Not Over Yet – Make the Most of Follow Up

Conference is over and “good-byes” are exchanged. Don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. Good follow-up is important if you want to make the most of your time and money. The following tips are logical but can often be forgotten. So here are a few reminders.

1. Organize your handouts and conference notes. If your writing is like mine, you may need to transcribe the most valuable ones to the computer. We all live busy lives and the tendency is to just toss your conference bag with all the handouts and collected stuff into a closet or under the bed. All that you’ve learned is wasted unless put to good use.

2. Like any good guest, a thank-you note is welcome to the conference organizer, workshop leaders you particularly found useful, or anyone else who was especially helpful. Email notes are good—but hand-written is unusual and stands out.

3. Devote your next writers’ critique group to sharing what you’ve learned. Put new ideas into an action plan. Support each other in implementing plans for the writer-year ahead. Analyze upcoming conferences in light of your experience. Money and time can still be an issue.

4. Most importantly, follow up with the writing professionals you met. Send any requests for material exactly as requested. If you don’t already know the correct way to send material, check with Writer’s Market or other writers in your group.

5. When you have published work, consider being an exhibitor at the next conference. Series 5 gave tips for becoming a workshop leader. Speakers usually sell more books. Attendees feel like they know you and want to read your book.

My hope is that every writer reading these blogs will feel more confident and comfortable in exploring the many opportunities that a conference offers. These are only tips appropriate to a blog. In depth and detailed tips on these and many, many others are outlined in workbook format in my ebook:  www.marilynhcollins.com/books/market-yourself-market-your-book.

Click a title for more tips on Making the Most of Writers' Conferences:
Part 1: Select the Conference Best Suited to You
Part 2: Spend Less Money at Conferences – and Still Have Fun!
Part 3: Maximize Face-Time with other writers/agents/publishers
Part 4: Create a Winning “Elevator Pitch” to Agents/Publishers
Part 5: Sell Yourself—Sell Your Book

Marilyn H. Collins—author, workshop leader, publisher, writing coach, editorial services www.marilynhcollins.com. Contact: www.marilynhcollins.com/contact.
Copyright © CHS Publishing, Marilyn H. Collins, 2017.

Sell Yourself—Sell Your Book

Writing may be the easiest part, many say. And marketing the hardest. Don’t let that part overwhelm you. Marketing is simply letting others know about your book—through as many avenues as possible. Larger conferences usually offer more than a one-day meeting—smaller venues may not offer as much. These tips are focused on what you can do while at a conference. Much more detail developing and implementing your overall plan are in my ebook, Market Yourself, Market Your Book (www.marilynhcollins.com/books/market-yourself-market-your-book.

1. First focus on the professional image you want to create for yourself and your work? We all project a certain persona—intentionally or inadvertently—of ourselves and our books. What we do speaks for itself— genre we write, cover on our books, website/blog, social media comments, author name we use, and how we answer the question, “What do you write?” Even the way we dress makes a statement.

2. “Open Mike” time is often offered. You briefly tell about your book (and places for purchase). Then read a selected portion that captures the interest of the audience and gives the flavor of the book. Speakers are remembered.

3. Register to place your book in the conference bookstore. Attractively display your books and have your business card and maybe flyers available. I find it easier to price my books in round numbers—making change easier. Offer to sign books for purchasers.

4. Offer a “sign-up-sheet” for people to leave their name and email address if they would like information on upcoming books, your speaking engagements and so forth. This is a great way to build your mailing/marketing list.

5. Always take a copy of your (first or latest) book to the conference. Don’t overdo it but, if you have a finished book, a copy helps reinforce your “elevator pitch” to other writers.

6.  Conferences offer great opportunities to market both yourself and your books. After you have a published book, send session proposals to become a panel member or workshop leader. If you are a beginning writer, take special note of speakers and what they do or don’t do. Approach conference leaders early as schedules are planned months in advance.

Fiction writers: Don’t just “tell” about your book and read excerpts. The audience will want to know more—any difficulties you encountered, how you named/developed characters, your writing schedule, experience querying publishers/editors, editing process after acceptance, and how to understand an author contract. Focus on those that apply.

Nonfiction writers: The advice for fiction writers is much the same. However, nonfiction books/articles require extended and detailed research. Your credentials are important. The audience will also want more—your passion for the subject and any personal connections you may have to the story. Share interesting interviews, difficulties in tracking a person or event, helpful tips that you’ve learned. PowerPoint may be used to show photos related to your subject.

All proposals: Create a “catchy” title with brief blurb about the proposed session. Larger conferences will have a form for you to give information. Don’t overlook smaller venues where you might just email the librarian or workshop leader.

My ebook, Market Yourself, Market Your Book (www.marilynhcollins.com/books/market-yourself-market-your-book  gives many more detailed steps in a workbook style that makes all this easy and doable for you.

Click a title for more tips on Making the Most of Writers' Conferences:
Part 1: Select the Conference Best Suited to You
Part 2: Spend Less Money at Conferences – and Still Have Fun!
Part 3: Maximize Face-Time with other writers/agents/publishers
Part 4: Create a Winning “Elevator Pitch” to Agents/Publishers

 

Marilyn H. Collins—author, workshop leader, publisher, writing coach, editorial services www.marilynhcollins.com. Contact: www.marilynhcollins.com/contact.
Copyright © CHS Publishing, Marilyn H. Collins, 2017.

Create a Winning “Elevator Pitch” to Agents/Publishers

You’ll be asked some version of the question, “And what do you write?” In advance, think how to respond. Called an “elevator pitch” because you need to answer in the time it takes to ride the elevator to your room. Your most important “pitch” will be those in position to represent/publish your book. You’ll only have a few minutes. Here are tips for making the most of those contacts.

1. Register early for your “pitch” to agents/publishers/editors that best fit your work. Appointments are limited. If sessions are not full, you may be able to sign up for an additional slot.

2. Research the person(s) you’re meeting. Why do you feel they can best represent you and your book? Research authors they handle in your genre. Who publishes books similar to your style? Or offer your own style that is different and why. Avoid asking questions that you should already know the answers.

3. Be confident—smile, introduce yourself, shake their hand, and offer your business card. State the genre, title, status of work. State your experience if applicable. For fiction, outline the conflict between/among characters and final resolution. For nonfiction, describe your passion for the work and your credentials for finishing a successful book. For all genres, describe your target audience and areas where you can contribute marketing efforts. Authors are more and more responsibility in whole or in part for selling their work. (Series 5 offers marketing ideas.)

4. Leave about five minutes of the 10-minute session for their questions or suggestions for you. This is critical information for follow-up with the agent/publisher/editor. They may say your work is not for their company, but suggest that you contact another person or agency. Don’t take this as a negative—any interest is positive.

5. Good advice is not to hand a complete manuscript to the pro. They usually don’t want to take manuscripts home with them. However—just in case they ask—have on hand in your folder/briefcase a synopsis, chapter outline, bio with pic, or first three chapters.

6. If they say, “Send me....” Respond immediately following the conference with exactly what they request. These people often go from conference to conference and need to be reminded of you and their request asap. Label your response with “Requested Material” and conference name. Remind them of your conversation and why you’re sending that particular work.

7. A follow-up “thank-you” note is always a good thing—whether they reject your work or not.

Click a title for more tips on Making the Most of Writers' Conferences:
Part 1: Select the Conference Best Suited to You
Part 2: Spend Less Money at Conferences – and Still Have Fun!
Part 3: Maximize Face-Time with other writers/agents/publishers
 

Marilyn H. Collins—author, workshop leader, publisher, writing coach, editorial services www.marilynhcollins.com. Contact: www.marilynhcollins.com/contact.
Copyright © CHS Publishing, Marilyn H. Collins, 2017.

Maximize Face-Time with Other Writers/Agents/Publishers

Most of us write in our office or on a laptop in a nearby coffee shop. But our overall career as a writer expands when we connect with other writers. At a conference we’ll be surrounded by creative energy from those who share our passion for writing. Here are six ideas to help make the most of this time.

1. Some writers you only see at conferences—but the friendship just picks up where you left off. Meet new people by being approachable—make eye contact, smile—strike-up conversations—this is easy because writing is the main topic.

2. Hand out and collect business cards—helps you remember those you meet and gives them a way to remember you. You may later forget “who said what.” I write keywords on the cards I receive so I’ll have a point of reference after the conference. Or you may have promised to send them a book, upcoming conference information, or meet for coffee later in the day—whatever was said of significance is saved.

3. If you are printing a new card for the conference, use both the front and back. I include my picture (recent and in color), name of my publishing company, types of books that I write, latest book cover, workshop topics that I offer, website, and keywords about my world as a writer.

4. I love traveling with writers I know. However, one person suggested that we each sit with a different group at meals, workshops, or other events. Widen your circle of contacts. Don’t limit your down-time to only those you know. No cost, just good marketing.

5. Learn about the speakers/agents/publishers in advance. Your questions to them will reflect your research—very appreciated. Often you can sign up to take a speaker to lunch. Other writers may join you—but you’ll have your question thought out in advance. However, don’t dominate the conversation—let others have a chance. This applies throughout the conference.

6. Volunteers are always needed and welcome. Ask conference managers (in advance of the event) if you can help (during your available times). Larger conferences often have “Shepherd Volunteers” to meet presenters, escort them to their workshop room, and introduce them to the group. This is a great way to meet other writers.

Click a title for more tips on Making the Most of Writers' Conferences:
Part 1: Select the Conference Best Suited to You
Part 2: Spend Less Money at Conferences – and Still Have Fun!
Part 3: Maximize Face-Time with other writers/agents/publishers
Part 4: Create a Winning “Elevator Pitch” to Agents/Publishers
Part 5: Sell Yourself—Sell Your Book

Marilyn H. Collins—author, workshop leader, publisher, writing coach, editorial services www.marilynhcollins.com. Contact/Comments: www.marilynhcollins.com/contact       
Copyright © CHS Publishing, Marilyn H. Collins, 2017.

Spend Less Money at Conferences – and Still Have Fun!

Money can often be the deal-maker in deciding which conferences to attend. I’ve learned to spend less and still get the full value of the conference. Here are some ways that I’ve saved money.

1. Meet the “early-bird” registration deadline. Savings are often worth the effort. Another advantage is that you can register for pre-conference workshops—often no fee but with limited space. I’ve found these sessions are well worthwhile. If you are a first-time attendee, this serves as a warm-up to the entire conference. You’ll also be able to sign up for banquet tickets or other special events.

2. Unless you are particularly interested in the area near the conference, I’d avoid the cost of tours of the town and/or local historic spots. I rarely find time to leave the hotel during a conference. These tours are great for an accompanying friend or non-writer spouse to enjoy while you are attending sessions.

2. Carpooling with other writers to out-of-town conferences not only saves money, but the camaraderie there and back are fun and valuable. If you arrange to sign up for separate workshops or overlapping ones everyone wants to attend, you can later share your notes/insight with each other.

3. Share a hotel room. Many conferences offer double rooms plus a pull-out couch or hide-away bed. Each person will need to register and give typical information. If room service or other costs are incurred, that individual person can cover his/her own expenditures.

4. Save on food costs. Most rooms have a refrigerator. Bring your own snacks and drinks as prices in the hotel shop will be higher. But do take advantage of discounts offered by the hotel—perhaps free breakfast, cocktail hour often offers heavy hors d’oeuvres and discount drinks, and light snacks/drinks may be available between workshops. Banquets usually charge a separate fee. In my experience, the keynote speakers are worth the cost—and offer another opportunity to network with others at your table.

5. Of course buy books and support other writers! Very hard not to. But try to buy books you can’t live without—and refrain from buying books that will go unread and stored under your bed. My best defense is to avoid the “impulse-buy.” Better to look over what is in the bookstore or on exhibitor tables and purchase later after a little thought. Not a fail-proof method.

Click on Part 1 for more tips on Making the Most of Writers' Conferences:
Part 1: Select the Conference Best Suited to You
 

Marilyn H. Collins—author, workshop leader, publisher, writing coach, editorial services www.marilynhcollins.com. Contact: www.marilynhcollins.com/contact  
Copyright © CHS Publishing, Marilyn H. Collins, 2017.

Select the Conference Best Suited to You

You’ll usually find listings for upcoming writers’ conferences on the Internet by state or topic. Various local writers’ guilds or libraries should also have listings. You can often find the conference theme, speakers, special events, location, and costs on these sites.

1. First, think about your top three reasons for attending a conference? Be intentional in choosing those conferences that match. Conferences are sometimes genre specific (Children’s books, YA, Sci-Fi, Romance, History). Most offer a variety of topics. If so, this is a good place to explore other genres or just focus on sessions that interest you.

2. Study the speaker bios and their session listings in the schedule. Workshop descriptions give you an idea of content, speakers experience as author/agent/publisher and their industry involvement.

3. Most sessions are open for everyone—however, the most popular fill up early. Handouts may be limited. If offered, register for specific workshops.

4. Registration is often required for “Pitch” sessions with agents or publishers. Sign up early to ensure you have an appointment. These sessions offer a rare opportunity to meet face-to-face with professionals in the industry. (Series 4 will focus on how to successfully “pitch.”)

5. Bring your best smile and wear your most comfortable walking shoes. May sound frivolous but a lot of walking is needed especially when the conference is spread out over a large hotel. Smile, make eye contact, show interest in other writers, and practice your response to the inevitable question, “And what do you write?”

 

Marilyn H. Collins—author, workshop leader, publisher, writing coach, editorial services www.marilynhcollins.com. Contact: www.marilynhcollins.com/contact       
Copyright © CHS Publishing, Marilyn H. Collins, 2017.

Turn Memorabilia into Story

We all keep treasures from our travels, places we've lived, or reminders of our childhood. Maybe you kept your first Valentine from someone special, the old revolver your great great, granddad passed down through the generations to you, or quilts and tatted doilies made by early women in your family.

My treasures are a shelf clock with a beautiful chime, the pie safe that stood in the farmhouse first used for venting pies and later stored canned goods, a beautifully, hand-painted bowl from Prussia, or my Dad's Bible well-worn from teaching the Men's Sunday Class. One of my favorite keepsakes are the doorknob and silver box from the old farmhouse. The door in the picture is a photograph by Nancy Hartney (www.NancyHartney.com).

Your treasures can form the basis for a short story or hold a well-loved space in a memoir, novel, or mystery. Turn into story the seashells from your trip to the beach, the Navaho rug hanging in your office, the tool box belonging to your Dad, or your childhood toy truck or doll.

Use your passion for these keepsakes to add richness and believability to your characters, settings, or story plots.

 

The Best Writing Space for You

Does your Muse find you anyplace with a pen/pad, laptop, or desktop computer? Or do you find inspiration in a special space--at the library, outside in the park, on a plane, or in your office? I'd love to know what works for you and why.

I write mostly in the solitude of my office--well, almost solitude. My loyal Shih Tzu, Mimi, often shares the space. She adds her own levity to the silence. In this creative space, words seem to flow, characters show up often with their own names, background, and special personality. However, if I've been intense for too long, Mimi gives me the I-need-to-go-out-look. Often just the break I need. 

I mostly write nonfiction. I can easily get lost in the overwhelming research maze. For organizing lots of stuff or editing my own work or that of a client, I find the white noise--people milling around and talking--in Barnes & Noble or Starbucks most conducive.

The habit and expectation of how and where we write--that special space--preps us to do our best work. Be intentional about your choice of writing space and see if your work doesn't go more smoothly. It's worth a try.

Why I Love Old Barns

An old barn half hidden in weeds struggles to hold board and soul together. Its brave story catches my imagination. Birds now nest where hay once filled the loft and tiny creatures scurry about below finding tiny morsels of grain left from long ago.

I get out of my car with camera in hand, climb over the broken fence, and pause to take in this amazing slice of history. I step from the warm outside sun through sagging doors into the cool quiet. A sanctuary that’s survived beyond the years of hope and purpose. The now slatted roof and leaning sides takes perseverance to a new level. She no longer holds within her arms warm, lowing animals, wake each morning to the early clang of milk pails, or the soothing words of a farmer as he greets each cow by name—but she is still beautiful and stands with pride.

Jonquils

Rows of jonquils growing on a country hillside bravely carry the dreams of people who once lived there. Their joyful yellow faces planted row on row still give pleasure nodding in the breeze.     

A legacy of laughter and tears soaked into this soil—all that’s left of generations who loved, laughed, wept, and one day had to leave the land—their hearts lingering in the brown earth beside the daffodils.

My sisters and I caught fireflies in the dusk on this very hill. We looked for the first star to appear, waved goodnight to the thin slice of moon just appearing over the moon trees. We listened to our Daddy’s stories of boyhood adventures out West. Felt our Mother’s reluctance to break the evening’s enchanted spell by going inside, turning on lights, making ready for bed.

Raising their faces each year to the sun’s warmth—the jonquils write my memoir.