Ten Tips for a Successful Conference

I went to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference
this last week.
Wow! The conferees had so much to choose from. The Blue
Ridge folks (Novel Rocket’s own Edie Melson, for one) offered 22 classes at one
time. If you couldn’t find a class that spoke to your need you weren’t looking.
And what a great faculty! There were the usual teachers–editors and agents and
award-winning authors, but there were also professors, publicists, and pundits,
as well as professional speakers, actors, and at least one producer of films
and TV shows. They all spent their time and money (because, let’s face it, many
of them could have been making more money writing or editing or acting or working
for their clients) in order to equip God’s people to be better communicators,
to get their messages out to wider audiences, and to move up to the next level in the God-given
ministries or careers.  If you’ve never
been before, I urge you to start saving now for next year. It’s a wonderful
conference.
I’m going to a couple of other Christian conferences this
year—Write to Publish is in two weeks, Greater Philadelphia starts the last day of July, and ACFW
is in the middle of September. Make plans to go to a conference or two this year.
I think you’ll enjoy them and grow.
And despite the jokes we make about people passing proposals under the bathroom stall doors, staff members do not
get angry or hold grudges when you make newbie mistakes. We are not out to get
you. Quite the opposite. We want to help you succeed.
So, in an effort to help you succeed at all you do, and since this is fresh on my mind, let me
give you a quick list of things that may help you get the most out of your next
conference. In no particular order, here are some thing to remember:
  1. Get plenty of sleep prior to conference, because chances are
    you will lose some sleep once you get there.
  2. Ask God to give you divine appointments and then look for
    those appointments in the faces of the “little” people who need your
    help as strenuously as you look for them in the faces of editors and agents
    you’d like to talk to.
  3. Go with a desire to serve God and his people.
  4. Understand that it is your job to make the editors love your
    work; it is not their job to pretend to love it when they don’t.
  5. Resolve to rejoice when God says “No,” as
    fervently as you rejoice when he says, “Yes.”
  6. When an editor or an agent asks you to send your work, send
    your work.
  7. When an editor or an agent tells you they can’t use or represent
    your project, don’t argue. Arguing isn’t going to change the answer; it’s only
    going to frustrate the agent or editor. Instead of arguing, listen to the
    reasons they give and determine to address those issues and pitch to them again
    the following year.
  8. Take the long-term approach. Don’t expect a publishing deal
    to come from the conference, instead aim at getting to know some writers who
    might critique your work or aim at getting to know one agent or one editor. Be
    open to what God wants to give you—for most people, it won’t be a publishing
    deal.
  9. Don’t expect staff members to teach their classes to you at the dinner table so you can go to someone else’s class during class time. 
  10. Don’t go to meetings you don’t want to go to—it’s OK to take some time to recharge in a rocking chair on the deck or to take a walk or even to take a nap. 
OK, that’s enough for now. What about you? What’s your best
advice for a new conference-goer? Or what is the eleventh point you wish I’d covered?

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Sally Apokedak
Sally Apokedak is an associate agent with the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency. She’s in the process of of building a dynamite list of authors. She is also active in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.