Wednesday, April 14

Just Be Yourself...Only Prettier

Didja know RWA's National Conference is just around the corner? Yep, a horde of romance authors (aspiring and published), editors, publishers and agents will be headed to Nashville in 105 days. Yep, 105 days to the day (my little iPhone app is counting it down for me). After a lot of wrangling around with the budget, I decided to go and sent in my check online payment a couple weeks ago. For me, this is my second conference. I don't go every year, maybe after I sell...I'll decide that later. But I digress from the reason for this post and - I swear - there is one.

Conference Rules.

I'd like to rename that.

Conference Expectations.

A lot of first timers are flooding various loops with questions about conference ranging from how good the workshops are to what they should wear. And they're getting a lot of advice back. Some good, some...legalistic. Here's my take.

1. I'm going to sell at conference! Probably not. You may make a huge pitch, you may make a great agent contact and you may have a partial or full requested by an editor. But you're not going to hand over a full manuscript at an editor or agent appointment. Therefore, you won't sell.
1-A. I'm going to make connections at conference! Definitely. You'll meet wonderful authors (published and un), you meet editors and agents. You'll make friends. You'll learn a lot. But you will go home and you will have to get right back to work.

2. I need a new wardrobe for conference! Nah. You just need to be yourself, maybe a slightly prettier version, but yourself nonetheless.
2-A. I'll dress professionally and comfortably. Yes, at the pitching appoints you want to look professional. Yes, at the awards banquet you want to look stunning. But all those workshops? All that walking around the humongous hotel? You don't need to be in a full suit or evening gown or 4-inch stilletos every second. Leave your jammies and sweats at home, but bring a long a nice pair of jeans, slacks or even capris because during the bulk of the conference you just need to be comfortable and presentable.

3. I'm going to schedule every second to make the most of the experience. Please, no. There are a lot of opportunities to learn, but you don't want to burn out by Day 2.
3-A. I learned this the hard way at my first conference when I attended (I'm not kidding) 18 workshops in just over 3 days. I was wiped out by Day 3. Think of the conference like a marathon: you don't want use your stamina to your benefit and that includes a little down time. Feasibly, you can probably take in 2 workshops each day (I'm not including the Publisher Spotlights) and not melt your brain. That leaves a lot of workshopping unattended, right? Yes, but all of the workshops will be on the Conference CDs, which can be purchased the last day. Meaning you can take the workshops home. So build in that downtime, k? Ok!

4. I have to read from notecards at the pitches.
4-A. I will be prepared at my pitch. If you need a notecard for security, by all means take it along. But remember those public speaking classes in high school and college? Yeah, you remember. You want to connect with the editor or agent you're meeting with, that means you need to have a conversation and you have to look at them. Practice your pitch, every day if needed. Run it by a friend at the conference. Don't worry about memorization or getting every word of what you wrote. You know your book. You know your characters. So tell the editor or agent about your book, your characters and start a conversation. Pitches are generally 10 minutes, 2-ish minutes should be your canned pitch and from there the conversation be prepared, be charming and be professional.

Okay, those of you who've attended conference before: what is your best advice for first timers?

And those of you thinking of attending for the first time, do you have a question? Ask and we'll try to answer!


  1. great post kristi! lol....i'll have to save that for next year when I hope to go!

    great advice!


  2. Great info. I won't be going--too steep for me.

  3. Right on!

    I'd also suggest that attendees volunteer at least once, in some way. It can be as easy as greeting attendees as they enter for lunch, or as challenging as serving water to authors during the chaotic book signing. RWA offers lots of volunteer opportunities, and specialty chapters need member support at their special events, too.

  4. Bring a sweater! Layering is the only way to survive the conference rooms. I was guarding mine with my life after just a few sessions. But the biggest advice would be to take advantage of every opportunity. A total stranger saw my 1st timer badge last year, and she asked me to have breakfast with her. Turns out she is multi-pubbed and couldn't have been nicer. Can't wait for it to happen again this year!

  5. Kristi,
    Great advice!
    You'll have to soak it up for me. Too steep for my pockets this yr.
    Maybe next yr.

  6. Great post, Kristi. My advice would be to engage in conversation during the meals. Like Christi said, you never know who you'll be chatting up. Last year at WWC, I sat at table with fellow writers and an agent. She didn't represent what I write, but just talking with her was informative and really low key. She gave us advice on our consults, insider tidbits and encouraged us to ask her questions.

  7. Commenting late...story of my life! But I love your post and the points you made. I wish I was going, but was too tight to spend the monen. Have a great time.