conference · Cynthia D'Alba · Uncategorized

Conference Dos and Don’ts

It’s that time again…writers’ conferences are starting up for 2013. Some of us are old heads, but some of us are relative newbies. There’s always questions about what to do, what to say, what is the worst thing, etc. So let’s go over some basic things you should do (or have) for conference and then some things you might want to not do.

1.  Take professional business cards to conferences.


  • On those cards, have your name (as you want to be known in the writing community), your website and an email address. Personally, I’d rather not get a business card with “Susie Smith writing as Nora Smith.” Too many names. I get confused easily. Use the name you’ll be known as in the community and stick to it. Practice saying your pen name until it rolls off your tongue as easy as your legal name. 
  • Spend the money to have professional card done on card stock.
  • There are a number of online sites (Vista Print, Got Print, etc) where you can get professional looking, but inexpensive, cards.


  • DON’T put personal/private information on a business card, such as your home address and your telephone number. You can always write your number on the back of the card if you need to give it to someone
  • Don’t list WIPs on the back. You may or may not ever see those finished and/or published
  • Don’t make your card too busy. Plain and easy to read is the key
  • Don’t make your cards with Avery Business Cards…the kind you print at home then tear a part. IMHO, newbies do this.

2.  Wear Professional Clothing


  • Wear clothes that project professionalism – slacks, skirts, dresses- but do wear comfortable clothes. 
  • Wear comfortable shoes – You’ll be walking a lot (especially if you go to RWA National.) Nothing ruins your day like blisters and foot pain. Try not to get sucked into the “Everybody wears 3-4 inch high heels that look so cute.”
  • Wear the normal make-up you usually do. Don’t feel pressure to “slather” it on!


  • Don’t wear shorts, sloppy clothes, sweat pants, etc to workshop. (Just an FYI – I remember one YA author who showed up at her mother’s presentation IN HER PJ’s, hair barely combed, no make-up. Bad impression. I’ll never buy this person’s books. If she doesn’t care about making a good impression, why should I care what happens to her career?)
  • Don’t wear clothes that are too tight or too revealing (like if you move an inch, we’ll all know if you prefer bikini or Brazilian wax jobs!)
  • Don’t wear costumes (unless it part of your presentation.)

3.  Meet New People


  • Sit with strangers at lunch tables or in the bar; You never know who you might meet. The idea is to expand your contact and friendships within the writing community.
  • If you are at table and there are open chairs, invite someone who is looking for a place to sit to join you
  • If you attend a particularly good workshop, do take a minute to compliment the presenter.
  • Be sure to introduce yourself and exchange cards. On the back of the card you collected, write the date and where you met this person. Trust me. All the strange faces become a blur after a while. And then when you look through these cards a couple of years later, you’ll know where you collected that card.
  • Have a 25 word description of your latest book. No more than than. Be ready to tell someone what your book is about IF THEY ASK


  • Don’t sit with the same people all the time. You already know them! 
  • Don’t approach editors and agents in the bathroom!
  • Don’t pitch your book in the hall or at lunch or in the bar unless the person you are talking to asks!
  • Don’t go on and on about your book at a meal table. Great way to get people to tune you out!

4. Be ready for your pitch appointment.


  • Arrive at the location for the pitches at least 15 minutes early. 
  • Practice  your pitch with a friend.
  • It’s okay to take with you on a 3 x 5 card. Sometimes minds just go blank for no reason. You might need to refresh your memory.
  • Remember that the agent or editor is wanting you to do well.
  • Also, unless you pitch to the really WRONG person (i.e. you pitch an erotic romance to Thomas Nelson editor), most agents and editors will ask you to send something. It’s impossible in a pitch session to know if someone is a good writer.
  • When you first sit down, offer your business card. Smile.
  • If you have an appointment but have decided that you don’t want to pitch but you do want to meet that agent or editor, you can certainly keep the appointment and ask questions. What is she seeing too much of? What does she see as the future of your genre? It’s all about making a contact.


  • Don’t bring a print out of your manuscript. It’s a rare thing when an agent or editor will ask for pages on the spot. If they do, you can always send requested material via email. 
  • Don’t stay past your appointed time. I’ve seen monitors almost have to pull people out of chairs!
  • Don’t miss your appointment! Agents and Editors have a list of who is supposed to be there and at what time. A no-show is a bad way to start out a relationship.

Okay! That just 4 things. What suggestions can you offer writers going to conference this year?


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