This past weekend I attended my first writers conference. I cannot recommend it enough. The classes, the pitching, and most importantly, the community are incredible. First, you should know that the conference I attended was the DFW Writers Conference. It ran smoothly, incredible agents attended, classes were helpful, and the community was extremely supportive, so I highly recommend it. Here’s what I learned.
Dress comfortably but nice. Business casual is safe. Try to wear something that makes your personality stand out, whether it’s a pop of color or some statement earrings. Writers are creative, so show you can be creative and still professional through your clothes.
Attend as many classes as possible. Before the conference, I hadn’t given much thought to the classes. However, I learned so much. From an agent’s class on writing queries to an author’s class on writing enchanting prose, there were many to choose from. One of my favorites was a workshop. This one had limited seating, so there were only about ten of us in there. We got to sit around a table with a couple agents and authors and ask them questions. It was incredibly helpful and put me into a situation where I felt comfortable speaking to agents.
Talk to people. Talk to your fellow attendees, talk to the speakers, talk to the agents. Don’t be afraid to do so. I made friends everywhere I turned. When someone sits down next to you, introduce yourself and ask what they write. It’s an easy way to start a conversation. You never know who they’ll end up being. Perhaps they’ll end up being someone who could turn into a good friend or future critique partner. Perhaps they’ll end up being a published author willing to lend you advice. No matter who they are, they are a part of the same community as you, and it is an incredible feeling to connect to that writing community.
In pitch sessions, be yourself. The great thing about pitching to agents in person is that they get a sense of who you are. If they like you, they may be more inclined to work with you. Before you go into the pitch, introduce yourself and let the agent do as well. I had memorized my pitch so that I wasn’t completely a mess while pitching it. Then the agent asks you questions. Respond naturally. You know your story, so you know how to answer those questions. Don’t be too nervous. Just be yourself. Smile. Show the agent that you are passionate about your story, and they will appreciate you for it.
Take risks. This could be in something as small as introducing yourself to the person sitting next to you, or it could be something as big as entering your query in the Gong Show. The DFW Writers Conference has a Query Gong Show at lunch where several agents sit at a table with gongs in front of them. Someone reads off anonymous queries, and the agents hit their gongs at the spot they would stop reading. On a whim, I entered my query, never thinking it would actually be chosen. But then it was being read off in front of the entire conference, and agents were tearing it apart. However, the critiques the agents gave my query were incredibly helpful, and I ended up editing my query and making it a hundred times stronger because of their suggestions. It also was a great conversation starter. After, when people would ask me what I write, I would say I was one of the Gong Show queries. People were extremely complimentary and supportive. We’re all in this together, so don’t be afraid to take risks. You want to get as much out of the conference as you can, and taking risks is the only way to do so.
Those were the last of my tips, though I’m sure I could think of hundreds more. If you’re on the fence about attending a conference, I say go for it. You won’t regret it. If anything, the conference instilled in me the belief that becoming an agented and professional writer was possible. That feeling is priceless.