Top 5 Things a Writer Learns at a Publishing Conference

Ah, elixir of life: Need Coffee by Jann Alexander ©2014
Ah, elixir of life: I Need Coffee by Jann Alexander ©2014

1. Bring your own coffee.

There may be none. Even if there is, there will never be enough.

2. You will not need all 500 business cards you ordered RUSH.

But a few dozen cards will come in handy when you meet someone you’d like to follow up with, especially if you ask for his first, before shoving yours at him. Then be sure to send a friendly followup email after the conference ends. You may have found a valuable resource, a supporter or even someone you can help out, too. Paying it forward always comes back around.

3. Your carefully-prepared elevator pitch sucks.

Be ready to edit it on the fly. You’ll know after you get blank looks and no followup questions from the first few folks you’ve tried it out on. So start small, with friendly faces:

“Your carefully-prepared elevator pitch sucks.”  Tweet:

Give your pitch to a few volunteers signing in the attendees, or to the sales folks running the exhibitors’ booths, or to anyone—probably another writer—whom you’re standing in line with. You can even ask for hers, and get a few pointers plus a big smile from her. That way, by the time you get to the people who count—the literary agents, the publishers, the editors, the press—you’ll have an elevator pitch ready for your novel that will have them begging for more.

4. Sit in the front row, on the center aisle, at every panel.

That way your burning question will be answered first when the Q&A opens. And you can be first up to thank the speakers at the discussion’s end (always do that anyway, as a courtesy), first up to ask a lingering question or to heap praise upon a speaker and to ask for a business card. You’ve met a valuable industry leader, and you’ll probably want to follow up with her at some point down the road.

5. Always be selling. As in, always be promoting your book.

As in, starting before you even arrived at the conference. Making social media connections a few weeks before the show with the speakers, organizers and attendees gives you instant status when you’re there. You’ll have an opening line for introducing yourself: “We’ve met on Twitter” or “Loved that piece you shared on Google+” and this works especially well if you’ve shared some of their posts with your followers in the weeks leading up to the conference. You’ll find some will actually recognize you! And follow you back. And eventually, even reshare your material.

There you go, you’ve got industry influencers in your social media camp. 

Let’s make it 6 Things. What tip would you add?

Read all the posts in the Path to Publishing series HERE, gleaned from the publishing industry experts at the two-day Publish15 Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Find the sources for this post on Twitter: @publish15con  @austindetails

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6 thoughts on “Top 5 Things a Writer Learns at a Publishing Conference

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  1. Jann this info comes to me with perfect timing – getting very close to self-publishing with Amazon but I will also be approaching agents & publishers. Signed up for your newsletter and will be following your sage advice. Thanks so much – nothing is accidental, is it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nothing! Glad to hear this may have been helpful. I’ll continue this series of posts until I’ve shared whatever I gleaned. Be sure to check out the previous post on Author Platform (you do have one, don’t you?)


  2. For me, it would be “Bring your own tea, as there won’t be any or if there is, it’s unlikely to be good.” 🙂 Thanks for the tips, Jann. Hope you’re not being washed away. Too much flooding here, but none around us.



    1. Thanks for contributing #1a Janet! I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned til I have no more to share—the first post in the series was about Author Platform and why you need one, if you missed it go here:

      Thanks for your visit and your concern. I’m high and thus dry, but my fellow central Texans find there’s flooding everywhere. From my back window I see a road with seven low-water crossings, all closed. As we say a lot here in Texas, and it bears repeating now:



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