Friday, March 14, 2014

Janette Rallison's Tips On How to Get the Most Out of a Writing Conference.

So you’ve signed up for conference and you want to know how to get your money’s worth. My advice: Don’t worry about money. As soon as you sell your manuscript, you’ll be super rich.

Ha ha! That’s some author humor for you. (We need to find ways to amuse ourselves, or otherwise we’d cry, and you know how awkward that is. No one likes a writer who is sobbing during lunch.)

Here are 10 tips to help you get the most out of conference.

1)      Come with a learning attitude. If you think your manuscript is perfect, and you’re just at conference to land an agent, you’re going to miss out on some great opportunities to improve your craft. And you can always improve your craft. I’ve had 21 books published, and I’m still learning new things about writing.

2)      Don’t skip classes that deal with other genres. Even if you’re writing science fiction, you can still benefit from a romance class. A romance might be just the thing your robot wars book needs. Ditto if you’re writing romance. Many romances could be improved with a good robot war.  Someday you might want to write YA, or you might want to pump up the suspense or horror in your current work in progress. Check out other genres.

3)      Don’t stalk the agents and editors. Yes, it’s fine to talk to them. Yes, you can ask them questions. They come to conference to help writers and to find new projects—hopefully yours! But be professional. As much as I enjoy hearing editors’ bad-writer stories (One of my editors had someone pitch to her at her mother’s funeral.) you don’t want to become one of those stories. You can’t sell your manuscript anyway—it will always be the manuscript that sells itself.

4)      Send your manuscript to the editors or agents after conference—after you’ve incorporated the things you’ve learned at conference to make your book better. Don’t print out your manuscript and give it to agents or editors at conference. They can’t carry a lot of stuff on the airplane, so they won’t take it—and a bunch of trees somewhere will cry at the paper wasted.

5)      Do stalk the authors. Okay, not really. What I mean is that authors come to conference because for some weird reason we feel compelled to help our competition. It’s probably self-defeating behavior, but we do it anyway. We love other writers. Writers are a special breed of people, and we like connecting with each other. Don’t feel nervous or intimidated to talk to an author. They love hearing that you read their book, or liked their cover, or whatever. Our kids refuse to believe we’re cool, so we enjoy meeting people who think we are.

6)      Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Frequently presenters leave time at the end of their class for questions. Don’t be shy about asking. In fact, don’t be shy at all. If you want to be a successful author, you’ll need to learn to get up in front of people and speak.

7)      Check out the book store. I’m not just telling you this because I don’t want to lug boxes of my books back through the airport. (Although I don’t.)  If you want to be a writer, you need to read. Reading helps you figure out what works and what doesn’t. Every time you don’t finish a book, ask yourself what the author did wrong, and don’t do that thing. If you like a book, reread it. Study it. Mark it up. Also, most authors in the bookstore discount their books, so you can find some great deals. I have it on good authority that Christmas will come this year, as well as all the birthdays you celebrated last year. Books make wonderful gifts. And hey, if you buy one of my books that is half price, your loved ones will think you spent twice as much money as you really did. Score.

8)      Take notes, and be sure to review those notes later as you work on your manuscript. There’s too much to take in during conference and you’ll forget a lot of what the teachers said. But if you’ve got good notes, they’ll be able to help you all year long.

9)      Go to Janette Rallison’s (C.J. Hill) classes. She’s super awesome. Just saying.

10)   Enjoy! Have fun. How often do you get to hang out with a group of people who think that hearing voices is a perfectly acceptable way to work on dialogue? We understand each other. We are a tribe. Make friends. Look into the support/critique groups that are available, such as Authors Incognito, (anyone who goes to conference is eligible to join) LDStorymakers, (anyone who is LDS and has published with a traditional publisher is eligible to join) ANWA (LDS women writers) or Indie Author Hub (LDS self-published authors.) Or start your own critique group with people you make at conference. Have a great time!

Find out more about Janette Rallison and CJ Hill books here. She's a multiple Whitney finalist and well-worth reading. One of my personal favorite authors, actually.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jenny Proctor Tells You How to Get the Most Out of Your Conference. Don't Listen To Her.

Are you feeling ready for this year’s conference? If you’re taking advice from ALL the right people, you and your critique partner have your matching bedazzled denim jackets ready, you’ve alphabetized your class list and committed to attend every sixth class, and you’ve got your stilettos and garlic flavored breath mints already packed. Those are all very important steps, but there’s one more thing that will make or break your Storymaker experience. Getting the most out of your weekend? It all comes down to ATTITUDE.

I need you to trust me on this one. I know as much about writing conferences as I do about sports analogies. If you want to kick that soccer ball and make a home run? You need to trust my advice.

Here’s the secret: Having a good time at Storymakers isn’t about learning from others. I know, right? Sounds like crazy talk. But seriously. Have you taken a look at the instructor list lately? I mean, Brandon Sanderson has published a lot of books, but what does he REALLY know about writing? His experience can’t be all that different from getting published in a 4th grade poetry anthology, and since you totally managed that when you were 9, I’m pretty sure you know just as much as he does. Even if you don’t, remember, ATTITUDE. Getting far in life, scoring those three pointers on the baseball diamond, it’s all about confidence. No one needs to know you’re making stuff up! I mean, I only had to lie to Melanie Jacobson four times before she asked me to share my wisdom with all of you. And here I am!

My best Storymaker success tips? Plan in advance. Pick your classes ahead of time, and make sure you write down lots of notes. It would probably be best to sit in the front of each class and raise your hand frequently. Maybe just leave it up the ENTIRE time the instructor is talking.( I’ve heard Eddie Schneider in particular really loves this.) You might even just ask if you can take a few minutes to share what you know and then maybe inadvertently (except entirely on purpose) forget to look at the clock and hijack the entire class. Remember, YOU KNOW EVERYTHING. Silly Josie Kilpack. She wasn’t going to say anything useful anyway! The world needs to benefit from YOUR wisdom!

Of course, it isn’t just about classes. Many rooms have microphones—microphones that can be a key part of your path to Storymakers greatness. Grab them at every available opportunity, during meals, during keynote remarks (I’m sorry, Orson, are you using that? I’ll just be a minute) even during the Whitney Awards and LET THE WORLD HEAR YOUR AWESOME.  If microphones aren’t really your thing, you can be just as effective inserting yourself into every conversation possible, particularly those that look private. This is about YOU, remember?

As for agents and editors, remember... they're lucky to be in your presence. You have so much to offer! You wrote poetry in the 4th grade! It’s a big deal for agent Dan Lazar to get to meet you and you should definitely tell him that. Approach as quickly as your stilettos will allow, smile a big garlicky smile, and say with all the confidence and attitude you can muster, “Dan, it’s so nice for you to meet me.”

Editor's note. Jenny is the author of The House at Rose Creek, a Whitney finalist this year in General Fiction. But I mean it: don't listen to Jenny. For other helpful, and okay, not so helpful tips, check out these blog posts too:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Networking for Real by Melanie Jacobson

First, don't listen to Shallee. At least not about this, okay? Don't stalk. It makes people twitchy, and you know . . . all police call-y and whatnot.

You can achieve better results with less effort, people. And that totally sounds like a tagline for a laundry detergent. So maybe that's what I'm giving you: the new and improved detergent for helping you network.

What? That made no sense? Hang in there. The rest of this post will. Probably. (And if you read nothing else, skip to the end because there's some key information highlighted down there that you need)

"Networking" is a fancy way of saying "making friends." Just like real life, getting-them-to-do-stuff for you is not the point of making friends. The point of making friends is . . . well, it's having friends! This is the greatest gift that attending your first writing conference will give you: You will walk out with a feeling of, "These are my people." And that will feel really, really good.

How to network 
You will sit in a giant ballroom with at least 500 other people. The cool thing is, you will automatically have a HUGE thing in common with ALL of them. The fact that you both write--or want to--is an automatic icebreaker with every single person you meet. See how easy this is going to be already? So, when you plop down in a classroom, don't choose the seat that isn't near anyone. (Also don't sit right next to someone if there are only three people in the room. It's weird. It freaks me out when people do that in movie theaters. Why, people? Why?) Give yourself a one seat buffer, or even a one row buffer if that makes you feel better, then turn to the nearest person and smile. If you're bold, say "Hi." And just ask basic questions. Where are they from? What do they write? What do they think of the conference so far? Every single one of those questions will lead to more opportunities for questions as you find common ground. Pretty soon you're having a conversation. If you'd like to keep in touch, offer them a business card or ask if they have one.

It's great if you want to sit with friends at meals and general sessions, but make sure your table includes some unfamiliar faces and get to know them too. And be gracious when people ask to sit at your table. Rosalyn Eves asked to sit at my table last year and I didn't know her and now I love her. And I have another great friend, Kathy, who I met the same way. And several other examples of people who it turned out wrote in the same genre as I do, or loves the same authors as me, or in one case, even lived in my same city and that made me so happy since I'm not in Utah.

Who you want to network with kind of depends on where you are in your writing career.

Novice writers 
You're just starting out. Everything is new, exciting, bewildering, and often overwhelming. You may have one completed manuscript, or might still be working toward that. You probably don't have a critique group yet.
Who you should network with: other writers, published or not.
Why: You will find kindred spirits. I promise. From the struggles with your craft to the specific challenges you have in fitting your writing into your life to trying to shape a good story to your obsessive reading, you'll find someone who experiences those same challenges/feelings/obsessions. And you will immediately feel less at least 50% less crazy. And slightly relieved because now you'll know you're not the only weirdo on the planet--there's at least two of you!
Who you don't need to network with: agents/editors, etc. You're not there yet, and that's fine. It's not a race. It's interesting to learn from them in classes on points of craft, and really helpful to get that high-level perspective, but I promise you, it's not a big deal if you don't talk to them at this conference. Your work isn't ready yet, maybe isn't even finished yet, and it will be some time before you need publishing connections. What you really need are friends who are in the trenches. They will understand your struggles, talk you down from the ledge, critique your work for you, and just be a good thing in your life.

Experienced writers
You're not published yet, but you've got a couple of completed manuscripts. You may have a critique partner/group. You're looking to publish.
Who you should network with: other writers. See above. But also: industry professionals. Find published writers who are with the agent or publisher you're interested in. Ask them about their experiences, what they like and how they went about getting that agent/editor. DON'T ask them to read your manuscript. It's incredibly time-consuming to do right, and for a million reasons, even in a very best case scenario, you're putting that writer in a super awkward position. But DO ask them for what resources they like to use, like what conferences they like, blogs they read, books on craft they've enjoyed. That's what made their writing better, and they'll be happy to share those resources with you. For agents/editors, ask them about the kind of work they're looking for, and what they've read lately and loved. 99% of the time, the conversation will lead to them asking about your work. Have a short, simple CONVERSATIONAL description of what you write ready, but you're not trying to sell them on your book right then. If they're interested, they'll ask for it. If not, don't push it. You'll leave the wrong kind of impression.

Published writers
 You've got a book (or more) out there. But network with other writers anyway. Especially with other published writers who again, and I can't emphasize this enough, will make you feel less crazy. Because if you are crazy, it's a shared hallucination, and that's comforting. Also, on a selfish note, as the conference co-chair I hope you'll be generous in your time with aspiring writers, answer questions patiently, and generally send good vibes out into the writerverse. But on a practical note, you never know when you're talking to an influential blogger who has the ability to put your book in front of a new audience.

How we're going to help you: WE'VE BUILT IN NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOU, no matter where you are on your path. ON FRIDAY NIGHT after the keynote address, we have three different events. You can go to any or all of them. First, we have our Publisher Mingle where representatives of several publishing companies (Deseret Book, Covenant, Whiskey Creek Press, Clean Teen Publishing, and more) will be on hand to answer questions about their companies and what they're looking for. These aren't pitch sessions; this is much less formal, and it's a great opportunity for you to ask questions about these publishers, how they work, what they want, and if they're a good fit for you.

Next, we have our Genre Mingle. We'll have tables, maybe even whole ROOMS, divided into genres so you can sit and chat with other middle grade writers, or mystery writers, or romantic comedy writers, or national market writers, or LDS fiction writers, or what have you. And you can move from genre to genre just chatting if you write in more than one. This will be unstructured and free-flowing so you can chat at your leisure. This might be a good opportunity to find new critique partners or new authors to read.

And we'll have the Authors Incognito Mingle. Authors Incognito is a group of aspiring writers who have attended at least one Storymakers conference. They cheer and support each other and are in general wonderful, friendly, helpful people writing in all kinds of genres. 

Mainly, guys? Just relax and enjoy this. Ask thoughtful (but not overly probing) questions. Answer questions that people ask you. You will meet new people. You will make new friends. You will feel less crazy. You will be glad you came!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Three Best Networking Strategies EVER by Shallee McArthur

Conferences—you learn cool stuff, you meet swell people, you stalk industry pros. Today, I’d like to help you stalk with STYLE. There are really only three strategies you need to know to get the most out of your conference networking experience.

Strategy 1: Be Omniscient
This strategy works best if you have a specific target (or maybe two) that you really want to network with. Maybe it’s the dream agent that you absolutely know is your agent-y soul mate, or the famous author you want to someday blurb your book. If this is the case, your goal is simple. Before the conference, learn everything you can about them.

I’m not talking Google, here, folks. You need background checks. Maybe even a private investigator who can report their every move to you before they get to the conference. This provides you ample opportunities to learn important things like their bathroom habits so you have a better chance of catching them somewhere you can chat.

And make sure they know just how important they are to you! Show them the cute, telephoto-lens shots you got of them at their favorite coffee place, and impress them with how much you know about their personal history. If you really want to prove to this person that they’re your soul mate, it takes THIS level of dedication.

Strategy 2: It’s All About You
This strategy is perfect for the person who aims for the broader goal of meeting as many high-powered writerly people as possible. Here, you’re aiming for quantity, so you don’t have time to go to Strategy 1 depths.

So just don’t bother at all. In the end, this is about you and your book and not these lovely people you can use. You’ll want to make sure you stand up before each class ends, so you can get to the front to rush the presenter the minute they finish talking. Make sure you have a detailed synopsis of your book memorized, and have some tidbits of your life artfully embellished so you come across as someone THEY want to know.
You’ll also want to make sure to interrupt any conversations important authors, agents, and editors are having if you happen to see them as you walk by. This will ensure they remember you. You can’t pass up any and all opportunities presented to you, no matter what else the person may be doing.

Strategy 3: Kill the Competition
When it comes to meeting other writers at conferences, never forget that they are the ENEMY. You are coming face to face with the competition, and this kind of networking requires delicacy. You want them to understand you and your book are better, but you also want other writers to think you’re their friend, just in case you need them for something later.

Let them talk first—but not for too long. Be sure to interrupt to tell them how your book is the same genre (but better), you love blogging too (and your blog is better), and you’re also a plotter (but you plot better). This way, they relate to you on all the ways you’re the same, but they understand YOU will be the one to reach publishing fame first.

So there you have it, my friends. Three strategies to meet any and all networking needs. Honestly, it makes you wonder why conferences even offer classes at all, instead of simply lining up industry experts at the front of the room for us to mob at our leisure.

After all, it’s who you know, not what, right?

Shallee McArthur originally wanted to be a scientist, until she discovered she liked her science best in fictional form. When she’s not writing young adult science fiction and fantasy, she’s attempting to raise her son and daughter as proper geeks. A little part of her heart is devoted to Africa after volunteering twice in Ghana. She has a degree in English from Brigham Young University and lives in Utah with her husband and two children. Her YA sci fi, THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE, debuts from Sky Pony Press in November of 2014.