Remember that old, world domination game, Risk? My husband used to love that game. I never could beat him, and it wasn't until we'd been married several years that I realized it was because he ALWAYS cheated! LOL!
Writers can learn a lot from game that's all about taking over the world—sketching out a plan of attack, for example, or utilizing your forces in a way that maximizes impact. And let’s not forget targeting your enemy and striking while they’re weak.
Armed with these tools, I attended my first writer’s conference in Houston, Texas, in 2003. You may remember me. I was the one skulking around like a CIA agent on a covert op trying to land all the best appointments.
I'm not kidding.
First day of the conference, I sat next to the door like a chameleon, one eye on the appointment sign up sheet, the other on the editor I had targeted. When the conference hostess announced the sign-ups were open, I bolted out of my chair like a bat...out of my chair...and made a mad dash to the wall. I think I ran over someone. Not positive of that. It just seems I vaguely remember hearing, "Please get off my face."
Oh, what I’ve learned since then. No longer do I skulk in hallways or lurk around elevator doors, waiting to ambush some poor, unsuspecting editor. Instead, I looked for ways to make others feel comfortable. I seek out those whose earnest faces show their anxiety and pain. In other words, I make friends instead of contacts. I schedule prayer times instead of appointments. I visit over dinner, instead of strategizing.
I’m going to my seventh writer’s conference later this year. Time and necessity (who wants to pay the extra baggage charge for suitcase full of stuff you won't use??) have helped me streamline the things I need to take with me into a few key articles:
1. Up-to-date, professional looking business cards. An author photo on the front is nice. Remember you'll be meeting LOTS of people. Chances are you won't be able to remember everyone, so having a picture to put with the name is a big help. Other things to include on your business card: phone number, email address, website or blog.
2. Pitch Sheet. A pitch sheet is a document with a one sentence summary of your story, a paragraph blurb, and a short author bio. This is NOT for you to hand out (trust me...nobody else wants to pay an extra baggage charge, either). This page is simply to help you remember everything you want to say in your editor/agent appointment. Now, if someone asks (and they probably won't ask), but if they do, you might want to keep two or three copies of your pitch sheet on hand to give out. But the probably won't ask.
3. Marketing goodies. If you are published, bring plenty of freebies to give away. Good items to bring are bookmarks, postcards, pens with your book title printed on them, post-it notes with your book title printed on them, or maybe even candy with specially made wrappers.
4. ONE hard copy of your proposal...and if you're really optimistic, your manuscript. Okay, I know we all want to think that once an editor or agent gets wind of our idea, they are going to want the complete manuscript right then and there. (That's right, just slide me a contract across the table cuz this book is GOOD...) Would you like to know how many times that has actually happened? To me--never. To JK Rowling--once. Maybe twice.
Apart from these things, you can pretty much figure out what you'll need. Think youth camp: toothbrush, deodorant, shampoo...
And the world domination plan? Yeah...leave that at home.