What I Learned at a Writers Conference

Two weeks ago I attended a local(ish) writers conference. It was like entering an embassy while traveling abroad: everyone there spoke my language! POV, protagonist, proposal, pitch, platform, even Peter Piper. It was wonderful. Here are four things I learned that weekend.write his answer

  1. Bring a friend or make a friend. I’ve been to a writers conference twice by myself, but this time a friend came with me. SO fabulous! Apart from being able to share the fun and bounce ideas off of each other, having a friend gave me one unexpected advantage: confidence. We’re chatting, we’re laughing, and hey, there’s SuchAndSuch author, editor, web designer. Why don’t we go say hello? The conversation is already flowing between you, so it feels much more natural to approach the industry people you’d love to converse with.
  2. 250 business cards is a LOT of cards and handing out the first two will immediately show you the flaw in all of them. In my case, font size. I didn’t realize how small the font was until everyone I gave a card to held it at arm’s length and squinted at it through reading glasses. There’s a reason the standard font size on submissions is 12, not 10.
  3. Don’t burn your bridges when you don’t get the answer you were hoping for from an editor, agent, etc. I didn’t do this, but I had the urge and restrained myself. This year in particular I noticed how interconnected the publishing industry is. Editor A works for Publisher A, but is also an author represented by Agent B, who also represents Author C who is good friends with Editor D from Publisher D. They all know each other and your reputation can follow you – good or bad – around their circles.
  4. Talk with everyone. You will receive your best writing tips and make your best connections when you least expect it.

My last piece of advice is this: if you want to write, go to a writers conference! The experience you gain is invaluable.

Use A Logline To Pitch Your Work

logs2A logline is a ONE sentence description of your work and its power is in its brevity. Writing loglines is new to me, and so far I’m loving it.

Does anyone else tend to panic a little when asked “What’s your book about?” How do I cram a fabulous plot, intriguing characters, and genius subplots into a thirty second spiel? (And all with appropriate humility, right?) wizardlogline No matter how I try to sum up my work, I always feel like I’m doing it wrong.  My “elevator pitch” feels more like a stab in the dark.  I hone it as close to perfection as I know how and memorize it, but when the moment comes, I’m a bundle of nerves.  I think I’ve been trying to provide too much information about the book all at once; I need informational increments.

loglinedefinedThat’s why loglines are so great: they’re short. When my nerves are bundled, a logline is easy to spit out. And while my listener is digesting the one liner, I can take a deep breath and be ready with the slightly longer “back of the book” type spiel.  Informational increments!  Another plus: if my listener isn’t interested in hearing more about my work, at least our encounter was short and sweet.  If I leave my listener bored or confused, what will s/he assume about my writing?

There’s an excellent explanation of loglines here. It includes lots of examples that I found helpful in writing loglines for my own work.

What have you found to be most helpful when pitching to an editor/agent or simply telling a friend about your writing?