Preparing for Conference

By Kathrese McKee | ROW80

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I’m leaving my family. Yes, I’ve planned it all out. Don’t get in my way, and don’t try to change my mind. The buckboard Suburban is packed, there’s a note taped on the refrigerator, and I’m headed out of town, leaving the husband and kids behind to hunt and peck through the pantry for themselves.

Gone to Dallas

I’ve been anticipating this week all summer. Longer than that, actually, because I wanted to go the moment I learned the ACFW conference would be in Dallas this year. No air fare. No taxis. Just head north on I-45–you can’t miss it. The wily ACFW old-timers in my chapter really talked it up.

“Oh, you’ll have so much fun,” they said.

“Just go. You’ll be so glad you did,” they said.

What I didn’t know then–unsuspecting newbie that I was–is that going to conference is work! Difficult, down and dirty work! Here’s what I learned:

Update your business cards (or get your first set printed).

This is harder than you think because it involves a portrait. I am the photographer in the family because I’m camera shy. I don’t “do” portraits. The number one function of a business card at a writers’ conference is to connect your name with your face. Number two would be to provide contact information. The first means little without the second, of course. Not only did I get in front of the camera, but I chose a photo I liked enough to share with the world. If I can do it, so can you.

When you search for a photographer, use the term “head shot.” (It’s not as gruesome as it sounds.) Shop around. Describe how you plan to use the shot. Even though it’s “your” portrait, you don’t own the copyright. You are, in effect, buying the rights to use the photographer’s work. Look for a photographer who advertises his or her services taking pictures for business cards, and make sure you get a copy of the digital file. I make no apologies for pressing my daughter into service and using her work in exchange for her room and board. She’s an excellent photographer, and I’m pleased with the portrait because it looks like me.

Create a one sheet for the novel you are promoting at the conference.

I’ve lost count of the books I’ve read on writing, and not one of them mentioned one sheets. Proposals, yes. One sheets, no. The first time I heard of this magical piece of paper was when my critique partner–my marvelous critique partner–told me I needed one. So, I peppered her with questions and did research on my own. Guess what? It’s one page, front side only, about your book. The copy, the artwork, and the layout represent you and your writing. Make it good. Did I mention that it’s hard work?

Thanks from the bottom of my heart to the authors who took the time to share tips on this topic on their blogs. My critique partner–Ahem! my marvelous critique partner–was a tremendous help, too, providing me with great, real-world examples. Thanks, Laura! Here are a few links I liked on this topic:

Countdown to ACFW: Prep Reminders Part 1 by Angie Dickens

How to Create an Author One-Sheet by Suzanne Hartmann

One Sheet Pitching Contest guidelines posted by Inspire Writers

Prepare your pitch.

I have to do public speaking, too? Sort of. Yet again, more work to do in advance of the conference. Rachelle Gardner boils it down so well that I’ll just give the link to her post on the subject:

Secrets of a Great Pitch by Rachelle Gardner

Have a few copies of your first few chapters ready in standard manuscript form with a cover sheet.

You never know if or when you may be asked to “show your work.” As the Boy Scouts say, “Be prepared.” Some people recommend the first chapter, but I think it makes more sense to go for 2,000-3,000 words, especially if your book has short chapters.

Don’t bring copies of your full manuscript for distribution; a one sheet is far more likely to make it home with an agent or editor than a manuscript or even a writing sample. If someone wants to see your entire manuscript, then mail it after the conference is over. This part of the preparation for conference wasn’t as difficult as the rest of the steps.

Prepare a synopsis.

You’ve given your pitch, maybe you’ve been asked for your first chapter, or maybe you’ve been asked for a synopsis. It’s like you’ve been on a “speed date,” and then, you’re asked out for a casual, let’s-have-coffee-get-to-know-you date. Getting to the synopsis is a step in the right direction, and having one prepared is the mark of a professional. At the very least, having your synopsis prepared will give your confidence a boost.

A synopsis boils the fiction down to the facts, but you’re still supposed to let your voice shine through. Hmm. I wonder how that works? Let’s see: provide the bones of the story, give away the ending, stick to the facts, make it compelling, and be thorough and concise at the same time. Does the work never end? “I’m a doctor, not an engineer.” Thank you, Dr. McCoy. I’m a  fiction writer, not an engineer. Here is a post I found helpful:

The Essence of the Story–Writing a Novel Synopsis by Melissa Corliss DeLorenzo

What have you found to be the most useful preparation for a conference?

ROW80 Progress

I put all my regular goals aside in order to get ready for conference. The deliverables for this week (more like two solid weeks) are listed in the post above.

Dear Reader,

Thanks for reading my post. Please leave a question or comment before you leave. 

Kathrese McKee


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About the Author

Texas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for young adults and anyone else who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. She is committed to exciting stories, appropriate content, and quality craftsmanship.

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