Since the season of conferences is upon us, I thought we'd talking about that instead of craft this week.
I tackled my first conference recently, all be it a small one. But I'm glad I did it. I feel more prepared for the big one coming up in LA. I wanted to come up with some practical real world advice for people who may be going to their first conference this year. I'll give you as much as I can for how to handle the overall conference, and then we'll talk about pitching.
First thing is first. These things aren't cheap, so get as much as you can out of it. Be prepared for workshops with whatever you need to write with. We're writers. I know most of us have a blank book and pen tucked away somewhere on us anyhow, but make sure you do while you're there. It doesn't mean you have to be overly prepared like me with your mini and a journal, but have something to take notes on. Take lots of them. I know every workshop isn't going to apply to you, and you're going to hear lots of things you already know, but even in those workshops there is usually some tidbit you can use. If you're at a conference big enough to have choices choose the option most appropriate to what you write and where you are in your career. If you know you don't have an agent, a seminar on how to launch a book and market it might not be as helpful as a query workshop or another seminar aimed at unpublished writers.
Another thing you can do to get the most out of it is be prepared. If you're ready to query or almost ready to query have your pitch and your query on you. You never know who you might run into and while being prepared might not lead to a request (though it often does) it could lead to a good critique, or insight. Information that could help you for the long haul.
And participate. I write too. I know it's hard to have your pitch read in front of 300 people even if it is anonymous. Do it anyhow. If the pitch sucks, you'd rather learn it here were no one knows who wrote it and you're not losing an opportunity then when you use it as the hook of your query.
Make friends. Really, this is a good place to connect to others with the same interests as you. We spend lots of time alone in our writing cave, so it's an opportunity many of us don't have often. And being friendly and charming is a good way to meet a mentor.
The hook of your query or your elevator pitch (often one in the same) is a good place to start. I've heard different things from 35-50 words to three sentences. Honestly, I believe a sentence or two is good, and I think tweet is a pretty good length. The big thing I learned at the conference is you need some sort of description of your MC and if it's a romance your hero/heroine too. You'll combine this with the major plot elements. You don't want your last pitch session to impact your next one.
So you'll deliver this line and wait, but you don't want to sound over-rehearsed. The agent will probably ask you a few questions at this point. Just answer them. Be confident in your work and yourself. Do not let anything that happens during the pitch session bother you.
Find the goody room as soon as you get there so the good things like ARCs, autographed books, and interesting swag are still available. If you wait, you'll only get bookmarks ;).