In 2008 I had only been a member of SCBWI for three years, but I thought I had this writing thing in the bag, boy was I wrong! It's been ten years now and although I still don't have this writing thing mastered, I have learned a few things along the way like, Never Pitch an Agent in the Bathroom.
When I first heard this tale I thought it was a joke. But it wasn't. Some desperate writer actually slid her manuscript under a bathroom stall to an agent. I've heard of doing that to get an autograph, but an agent? Needless to say that action did not result in a contract.
Enough about what not to do. If you're planning on attending a conference this weekend, or sometime in the future, here are a few things you can do:
Before you go
- Be prepared - Read other writers’ blog posts describing their experiences so you can get a better sense of how to use your time wisely.
- Buy yourself a new journal/notebook dedicated for this event. You will hear a lot of tips and tricks, but you won't remember them unless you write them down. Or better yet, master Evernote and keep all your notes in the cloud.
- Bring your business cards. You want to have one if an agent or editor asks for it.
- Dress the part. It's not the office, but it's not your bedroom either. Agents and editors are professionals and they are looking to work with one.
- Bring some extra cash for books and social events.
- Wear comfortable shoes and bring a sweater. I think whoever sets the thermostats for these events must be from the North Pole.
- Most importantly, do the work--WRITE. If you're going to share your work, make sure it's your best.
- Do your research - Time spent researching the guest speakers, agents, and editors is worthwhile. Usually, there are multiple sessions going on at one time, knowing the speaker allows you to streamline which sessions you will attend.
- Practice your pitch - Agents and Editors hear hundreds, if not thousands, of pitches. If yours is rambling and unclear chances are they will forget it as soon as you walk away. Make yours interesting, but try and keep it under 90 seconds.
When you get there
- Smile and be friendly-A warm smile is the universal language of kindness. ~ William Arthur Ward
- Attend as many events as you can - I've found these events to be exhilarating and exhausting. However, since I've made the financial commitment to attend, I take advantage of as many sessions as I can. I also take prolific notes. So much is happening that it's impossible to take it all in. After the event is over, you'll be happy to have your notes.
- Be realistic - While we would all love to leave the conference with a contract in hand, it's highly unlikely this will happen. However, if you play your cards right, you can leave armed with the knowledge and experience that may one day result in that coveted contract.
What is your best tip for attending a conference? Are you going to the 44th Annual SCBWI Event? If so, tweet me and let me know you're there. If not you can attend virtually by following me on Twitter @JennsScribbles, Facebook, and Instagram @ jennsscribbles