Making The Most Out Of Author Or Writers Conferences

At some point in an author’s life, whether it’s when he or she first starts thinking about writing a book or after the book is finished, an author may find him- or herself attending an author, writing, or publishing conference. Most authors will attend these conferences in hopes of learning how to write, publish, or market their books, but they often miss out on the most important aspect of the conference. Networking!
On the surface level, a conference is designed to give information to those in attendance, but while you can go and soak up all that information, many past conference attendees will tell you that you may come away filled with hopes and dreams and even a plan on what to do, but few of us follow through on using all the information we learned. The problem, often, is because after the conference, we have nothing or no one to motivate us to keep working on our goals.
If anyone needs friends, it’s an author. We authors like to think of ourselves as introverts, solitary individuals sitting in our offices, glued to computers or paper, pouring out words. But no matter how well you write and how hard you work at it, the magic just doesn’t develop if you have no friends with whom to share your dreams and goals and hold you accountable. In fact, because authors tend toward being introverted, they need friends all the more. And an authors conference is the perfect place to find those people and keep the motivation going long after the conference.
Sure, you can have an agenda to attend the conference’s historical fiction workshop or the session on e-books, and you can have your list of prepared questions to ask the presenter, but how about your social networking agenda? You want more than information. You want to go fishing for people who will help you and whom you can help so you can mutually promote your books and learn from each other. So before you attend that conference, first make sure you draw up an agenda of your goals, and second, make sure you add the following to your list:
Bring Books to Display: Let me explain here that the biggest mistake authors make when they first attend conferences is they think they are going to sell their books there. That’s a mistake because all of the authors there want to sell their books, but they aren’t there to buy books. Don’t worry about selling your books. In fact, give them away. If someone wants to buy your book, ask instead to trade books with him or her, or if the person doesn’t have a book to trade, give the book for free in exchange for a promise to post a review of the book on Amazon-it just needs to be a few sentences. And even if you trade books, make an agreement that you and the other author will review each other’s books. The important thing is to display books so people notice them, and then use the books not as products, but as gifts for making friends. After all, money might not buy friends, but if anyone can buy an author, who most likely loves to read, it’s a book.
Arrive Early to Mingle: I know-I hate the word “mingling” too. You don’t need to mingle. You need to make friends. The more people you can talk to and be friendly with in the beginning, the better off the day will go because you’ll have friends and allies from the start. Be the first in line to register, and then talk to people until the conference starts.
Listen to Others: You want to tell people about your book, but you don’t want to sound like a walking commercial. Don’t start out saying, “I’m John Smith, author of… ” Instead, say, “Hi, I’m John. Are you an author?” Most likely the person is. Ask questions about his or her book. People love to talk about themselves and they’ll be flattered that you’re interested, and that, in turn, will interest them in you and your book.
Ask Questions During Sessions: You came prepared with your list of things you want to know, so go ahead and ask questions. But don’t ask just for the answers. Ask with the intent of making people remember you-just make sure you’re not remembered for monopolizing the presenter’s time or asking too many questions. Don’t be afraid to break the ice by being the first to ask a question, but then make sure others have time as well. Listen to others’ questions, and approach them later with comments like, “I think I might also have an answer to your question” or “So, it sounds like you also write romance novels. Tell me about them.”
Lunchtime: For introverted authors, lunchtime can be the scariest part of the conference. I have known some authors who retreat to their cars and eat bagged lunches. Don’t do that. Go to the lunchroom or restaurant with the rest of the group. By lunchtime, you should have talked to at least two or three people so you can feel like you are friendly enough to have lunch with them. If you’re daring, though, find someone you don’t know yet to have lunch with. Try to avoid eating at a table with just one other person, and instead, look for four or six other people. You want to make as many contacts as possible.
Book Tables: Make sure you look at the book tables. You may not have time to look at the books much, but collect business cards that are there for give away, sign up for email lists, or collect information for other events.

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