Amandah Blackwell’s Don’ts and Do’s for Attending Writer’s Conferences

In a couple of weeks, we’re about to bid farewell to 2011 and welcome 2012. For authors and writers, this translates to sorting through the enormous amount of writer’s conferences and choosing a few to attend during the New Year. Before you pack your bags and fly or drive to your destination, read the don’ts and do’s of attending writer’s conferences.

The Don’ts

1. Don’t sit at table with grumpy look on your face. All of us know that writers are ‘supposed to be’ solitary people however, when you’re at a conference, you may want to loosen up.

2. Don’t insult other authors and writers. This is bad business acumen and downright unacceptable. There’s room for all writers.

3. Don’t monopolize editors and publishers. You’re not the only one at the book or writer’s conference. Give your 30-second elevator speech and ask to schedule time with editors, literary agents, and publishers during classes and workshops.

4. Don’t dress sloppy. Like it or not, your appearance is just as important as your manuscript. Iron your clothes and or pack wrinkle-free clothing.

5. Don’t forget to bring your iPad and or laptop.

6. Don’t forget to bring marketing materials such as business cards, postcards, flyers, etc.

7. Don’t forget to participate in classes and workshops. You’re not in elementary or high school anymore. It’s alright to raise your hand. If you give the wrong answer, you’ll survive.

The Do’s

1. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Dress for success” a million times but there is truth to it. If you dress professionally, you’ll feel like a million dollars. Before you attend a writer’s conference purchase new clothes and get your haircut, styled and colored. When you look better, you feel better.

2. Do get over your shyness. You may want to get to the ‘root’ of your shyness and dissolve it. Life’s too short to be afraid to speak up and speak your mind. Walk up to someone you don’t know and say, “Hi! My name is (fill in the blank). It’s nice to meet you. What do you think of the writer’s conference?” It may take you a couple of times but once you do this, you’ll be able to speak to anyone, including your fans.

3. Do send hand written ‘Thank You’ notes to editors, literary agents, and publishers. Remember to ask for a business card.

4. Do network as much as you can. If you want to collaborate with another writer, conferences are the best places to find the ‘right’ writing partner.

5. Do bring paper and pen along with a recorder (if permissible). You never know, there could be a power outage and you may not have time to charge your laptop.

6. Do learn all you can about the publishing process. The more you know the better you’ll become at writing and sending query letters and understanding what agents and publishers want.

7. Do prepare a list of questions. When it’s time for the panel discussion, be prepared to ask your questions. Do your homework and learn all you can about the conference, panel, etc. Know before you go!


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How to Find and Pitch Ideas to Editors

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

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Are you having trouble finding ideas to pitch to editors? On September 7, I tuned into Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli’s Idea Clinic webinar on how to find and pitch ideas to editors. Here’s a recap of the webinar.

How to find good ideas

1. Look at your own life. What’s going on in your life? You would be surprised how many people may be going through what you’re going through. Look at your family — they’re full of ideas!

2. Think about disasters and failures. What did you fail at? How did you turn it around? Do you live in ‘tornado alley’ and have experienced a tornado? Think about the disasters and failures in your life and the world.

3. Read other publications. Get out of your comfort zone and read other publications to get ideas.

4. Speak to people. You can find ideas by speaking with family, friends, co-workers and the general public.

5. News: what happens next? What’s happening right now? What will happen next? Stay on top of current events and pop culture because there are plenty of ideas.

Most of the time, ideas come first and then you think about the market later. Of course, you could flip this.

6. Can you localize and or nationalize an idea? What’s happening in your area? Can you nationalize a story? On the flip side, how can you localize a national story?

7. Go to PR Web and other press release websites. You can find plenty ideas from press releases.

8. What’s shocking and surprising? Let’s face it; people love sensationalism. It sells! What’s shocking and surprising right now? What do you find shocking and surprising?

9. Listen to conversations. Have you ever been in the grocery store and found someone with their cell phone glued to their ear? They’re usually oblivious to the people around them. Feel free to listen to their conversation — you could find a ‘gem’ of an idea.

10. What are peoples’ problems? Remember, you’re in business to solve problems and market your business. Think about problems that most people are having and solve them.

According to Carol, “Editors are overwhelmed. One editor received 100 pitches per day — that’s 500 pitches per week. Some editors won’t respond. Keep pitching and sending at least five pitches per week.”

How to pitch articles

1. Read the publication before you pitch an idea. You’ve this before but it begs repeating. Read publications before you pitch your ideas.

2. Write a one page query letter. Keep your query letter to one page.

3. Make sure an idea is timely. It’s important to make sure your idea is timely. Remember, publications are usually 3 to 6 months ahead.

4. Be counter intuitive. Pitch an opposite idea. Give editors a fresh take on old ideas.

5. The idea must be marketable. Make sure your ideas are marketable. Study the target markets.


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