Conference advice

Short post today, because I’m off in a couple of hours to New Jersey for an SCBWI-NJ first pages session. And I have to confess, I’m a little nervous—even though this should be a very low-key event, I haven’t done a writer’s conference in several years. As a junior editor, I attended my share of conferences and I was lucky enough to have a few writers and illustrators come out of them. But between a full roster of authors, a growing family, and a decline in invitations, I pretty much dropped off the speaking circuit.

However, now that I’m building a new client roster, I’m back on the conference train, and I’d love to get some feedback on how things are going these days. Have things changed much in the last few years? Has ebook publishing had any effect? What do you look for in a conference speaker? Do you have different expectations from agents vs. editors? Whatever your experiences, I’d love to hear—I’ve got SCBWI Metro in two weeks!

2 Responses to Conference advice

  1. Dawn Klehr says:

    Hi John,
    I have a little feedback for you and I think I’d be right in your target audience. I’m attending conferences and webinars like crazy and have had some wonderful experiences recently. Here are a few quick bullets to answer your questions:

    *Much like an agent/editor does with manuscripts, I look for a hook with a conference speaker. I want interesting information that is relevant, up to date, and practical — something I can apply to my work immediately. Sara Megibow recently did a webinar about “The first 30 pages.” She spoke about what she looks for in submissions, what the first 30 must include, and potential deal breakers. It was great. We knew what to expect going in and Sara delivered.

    *I think I do have different expectations with an editor vs. an agent when it comes to a conference session. At SCBWI Minnesota, we had an editor/author panel and they discussed how the two work together and the process involved once a book is sold. It was very interesting. I guess my expectations for an editor presentation would be more on the craft of writing and the publishing process. Though an agent presentation could cover that as well, I’d expect topics such as: what makes a ms or query letter stand out; state of the industry; marketing; building a career as an author, etc. etc.

    *Attendees also love examples, so any that you can provide would really garner interest.

    *Finally, I know it’s not your job to lift the spirits of the writing community, but any positive information you can provide would be appreciated. There’s so much doom and gloom out there right now, we could all use some inspiration.

    I hope this helps! I’m sure you’ll be wonderful.

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