How to Prepare for a Writing Conference

So, you found a writer’s conference that peaks your interests. What now? Should you start preparing immediately? Short answer: yes. Depending on where you are in the writing process, you’ll want to start doing research, polish your first 15 pages (just in case) and your query, and start thinking about an elevator pitch and effective schedule. Writing conferences are designed to help a diverse group of people, so there will activities that will fit your needs. However, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to take advantage of the event. Below are a few tips that will help you start preparing and avoid unnecessary stress. 

Research conference

Once you find a conference that you believe will fit your needs, do your homework. It’s a good idea to check out the website or brochure to get an idea about what workshops will be available and who will be attending. Conferences can be overwhelming, so creating a schedule will help you stay focused on your goals. 

Also, check for agent appointments for pitching or feedback. They typically fill up quickly, so take advantage of the opportunity if you feel like your manuscript is ready for review. Even if it’s not ready for publishing, the expert feedback could still be helpful for your editing process.

Prepare your pitch

Elevator pitches can be tricky to practice, but they’re a must. Conferences are typically hectic for agents, and they have plenty of people who want to pitch their manuscript to them throughout the weekend. Keeping it short and sweet helps them stay on schedule, and challenges you to sum up your story in about three sentences.

For an elevator pitch, the goal is to explain your manuscript in about 90 seconds. Most agents are looking for your title, a hook that’ll catch their interest, and a one-sentence summary. If they’re interested, the agent will tell you how to contact them or ask you to submit a query. Depending on the conference, some agents may ask you for the first few pages; however, they most likely won’t like you shoving an entire manuscript in their face, so polish your partial and keep the manuscript on your desktop for now. 

Set goals, but be flexible

Similar to creating a schedule, setting goals can prevent an overwhelming feeling once you step into the venue. There will be a number of workshops happening at the same time, and agents will be running around constantly, so knowing what you want to get out of the conference will help narrow your activities. If your manuscript isn’t ready for pitching, focusing on workshops would be beneficial to learn more about technique and what agents are looking for. If it is ready, an agent appointment might be an important addition to your plans. 

Goals are helpful, but be prepared to be flexible. For example, an agent appointment might open up after a cancellation, giving you an extra opportunity to pitch your manuscript and get feedback. Additionally, you might have a specific agent in mind for pitching, but you never know who you might meet or get along with more. To take full advantage of your trip, I recommend talking and pitching to as many agents as possible. What’s wrong with opening more doors?