Are you getting tired of the post-conference check-up series? ME, TOO! It’s time to shake things up with your pre-con appointment with Dr. DFWCon. (Full disclosure – There is no such person as Dr. DFWCon. I am not a doctor and I don’t even play one on TV. Keeping the medical check-up theme alive for a year is more difficult than you might imagine.)
Before we get in to the good stuff, let me take a moment to point out the obvious. You cannot publish what is not written. If you want to get the most out of your conference experience, you need to be writing. You can read all the books on writing, follow all the blogs and attend all the conferences, but none of those get the job done. Get some words on paper.
We are less than two months away from the amazing gathering known as DFW Writers’ Conference. That is plenty of time to work through this itty-bitty list.
1. Get thyself on Twitter. I was a reluctant convert to Twitter. I thought it was stupid and just knew it would fizzle and die in record time. Okay, you can mark it down as the one time I was wrong. The publishing world loves Twitter. I honestly believe it is the best resource available when you are looking for an agent. Not only can you see what a particular agent wants in their inbox, but you see how they interact with the world. If you don’t like an agent on Twitter, you probably are not going to like them in real life.
Make sure your Twitter handle is professional and use a picture of yourself in the profile. Is @BigBootyHo and a picture of your cat wearing a top hat really the image you want to project?
Don’t forget to follow @dfwcon and use #dfwcon to meet fellow conference-goers.
2. Create a personal website or blog. Let’s say I am an agent attending DFWCon and I see on my Twitter feed that you are attending the conference. I want to learn more about you, so I Google and find…a picture of your high school lacrosse team, a notice you have appealed to your HOA for holiday lights year round and your MySpace page.
It has never been easier to have a personal website or blog. Blogger, LiveJournal and WordPress all offer free templates and free space. You literally just fill in the blanks. For a small investment of time and money, you can have your own domain name and a personalized space. (I have two domain names and a ton of hosting space, all for about $10 per month. Yes, a ton of hosting space – that is how little I know about it and I still make it work.)
Your blog doesn’t have to be all about writing. In fact, it is better if it is not. Post about what you are doing, snippets from your WIP, a picture of your cat in a top hat and whatever you feel like talking about. If you are writing with a nom de plume, then take care not to mix up your personal and pen lives.
3. Order some awesome business cards. No joke, exchanging cards at the conference is a little bit like pin trading at Disney. I saw everything from these-are-from-my-day-job cards to this-is-my-book cards to meeting-people-is-so-fun cards. It. Was. Epic.
I expect that 95% of the cards I handed out ended up in the trash by the end of the month. That’s okay. The purpose of the cards was to help people identify me at the conference and to facilitate social media connections after the conference. They were well worth the minimal investment.
I chose a two-sided card. The front had a small headshot, my name, Twitter handle, e-mail and website. The back had the name and genre of my novel, and my pitch. Clean and simple. I ordered mine from VistaPrint, but there are many options – including printing them at home. Choose what works for you and let your personality dictate the card. (I’ve been using VistaPrint for years and I highly recommend them. I don’t get any kind of kickbacks or compensation from them, which is a shame, because I shill for them all the time!)
4. Stalk the agents, editors and speakers. Stalk them, but not in that creepy way, okay? You don’t want to run up to an agent and say, “How is your rash doing? Has little Susie finished softball season yet?” That. Is. Creepy. You do want to be able to see the nametag of the person next to you at the mixer and say, “Oh, congratulations on that six book deal with film rights you just negotiated for your client, Rising Star. I don’t know much about that genre, I write….” Followed by a civil and interesting conversation. See the difference?
Know who will be there and be able to converse intelligently. We had several instances last year of casual conversations resulting in referrals to and requests from other agents. You never know who is on your personal path to the finish line.
5. Relax. No, really, you are way too wound up about this. You are not going to be put on some super-secret-author-shaming list if you don’t do all the right things at the conference. We don’t do that. (We might publicly shame you if you do something heinous, like start a fire or glitter bomb the conference director.) You will get much more out of the conference if you just take a deep breath and remember everyone else puts their pants on one leg at a time, too.
Jodi Thompson is a life-long wordsmith who is currently spending her days in the new-to-her fiction arena. You can see more of her disjointed ramblings at http://www.thejodithompson.com/or catch her any Wednesday night at DFW Writers’ Workshop.