Thursday, October 8, 2015

Ten ways to succeed at a writing conference

That's right folks, I got to meet Francine Rivers!
Hey! I’m Jessica Everingham, I write romantic comedy, and last month I attended my first ever writing conference. 

The American Christian Fiction Writers conference is probably the biggest Christian fiction event around, and this year’s event kicked off in Dallas in September. 

From my experience, here’s ten ways to succeed at a writing conference:

1.      Chill out. If you have to run to the plane, forget your make up, and go to the wrong hotel (like me), don’t despair. It all works out. I met another author who also went to the wrong hotel, and we traveled to the right location together. Instant friends!

2.      Get there early. I arrived on Wednesday morning, and the conference didn’t start till Thursday afternoon. I met other authors in the hotel restaurant, proofread my writing samples, and got used to the whole conference experience. By the time the rush came on Thursday morning, I wasn’t intimidated by the hundreds of authors descending on the hotel.

3.      Network like crazy, and have a professional-looking business card. I collected almost 90 business cards, and gave away even more. The real point of the conference isn’t the teaching—you can download the conference audio for a fraction of the price of attending a conference. It’s about meeting people. Some of my informal chats later led to opportunities with agents and editors.

4.      Market yourself. I write romantic comedy, so every day I wore a bright, fun dress that looked professional but also stood out. It represented my genre and my style. My business card also has a fun photo on it, so even before I said, “I write romantic comedy”, people had a good idea of what was coming.

5.      Be over-prepared. I’d been told that I would never need a physical copy of my book proposal at the conference, but I brought it anyway. (Over packing is kind of a compulsion). On the last official conference day, an agent I wanted to meet ran a class on proposals. After the class I grabbed mine and took it to him to get his advice. He read it and asked me to send him information on my book.
Aussie writers represent! From left is me, Rose Dee and Narelle Atkins.


6.      Meet as many professionals as you can through appointments. Every attendee has the chance to sign up for two agent and two editor appointments, plus extra paid appointments with authors, mentors and specialist professionals. On the day, you can line up at the appointments desk to get extra meetings. Definitely do that.

7.      Talk to everyone, whether they are the agent/editor you are aiming for or not. Industry professionals talk to one another. In my case, one person talked about my work to another and it lead to a great—and unexpected—opportunity for me.

8.      Go to the after-party. By the time the gala finishes, everyone is tired. Go hang out anyway. You might get to chat with your favourite author over a drink!

9.      Stay late. I attended the post-conference session, which ended at noon, but my flight didn’t leave until 10.30pm. Those hours hanging out in the hotel lobby with the other late-leavers give you a chance to really get to know people. It also gave me a chance meet one of my favourite authors and have an unscheduled meeting with an agent.


10.  Have fun. Don’t pin all your hopes on one agent, editor, or conference. The point is to learn, put yourself out there, grab the opportunities that arise, and trust God with it all.




Jessica Everingham is a 24 year-old Australian who writes romantic comedy for a messy world. Her manuscript, Hating Jeremy Walters, was a finalist in the 2015 My Book Therapy Frasier Award. Jessica loves it when readers and writers connect with her on social media or shoot through an email message. Smoke signals are also acceptable.

13 comments:

  1. You are a real card, girl! Glad you enjoyed it so much. I've also attended the Write For the Soul Conference in Colorado. And I agree with all your points. And you learn so much by simply soaking it all in. Well now, we might soon be seeing another published Aussie writer on the horizon.

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    1. Thanks Rita! :-) working towards it. What was your favourite part of write for the soul?

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    2. Talking with agents was helpful, also the seminars on whatever you wanted to know about he craft. AND just meeting folk from all over. EVERYTHING!

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  2. Wow, sounds like you had a fantastic experienced there Jess and you certainly made good use of every opportunity. And thanks for your tips. Would love to make it to one of those conferences. Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Hope I can attend one with you one day!:-)

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  3. Great post Jessica. Sounds like you had a ball! :) And well done too. Thanks for your tips - all sound well worth taking.

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    1. Thanks Anusha! I certainly did. Have you ever been to a conference? What did you like best about it?

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  4. Some good tips there. Thanks Jessica - and very timely with the Christian Writers Conference coming up in a couple of weeks. Thank you.

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  5. Thanks, Jessica. Sounds like you have a great proactive,positive attitude which is so important not only in liaising with potential agents or publishers but also in promoting your book after it is published. Well done to you!

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    1. Thanks Jo-Anne! It helped that everyone was really friendly and helpful.

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  6. Thanks for your tips Jessica. I'll be putting some into place very soon!

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