memory for names: Work on remembering names now, so that when
you’re at the conference, you’ll remember the names of people you meet.
When you receive a card from someone, jot something on the back that
will jar your memory about that person. Then follow up later.
• Business cards: First, be professional, starting with a photo. Then
put it on your professionally printed cards (do not print them from
your computer). (And if you have books, put your picture on the back.)
Some good printers: www.printingforless.com,
http://gotprint.net/gotprint/welcome.do, or www.vistaprint.com. And Got
Print is professional looking and very reasonable.
• Cards: It’s ever so nice to have a stash of thank-you cards with you.
During down time, you can write a quick thank-you and give it to the
editor you had a great appointment with. Or you can write them on the
plane ride home.
• Dependable shoes: I know we all want to look lovely (I’m speaking to
the guys here, right?), but a lot of conferences are at retreat centers
or camps. Heels and hills do not mix well. Neither do brand-new shoes
you haven’t broken in yet.
• Ecumenical eyes: Most Christian conferences have worship and prayer
time. Not everyone adheres to your particular flavor of Christianity.
See that as a cool opportunity to understand the beauty of the breadth
of the body of Christ. It’s not a time to criticize.
• Favorite chocolate: This helps endear you to your newfound friends,
soothes you when rejection happens, and if it’s dark chocolate,
• Great attitude: Come to a conference as a learner with a listener’s
posture. Don’t hang your mood on an insatiable need to be noticed.
Instead, notice others. Praise others. Listen to feedback. Don’t argue
back with an editor. Be teachable, learning to rejoice in others’
• Hats: Not actual hats, but an understanding of the different hats
you’ll wear at a conference. You may be a conferee, an encourager of
another conferee, a helper, a writer wanting publication, a follower of
Jesus, a possible friend to someone new. Don’t simply wear “a writer
wanting publication” hat.
• Interest: The people I enjoy most at conferences are those who are
not merely interested in their dogged pursuit of publication. They’re
interested in people, fascinated by their stories. Be interested in
agents and editors as people. Be interested in the process of pulling
off a conference. Be interested in the critique services offered.
• Jump drive: Having your proposals on a flash or jump drive is a nice
idea. Some editors and agents won’t want that, but it’s a nice
alternative to offer, as long as everything is virus-free.
• Kookiness: Going to a conference is not purely business. Be sure you
bring some lightheartedness to the conference with you. Maybe throw a
little party in your room or have coffee with friends.
• Lists of folks you want to talk to: After studying the conference
brochure, decide which editors and agents are a good fit. Pray about
getting an opportunity to chat with them. Do a little research outside
the brochure (Web sites are a great start) to discover what agents and
editors are looking for and what they never acquire.
• Money: You’ll need this if you
want to buy coffee, snacks, etc. But
primarily you’ll want to bring extra to buy books and recordings of the
part of the conference you missed. Buying MP3s of the conference will
greatly extend the conference’s influence in your writing life.
Read The First Five Pages by
Noah Lukeman and follow all his advice. This is an important chance.
Don’t mess it up with errors in logic, bad grammar, or a slow, slow
Novel chapters: Before you submit them to an editor or agent, be sure
you’ve gone over them thoroughly. Have your critique group read them.
Your spouse. Your dog, if he can read.
• One sheets: These are one-page documents that succinctly summarize
one project. They’re a nice thing to have when you’re chatting with an
editor or agent.
• Proposals: Just bring a few, knowing that an agent or editor might
want one, but don’t bring a suitcaseful.
• Query letters: You need these particularly if you’re pitching an
article to a magazine. Be sure it grabs attention with the first
sentence. Remember, it’s your first handshake with an editor. For more
help visit http://www.marydemuth.com/media/QueriesNow.pdf.
• Realistic Expectations: While it’s okay to dream, don’t rest there.
Realize that this journey is a long one. It’s not likely you’ll get a
publishing or agenting contract at your first conference. Go to learn.
Accept each day and each contact as a gift. Understand that every bit
of knowledge you learn is another step closer to publication. Don’t
• SASEs: (Self-addressed, stamped envelopes) This is particularly nice
for an magazine editor. If he or she is interested in your query, be
sure you give him or her the query and an SASE.
• Thick skin: This is a tough business. Prepare yourself. The
conference is merely the first step of many rejections all along the
publishing journey. Learn not to take things personally. And take any
criticism or rejection seriously, determining to go home and improve.
• Understanding of the appointment process: Before you go, understand
how the conference manages appointments. Are you responsible for making
them? Do you get two automatically assigned to you? Do you have an
opportunity to meet with folks at their dining tables?
• Vitality: Try to bring some energy and joy with you. Editors and
agents want to see passion. They want to know you’re wired for the
project you’re pitching. • Warm clothes: Even if a conference is held
in Dallas in the summertime, bring some warm clothes. Conference rooms
are notoriously frigid.
• Xtra sleep: File this away in the hopeful category. If you’re
dragging one night, please, do yourself a favor and turn in early. You
want to be fresh and alert for the days ahead.
• Yearning to grow goal: Make it your goal to grow the most you
possibly can as a writer and industry expert. You will be less
disappointed if you don’t land an assignment or contract.
• Zealousness for the craft: Above all, remember this is a writing
conference. It’s your prose that will get you noticed. Be sure what you
bring is polished and shiny, your very best work.