you make me smile, as always! :)

  8. Elise M Stone September 15, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    I never heard of a one sheet until Rachelle Gardner blogged about it last month. Her entry also includes some samples done by clients:
    http://www.rachellegardner.com/2011/08/what-should-i-bring-to-a-conference/

  9. Jennifer Major @Jjumping September 17, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    I popped over here from Twitter and was ready the “what do I wear” paragraph. I had to scroll up to see if it was Steve who wrote it!
    Not that he couldn’t offer fashion advice, *but* …hushing up now.

    I’m not going this year’s conference, but Indianapolis might be in the plans.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray September 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

      Jennifer, that is too funny! Nope, it’s just little ol’ me! Thanks for popping in!

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