by Tamela Hancock Murray
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!