Monday, May 4, 2015

What NOT to Do at a Writers Conference

by, Alycia W. Morales

Conference season is in full swing, and there are several writers who are dreaming of landing an agent, their first publishing contract, publication in their favorite magazine, and so much more.

But sometimes we can get so lost in the excitement that we lose ourselves in it and forget the guidelines we've been taught. Or maybe we really think we can get away with ignoring them...

Having been to several writers conferences as either an attendee or a member of faculty, I've observed a few writers and their forgetfulness. If you want to land that deal, be sure to learn from those writers rather than make the same mistakes.

Don't follow an agent or editor into the bathroom to pitch your book. Be professional. Set up an appointment with them instead. If there are no slots left for a time, ask them if you could meet with them after dinner or during some other break. If they say no, respect that.

Don't get emotional on the agents/editors. This will only freak them out and make them run far away from you. I watched one lady bawl on an agent's shoulder, claiming God had called her to write her book and begging for him to understand. Then she followed him to dinner. She didn't get any closer to her dream by doing that. Neither will you.

Don't tell everyone God called you to write your book, so it must be published. God calls a lot of people to write books. But sometimes we're only meant to write a book for our own healing process. Or maybe to share with our family. Or maybe to self-publish. Or maybe to use for speaking engagements. Not everyone is called to write for major publication. Rather than seek out the agents and editors for your answer to this rather weighted question, seek God's guidance. If it's really meant to be, He'll tell you by having an agent or editor ask to see more rather than have you telling them what His will is.

Don't challenge rejection. Instead, work with it. Ask questions, but ask the right ones. What can I improve on? What would you recommend I do? And then...

Don't ignore what the professionals are telling you. They have been working long enough to know what sells and what doesn't. They also know what needs work and how to improve your writing. Listen to what they are telling you. Pay attention. Then, go home and apply it. If you want to see the day of publication, you will have to work on your writing.

Don't say something you may regret. There are a lot of ears at a writers conference. Word gets around quickly when someone speaks ill of someone in the industry. There's a Proverb that says that even a fool is counted as wise when he keeps his mouth shut. If you don't have something positive to say, don't say it where someone may hear it. It may be wise not to say it at all.

Don't hog the conversation. People will ask you questions and want to hear your answers. You may eat dinner with a faculty member, and you may wish to ask them questions or answer theirs. Please remember to honor the others at your table/in your conversation and give them a chance to speak as well. It's rude to not let others get a word in edgewise.

Don't try to take over the class you're in. Some faculty members will encourage comments and questions during their classes. That isn't liberty to offer your teaching on their subject every chance you get. There isn't enough time in an hour-and-a-half to include every minor detail of a topic. The faculty members are professional enough to know what is most important and what can be left out. And they were the one hired to teach the class, not the conferees. Be respectful.

Don't ignore your fellow conferee. You'll be surprised who may be your editor next year. A lot of people go to conferences to meet with agents and editors and authors. What they don't always realize is that it's good to develop relationships with their fellow attendees. Many lifelong friendships, critique partnerships, prayer warriors have been discovered at writers conferences. And who knows? Maybe that conferee is already a writer/agent/editor and you just don't know it yet...

Q4U: What things have you seen at conferences that you don't recommend conferees do? We'd love to hear your stories! (Please don't mention names.)

What NOT to Do at a Writers Conference via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Conversation Hogs, Must-Have-Input-ers, & other annoying people you may meet at a #writers conference {Click to Tweet}


  1. Just in time, Alycia. I have an idea to pitch at an upcoming conference. I'll remember your list and try not to make a ninny out of myself. :)

    1. Thank you for paying attention, Sherry. That will get you so much further than others. ;)

  2. I recall a story from one acquaintance who was a "first reader" of manuscripts for an agent. She was about to sit down for lunch at a conference when she was literally shoved out of her seat by a woman who said, "I have to talk with this agent." And, of course, the woman wanted to send a manuscript...which was initially read by the woman she dumped.

    1. Oh my goodness! I'm guessing her manuscript didn't make it through...


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