Tag s | Conferences

Tips for Conference Prep

Is there really a conference season? True, conferences rarely take place during the Christmas season but there seems to be a conference somewhere at any given time. And that means, authors are preparing to go to conferences all year. Here are a few perennial tips I hope you can use.

Thinking about going:

  • Do I have the funds? For a national conference you must fly to, I recommend aiming to have at least $1,000 available to cover costs. Depending on the conference, you may need more. Short on funds? Try a local conference, or attend a national conference taking place nearby.
  • Do I need an agent? I’ve talked to many authors at conferences and some were just speaking with agents, not editors. This is a great strategy if you want an agent, since agents will open the door to editors.
  • What about editors? If you’re unsure, meet with both if possible. Some publishers work directly with authors, while others work primarily or exclusively through agents. Your meetings can help you decide where your work fits.

Information needed:

  • Is the agent or editor looking for my type of manuscript? This information should be available on the conference website.
  • What do I need for my meetings? Some agents and editors do not want to see writing samples, for example. I often ask to see them. My philosophy is that if you have materials available, you can use them if needed. If not, no loss.
  1. One-sheets of all your WIPs.
  2. Writing samples.
  3. Business cards.

During the meeting:

  • I will RELAX! This can be tough! But you can talk to me. I assure you, within hours of my plane landing back home, my family asks about dinner and laundry. A mountain of clothes always awaits me, too!
  • I will be myself. If you are not, how will you know if the agent is a good fit for you?
  • I will be prepared with what I want to discuss. Next career move? Current WIP? Switching agents? It’s YOUR meeting – you tell us!

One last tip: if an agent or editor says to follow up, please do so. We want to hear from you!

Your turn:

What conference do you most highly recommend?

What tips can you offer?

 

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Travel Woes? It Will be Okay!

As I prepare to attend the ACFW conference, I recall how many things can go wrong on travel. They can, and they do. But the world will not end. Please remember this. How do I know? Because I used to consider myself indispensable. But the graveyards are filled with indispensable …

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The Writer’s Pod

When I was at the Mount Hermon Writers’ Conference a week or so ago, I went to one of my all-time favorite places: The Santa Cruz Wharf. It’s one of the best places to see the sea lions, which are draped all over the pilings of the wharf, as well …

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A Weekend with C.S. Lewis and Friends

by Steve Laube

This past weekend I had the privilege, once again, to attend and participate in the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s Fall retreat in Houston.

Not a typical writers conference it focuses on the extraordinary contribution of Lewis and his fellow Inklings and ultimately a celebration of the Arts in light of the incarnation of Christ. The speakers were extraordinary. They included:

Devin Brown (one of my clients), professor at Asbury University and author of The Christian World of the Hobbit
Diana Glyer, professor at Azusa and author of The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community
Malcolm Guite, Chaplain and Fellow, Girton College Cambridge and author of The Singing Bowl. He is also an accomplished musician
Louis Markos, professor at Houston Baptist University and author of Restoring Beauty: The Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the Writings of C.S. Lewis
Max McLean, president of Fellowship for the Performing Arts and is best known for his audio recordings of the Bible and for his theatrical presentations of The Screwtape Letters

I sat in two workshops on writing given by Malcolm Guite, the first appropriately titled “The Word and the words.” (the capitalization is intentional). During his presentations I heard more extemporaneous quotation of Shakespeare, Gerald Manly Hopkins, George Herbert, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Bob Dylan than I have ever heard in my life. I felt my mind and soul swell as they were slowly filled with so much art and incarnation that I could barely stand it.

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Fueling Creativity

As many of you know, we just finished up the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Almost 5 days of being surrounded by writers, agents, editors—people steeped in the business, work, and love of words. Each day overflowed with conversations about writing, from workshops to mealtimes to moments in the hallways sharing experiences and insights. And through it all, one place reigned as the stopping point—the place to meet and greet, to refuel and connect.

Starbuck’s.

Oh yeah. Almost every moment the place was open, there was a line stretching out the door. And in that line, creativity flowed! I heard so many great ideas being bounced back and forth, so many answers to “How do I handle this?”, and so many impromptu meetings. I met Frank Peretti for the first time as the two of us stood in line, eyeing the display of rich, tempting pastries. Before I realized it was the Frank Peretti, I leaned forward and asked, “What say you? Brownie or chocolate chip cookie?” He glanced over his shoulder, eyes twinkling: “Chocolate chip cookie. You can’t go wrong with a good chocolate chip cookie.” Me, I prefer the brownie, but what was even more delicious was the chance to meet and thank a writer who prepared the way for so many.

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Do You Have Perfect Pitch?

Thanks so much for all the ideas for my mini-conferences. I’ll put those together soon.

Speaking of conferences, while I was at a writer’s retreat awhile back, I was struck, as I always am when in the company of writers, by the power of the right word used in the right way. On the first day of the conference, I had group meetings with the writers. This is where a group of writers come in, sit at a table together, and each takes a turn pitching his/her book to me to see if I would be interested in representing the author. I had six groups, each lasting a half hour, made up of anywhere from 5-7 people each. So folks had a total of 3-5 minutes to engage me in their project.

It’s the writer’s conference version of speed dating!

The cool thing is, a good number of those who came had such a strong understanding of their project and of the market that they were able to hook me in the first few words. Now that’s doing your homework! For example, one woman told me right off the bat her book was romantic suspense, what the main story line was (in a sentence), and what the conflict and spiritual takeaway were. That took about 45 seconds of her 4 minutes, so from there I asked questions about the story and focus and she was able to relax and just talk. I ended up asking her to send me the proposal. Don’t know if we’ll pursue it–the writing is what tips the scales, of course. But I was impressed with her well chosen descriptions. And if I’m considering two manuscripts and all things are basically equal, I’ll always go with an author who is, first and foremost, teachable, and then able to communicate the heart and soul of her story quickly and effectively.

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What if You Get a Book Deal on Your Own and Then Want an Agent?

One of our readers asked this via the green “Ask us a question” button.

What happens if you get a book contract before you have an agent? What if, by some miracle, an editor sees your work and wants to publish it? (1) would having a publisher interested in my work make an agent much more likely to represent me, and (2) would it be appropriate to try to find an agent at that point (when a publisher says it wants to publish you)? My fear is that querying an agent and receiving a response could take several months, but I’d need to accept a potential contract with a book publisher right away (I would think). Is it appropriate to ask the editor to speak with an agent on your behalf to speed the process?

This is a great topic but there are a few questions within the question. Let me try to break it down.

Many times have had authors approach us with contracts in hand and seeking representation (happened just last week). Of course this will get an agent’s attention immediately. But there are caveats:

a)      Who is the publisher? There is a big difference between a major company and your local independent publisher. Not all publishers are created equal (see the Preditors & Editors warnings).

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Writers’ Conference Spotlight: Mount Hermon

One of the best-loved conferences is the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. This year the conference will be held from March 30th to April 3rd. I first went to this conference in the late 90s, and have returned every year since. I love the heart of this conference, which is all about uplifting and encouraging, and about honoring the One who has called us to this amazing task. So, as promised last week, I’m delighted to have conference director Rachel Williams join me today to talk about this year’s conference.

KB: Welcome, Rachel! In only a little over a month hundreds of writers of all abilities, shapes, and sizes will descend on the campus of Mount Hermon Christian Conference in the Santa Cruz Mountains of northern California! Are you going totally crazy?

RW:  Actually, this IS the time of hundreds of details for the conference!  But it’s what I love doing, so it’s fun for me.  I’m eager for everyone to get here and to have the conference in full swing.  It energizes me like nothing else.

KB: Tell us about the conference. How long have you guys been helping writers?

RW: We’ve been “doing” writers conference for 43 years! It’s been such an honor to encourage, motivate, and grow hundreds of writers, many of whom are now professional authors because of the training they received here.  There are many you’d recognize including, Jerry Jenkins, Sarah Sundin, Ginny Yttrup, Mary DeMuth, to name only a few.

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