Tomorrow I’m attending my first writers conference.
I haven’t been to one before, mainly because I always seem to miss the announcements or they require a flight to another state.
Lucky for me, KidLitVic 2019 is only a short train ride away and specifically covers middle grade and YA. That means a whole day of listening to industry professionals talk about the genre of the books I write and read (yay!).
To soak it all up, I’ve been preparing, panicking, and coming up with the following list of essentials…
Preparing For A Writers Conference: What To Take
Although I know I’ll have trouble deciphering anything written in my illegible handwriting, I will be old-schooling my notes with a pen and notebook. For me, it’s faster than typing on my phone and it will save my phone battery for more important things.
To ensure said phone battery makes it through the day so I can Instagram photos and still text for a ride home, I’ll be taking a portable charger.
Yep, pens. One will be for scribbling my illegible notes. The other will be my backup, which I’ll probably lose into the void that is the bottom of my bag before the day is out.
One tip given by the organizers is to bring business cards. Until two weeks ago, I had none and used some of my panic adrenalin to create a set in Canva.
If you’re wondering what to put on a business card when you don’t have a business or book/s to promote, just go with the basics. I added my name and social media info, plus the picture I have on my social profiles so anyone who looks me up will know they’ve found the right person. Adding a photo is a personal choice and not essential, but definitely include any social links you’re comfortable with, and your email and website/blog if you have one.
For those who have something to promote, Twitter advice suggests things like a business card for your book or a book postcard. The postcard features your book cover on one side and the blurb on the other. For the business cards, try the cover and book specific links.
I personally think it would also be awesome to have a bookmark option. You’ll be handing this stuff out to other writers who are readers, and who doesn’t need a quitter strip?
If you’re super organized (and confident) a paper handout with your query or pitch could also be an option to take. It’s important to note, however, that you should only have such material on hand in case someone asks for it. Don’t push a handout on any agent/publisher, especially if you don’t have an official pitch time allocated with them.
If you do have an official pitch time, then definitely make sure you have a handout. If anything, it’ll help you remember your story when the panic adrenalin has made you forget you even wrote a book.
An Elevator Pitch
One kind of pitch you should have regardless of whether you’ve snagged a pitching spot is your elevator pitch. At a conference full of people who love books as much as you, you’re bound to have a conversation with someone who will ask what your book is about. If you’re happy/able to discuss it, a 1-2 sentence summary of your MS is the perfect way to do it.
If the schedule is offered ahead of time, print out a copy or save it to your phone and take it with you. That way you’ll know what time things are and where you have to be.
While the conference I’m attending is catered, with breaks for morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and a cocktail party, it’s a good idea to take snacks and to keep yourself hydrated. I will be packing a snack (which regular readers know will, of course, be chocolate), a small bottle of water, and some breath mints.
The Intention To Have Fun
And last but not least, I am intending to have fun. While the panels look awesome and will no doubt provide plenty of helpful info, I’m also looking forward to meeting some writers I’ve come to know through social media, and just generally enjoying being in a room full of fellow creatives. Panic adrenalin aside, I’m pretty sure I can achieve this.
I’ll let you know how it goes next week! If you’ve been to a conference and have any tips to share, be sure to leave them in the comments.
— K.M. Allan