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What every conference newbie needs to know...

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Okay. I'm not professing to know ANYTHING about what to do/not do, what to wear/not wear, what to bring/not bring, how much to spend/not spend.

But I know the blueboarders are up to the task.

Please help me as I have some questions that desperately need answers... like:

I am bringing my manuscript to the conference. (Actually I have several that I am hoping to introduce to publishers/agents). How do I carry them? Do I
a) carry them in clear plastic sleeves/report covers?
b) bring a portable usb drive, prepared to print them at the conference (do most conferences have a way to do this inexpensively and quickly?)
c) make a suggestion, any suggestion...

How many business cards do I bring to the conference with me?

What should my business card say? (is it strictly a "contact point", or can I use it for self-promotion - for example, for my program that I call Writing Fit)

How do I carry them all, and how to I store business cards of those who give me their card?
a) book with business card sheets
b) stuff them in my purse/wallet/pocket/jacket
c) business card holder with in/out slots

What do you carry into the workshops?
a) wallet/purse, notebook (or laptop), pen
b) duffle bag/briefcase full of stuff you need to keep you going
c) anything in between
d) coffee

Okay... that's a good start I think...

Maude  :broccoli

#1 - October 17, 2008, 05:34 AM


This advice assumes you did not sign up for a personal critique.  Or if you did - you sent the manuscript to the conference in advance.

1. If you take your manuscript lock it in your car and forget where you put the keys.   :smile  Better - DO NOT take it.  It is too tempting to want to show it to someone and it is a great faux pas. 

Instead - when you have an opportunity to speak casually with faculty (at meals, etc.) DO NOT talk about your manuscript (because everyone else will be).  You want them to remember YOU the writer.  Talk to them about the business, your career goals, etc.  Change the topic and talk about life, family, hobbies. Get to know them as people, not acquiring editors.  You'll be remembered more favorably. And then - only then - if they ask about your work, be prepared to give them a synopsis in 2-3 sentences (no more) and ask if they would like to see it after the conference.

Take a manuscript only if you paid for a critique or there are organized critique circles.  The editors will be tired and they don't want to cart stuff home with them on the plane. Get them to remember YOU the author, not YOU the manuscript. (repeat: unless they ask - and then it's okay.)

2. Business cards.  I have a card carrier but I also keep a few in my wallet. 

3.  I always take a laptop or PDA for notes and a notepad.  If you take a lot of stuff you'll get tired of lugging it around or will worry that if you set it down it will get stolen.  Less is more.  Whatever works for you for notes you should take with you.  I use a laptop because I can't decipher my handwritten notes after a few weeks (lol!)

4.  I bought my husband a messenger bag from Wilson Leather and now I want to steal it back.  It has a place for his laptop, lots of places to store pencils and pens and notebooks and even a place to store an iPod.  You can sling it over your shoulder like a purse.  So something comfortable (even a backpack) may work.

5. Don't forget to bring a sweater. Conference rooms are notoriously cold, even in the Fall.  Layers you can take off or put on will be great.

6. What should your business card say?  Name, contact info, website, author (or type of author if you specialize in specific things like historical fiction, nonfiction, etc.) -- less is more.  A nice logo or picture or image is cool but not mandatory.

Bring your best smile, let your personality shine, and focus on the long term business goals.  Don't forget to network with other writers - they'll turn out to be great assets down the road for mentoring, sharing, commiserating. 

Have fun!

#2 - October 17, 2008, 06:02 AM

My first conf. I carried my big honker lap top around and that was a joke. Now I bring my purse, which is big enough to carry a notebook and any collected papers/my manuscript. You don't need a usb drive. I don't know what conf. you're attending, but I don't know of any where you can print or why you would NEED to print.  Print out a few copies. If it's a novel, don't print out the whole thing, just the first few chapters. And this is only for informal critiques. Do not, I repeat DO NOT try to hand off your manuscript to any agents/editors. If they are interested, you can mail it later. Totally your preference if you put it in a plastic sleeve. Doesn't really matter. I never did.
You can also bring a small tote bag in case you plan on buying books. They tend to have pub. catalogs and what not, so if you want to collect any of that, tote is the way to go. Nothing too big, though. The more conf. I go to, the more I minimize what I bring. I think you might get kicked out if you have a duffel bag. They might get scared you'll try to stuff an editor in there.
Bring a sweater, too. It always gets cold.
Business cards--just need your name, email, website/blog. You can add phone number, but not necc. Address isn't needed. You can add your current WIP with a one line blurb on back. You don't need that many. I usually give out 5-10 to other writers I meet, maybe one to the agent/editor from your one-on-one. And you can stick them in your purse, bag.
This all said, I'm a casual, unorganized person. I feel most comfortable that way, and that's the most important thing. If being super organized helps you feel in control, then go for it. And don't sweat all this small stuff. Best thing for a first conf. is absorb as much as you can!
Have fun!
#3 - October 17, 2008, 06:12 AM
SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD (Bloomsbury, March 2011)
THE ROYAL TREATMENT (Hyperion, May 2011)

Ah, we posted same time, Harriett. All good points!
Maude I'm assuming you're bringing manuscript for informal critique sessions. If not, then yes. LEAVE IT HOME. Step away. Even if an ed/agent loved what you wrote, it can wait until they're back home. Imagine if they had to lug every attendees manuscript back! You usually get a sub window anyway to closed houses, and you should mention in the cover letter you attended that conf.
And another PS on Harriett's post
Yes, you totally CAN bring a laptop. I was also scared of it getting lost/stolen and I'm the person that would happen to. If you are a responsible adult (unlike me) and you have strong shoulders, that would be fine.
#4 - October 17, 2008, 06:18 AM
SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD (Bloomsbury, March 2011)
THE ROYAL TREATMENT (Hyperion, May 2011)


One more thing I wanted to add: for smaller regional conferences, I try to keep my "stuff" to a minimum. The last time I went to one, I brought a purse big enough to stash a notebook, a novel (I'm always early... so I read when no one was there and put it away and was social the rest of the time), pens, my wallet, and so on. And it wouldn't fit under my folding chair. I had to keep picking it up off the floor every time someone wanted to get past me, and it was a real headache. So now, I designate one folder as my conference folder. Everything I get or give away goes into it, including business cards, and I organize and stash things after. I don't have to worry about my stuff and get more out of the conference as a result.
#5 - October 17, 2008, 10:10 AM

Read to your kids
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What great information--wish I'd had it last weekend.  :smile  I agree with what the others have said. For my first conference, I took along a notebook and several pens and a few business cards. You could also take a few bookmarkers with a short blurb and book cover on the front, and your bio on the back.  Plus if you would like to capture the experience for yourself or your website, bring along a camera. But most of all take along a friendly smile, talk to as many authors as you possible can and just enjoy.  :hug
#6 - October 17, 2008, 10:36 AM

Reader, reader, reader...
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I also like to take a backpack (or something smaller) to carry a snack, gum, water bottle, and my notebook and pen(s).  Also, they'll give you the schedule and such, and I like to have someplace to store that.

You're going to have a great time, Maude -- and just assume that you'll meet everyone you're supposed to meet and learn everything you're supposed to learn! :)
#7 - October 17, 2008, 10:40 AM
Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales:


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