Hooray! You are going to a writer’s conference! Attending a writer’s conference can be very rewarding for your writing career, but do you now wonder what you need to bring? Being fully prepared is crucial. The items you should bring to a writer’s conference are a mix of mental and physical objects, from a an enthusiastic spirit to promotional material to share with agents, publishers, and fellow authors.
This article will look at what you need to bring to a writer’s conference to optimize your success. Let’s get started!
You need to bring a laptop or your favorite notebook and pens to your writer’s conference. Why? So you can take notes, of course! Your conference will include some sessions with valuable information you will want to have with you once you leave, so make sure you come prepared with your favorite note-taking device.
Some authors attending a writer’s conference might bring along a notebook (just one should suffice, there’s no need to bring one for every single session), others a tablet or even a laptop. The option is entirely up to you. The note-taking method you decide to bring should be the one that is most comfortable for you. You should choose the way that would be the fastest, not to miss anything important you want to jot down.
If you do happen to miss something one of the speakers says, do not stress about it. Some conferences offer recordings after each session. Also, a fellow attendee might have caught, so don’t be afraid to ask them. This could be an excellent method to break the ice. Questions are a great start to building connections!
Continuing with leaving impressions for future aspirations, never forget to bring your business cards. Not only are they an excellent contact piece for your peers, potential publishers, and editors, but they’re also a critical branding opportunity. Your business cards should be professional-looking and also represent who you are as an author. If you’re hiring a designer to make them for you, make sure the person understands your author brand inside and out.
Business cards should never be home-printed. There are templates on professional design websites you can follow and plenty of reliable printing services. Make sure you check on how long it would take for the cards to print and ship so you can have them ready to go before the conference. Make sure you print enough, depending on the conference’s length and size.
Your business cards should contain the following information:
- Your name or pen-name.
- Your personal tagline, if you have one. (If not, it might be time to craft one!).
- Your email.
- Your website.
- Any accomplishment worth mentioning (such as "New York Times Best Seller").
Being monetarily prepared for your writer’s conference can save you a few headaches in the long run. To set your budget, take into account the conference’s length, schedule, and location. Most places will likely have card-payment options, but it’s a good idea to keep some cash in your pocket just in case. For example:
- Snacks, meals, and drinks.
- Merchandise being sold at the conference.
It is also a good rule of thumb to keep any receipts from the trip to use for tax write-offs if your writing career is under your own name. If your business operates as an LLC or sole proprietorship, consider holding onto receipts to use later come tax season to count the writer’s conference as a trip for work.
If you are traveling to a conference in a different country, be prepared to pay a fee for currency exchanges. Also, it’s crucial you do your research, so you can bring a safe amount of cash in the local currency, depending on how card-friendly your destination is.
Your writer’s conference, believe it or not, will not just be work, work, work. When you are packing your bag for the upcoming writer’s conference, you should plan specifically for a few circumstances, both inside and outside business settings:
- Professional clothes: Keep the saying “dress to impress” in your mind. Ready to speak to the professionals.
- Snazzy yet comfortable outfits: Something to feel good while listening to panelists and engaging in casual conversations.
- Evening clothes: To have some after-conference fun or meeting attendees out in an informal setting.
- Gym clothes: If you plan on using the hotel’s amenities or can’t miss your morning jog.
Remember: You are representing your author brand everywhere you go, and it spans far beyond your writing. It correlates with how you present yourself. That includes your fashion choices! Your clothes should send the message that you both mean business and know who you are as an author.
The most exciting part about writing conferences is the possibility of pitching your work to potential editors and publishers. You should come in with rehearsed pitches to give out to the publishers on the spot. Getting your work in front of these professionals is extremely hard. You better make your time in the spotlight worth it!
Bring along with you to the conference the best book pitch you have for your current work in progress. If you have any projects to work on in the future, create pitches for those as well. Editors and publishers will be more interested in feeling intrigued about your work than they will be having you hand them a 300-page finished novel. Think about everyone else attending and handing over their novels as well. It won’t be accepted. Instead, convince the publishers to buy into your work from your book pitch.
But, how do you create the best book pitch sure to land a publisher in the future? Come up with a logline! A logline is a short and memorable sentence that encompasses the book as a whole in fewer words to still intrigue or catch your readers. Your pitches and loglines should be memorized and practiced before delivery at the conference. Rehearse saying them several times before going to the conference so you can recite them in complete confidence.
Something we will talk about more in detail later is researching who will be attending your conference. Analyzing the professionals who will be standing in front of you will help you better understand how to pitch the right book to the right people. Not all publishers out there will be interested or will be the best to represent your work. It’s on you to figure that out so you can come to the conference prepared.
Writer’s conferences include more than sessions on how to craft the next American novel. Some include time for you to network with professionals in the publishing industry, as well as socialize with other conference attendees.
It’s a great idea to strategize before you go to the conference. Plan how you’ll engage with the people you want to meet. Brainstorm ideas of how you could introduce yourself to leave a lasting impression that could benefit your writing career.
Before you go, look over the list of attending writers, panelists, publishers, or editors. Learn more about them. Knowledge will find you some common ground to discuss when you approach them.
Always treat everyone you meet with respect. Be kind, polite, and don’t forget to pass out one of those beautifully branded business cards!
More minor and things can play a significant role:
- An extra phone charger: You don’t want your phone to die at the worst possible moment. The same thing applies to your laptop or tablet.
- A refillable water bottle: Conferences are long, and you have to stay hydrated.
- Pocket snacks: A quick bite during a break between long sessions will get you through to your next meal.
- Sucking candy or some throat coat tea bags: Believe us, you’ll be doing a lot of talking.
- A light jacket or cardigan: We’ve all faced air conditioners that keep the venues in arctic conditions!
Your writer’s conference may have a list of items that are prohibited from the conference. Look up their rules and regulations before you go. You should also leave:
- Your own books: If you meet someone interested in your work, you can a) direct them to your Amazon (or similar book retailer) page b) get their contact information and offer to send them a copy (either physical or digital). If you think an agent or publisher will accept a book just like that, forget about it. A fellow author might, but 99% of the time will be out of sheer politeness. Save the space (and the weight) in your suitcase.
- Treats for agents or publishers: No, they do not want your gift bag or baked goods!
Being prepared is key to having a great experience at a writer’s conference. Before you leave, make a list of everything you’ll need to take. You can cross it off as you pack. Like that popular Christmas song suggests, check that list twice, if not three times.
A good rule of thumb to live by is to pack a day in advance, so you have plenty of time to double-check you have everything. The last thing you want is to get to your conference and realize you forgot your pens, laptop charger, or the extra cash you’ve been saving up.
Also, check any of the conference’s available information and its program. Draft your plan and daily schedule, making it flexible enough to quickly adapt it to the circumstances. You never know what might happen or who you might meet!
Writer’s conferences hold a lot of possibilities for excellent career opportunities. You have the ability to get your work put in front of professionals that can make your dreams come true! The key is to come prepared and fully aware of what to expect. Following our guide on what to bring to your writer’s conference will help you have everything you need for your successful trip. Don’t forget to review your packing list several times before you go!
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- Writers Conference Tips: 5 Print Materials to Bring to Your Next Conference