by Carlton Hughes
In 2005, I attended my first writers conference.
I had no idea what to expect and no idea about how to conduct myself. Editor appointments? Elevator pitches? One-sheets? All Greek to me.
My expectation was that I would meet a publishing representative, and he or she would read my “book” (which I had printed out and put in a big blue binder) and sign me to a contract at dinner. Then the next year I would return to the conference as the keynote speaker, with my published book featured prominently in the conference bookstore.
Again: boy, was I green!
That book has yet to be published, but I have had several publication successes (along with numerous rejections) and have learned some things about writers conferences along the way:
- Relationship trumps everything. The contacts and friends you make at a writers conference are priceless. At that first conference, an editor from Thomas Nelson (Yes, you read that right—THOMAS NELSON!!!) agreed to look at my work. We hung out at the conference and developed a friendship. We kept in touch, and several months later he got laid off from Thomas Nelson. But the friendship remains, and we have helped each other through life’s ups and downs. I could fill several blog posts about other dear friends I have made at these events. Never discount the value of relationships forged at a conference.
- Your work IS important, so learn how to polish and pitch. I pitched that first book WAY TOO SOON! I cringe now at the work I initially submitted. Learn from the instruction at the conference and find out the right way to polish and then pitch your work. Don’t jump the gun and think you’ve created a bestseller right out of the gate (I resemble that remark).
- Have fun! At that first writers conference I found people just like me—people who like to spend hours talking to the imaginary characters in their head. I discovered that I am not alone in this endeavor. Writing can be a solitary thing, but at conferences you’ll meet people who share the same hopes, dreams, and computer problems as you.
My two favorite writers conferences are Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in Black Mountain, NC (held in May) and Kentucky Christian Writers Conference in Elizabethtown, KY (held every June). Check them out!
PROMPT: Write a one-sentence “pitch” for your Work-In-Progress or for a piece you are thinking about writing. Describe your work in a way that might attract an editor/publisher.
Bonus Pictures (slideshow) from the 2016 ACFW Conference in Nashville, Tennessee – Jennifer & Betty attended!