Friday, October 14, 2011

Make the Most of Your Conference: How to Follow Up

In July, I did a couple of posts about getting ready for a writing conference. I've heard conference reports from around the country in the last couple of weeks, so for those of you who've had a chance to attend one, here's the next step -- what you should do after the conference.
After the conference:
            You talked to strangers, made friends, and maybe even chatted with an editor. Time to go home and relax, right? Not quite. All that hard work only pays off if you follow up. Write “nice to meet you” notes to all those people who gave you their business cards. Thank anyone who gave you advice. And of course, send your manuscript or query to anyone who expressed interest in it. If the manuscript isn’t ready yet, write the editor stating that you are looking forward to sending your manuscript when it’s finished in X months.
            You should also type up your notes while they’re fresh in your mind. A few jotted phrases that made perfect sense during an inspiring talk can read like hieroglyphics a month later.
            Then set some goals based on what you learned. A good conference may provide you with dozens of pages of advice and ideas. Don’t try to do everything at once, or worse, ignore it all because you feel overwhelmed. Instead, choose three things to focus on. They might involve craft, research, or marketing. For example, here’s my list after attending a Book Boot Camp with Australian author Jen McVeity:
  • Practice strong story starts.
  • Investigate writing for easy reader series.
  • Use Story Structure guide to edit nonfiction bio.
            I might review my notes in a few months and set some new goals. But for now I have someplace to start.
            Finally, critique the conference. Think about the workshops, speakers, events, other attendees, and your own behavior. Was it worth your time? How can you prepare better for next time? Make notes to review before your next conference.
            I’m already looking forward to my next conference. I’ll hear great speakers and learn about the craft of writing and the business of publishing. I’ll see people I met last year, and I know I’ll make new friends. I can hardly wait.

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