In keeping with the annual Romance Writers of America tradition of many authors I’d like to share a few things that I learned at the writers conference this year. This list should serve as a reminder to some that we’re not alone in this business. It’s important to give back where you can, even if you’re facing 3 book deadlines by Christmas… I hope that someone finds this list helpful and I’ll probably do another list in the future. However, here are 5 things that you can do to help yourself at a writer’s conference. You’ll notice a theme though, each of these items also helps someone else.
1. Always put your logo image on your conference badge, so others can recognize you. I don’t know about you, but some of those headshots posted on Twitter and Facebook don’t really look like the authors when they come to events. For example, I had my insanely curly hair straightened for my picture. (My oldest nephew still argues with me that it’s not me in the picture…) Or, like me, you might be using a company image as your profile picture. Mine is of legs and red boots with my name on it. It was done for me by Kym Roberts, who is an absolute sweetheart!! I added that to my badge this year at RWA and more people recognized me by that image than my name. It made me feel special and it also helped with making new friends, networking, being invited to special events, etc. Some people couldn’t remember my name afterwards, but they saw my image on Twitter or Facebook and connected with me that way. Think of the logo image as a back up. If someone doesn’t remember your name they’ll remember the logo, and if someone doesn’t remember your logo they’ll remember your name. Something amazing might happen too… they might see your logo and decide that you’re they’re tribe.
2. Go to as many events as you can, but only ignore requests for your attention if the workshop isn’t recorded. The reason for this is it’s urgent that you network and re-establish connections that may have been lost in the year since the last conference. That is one of your top priorities because if you can’t talk to people then you’re going to lag behind. If you make new friends, re-establish old friendships, and learn new trends you’re going to have a better conference experience. Besides, if the workshop is recorded then you can listen to it over and over again later on. (You should be getting the recordings and listening to them, even if you weren’t able to make the conference.) If it’s not, then you’re potentially missing out on a great chance to learn something new that might help you advance your business. Becoming a better writer/advancing your business is the main reason you’re attending the conference after all.
3. Make yourself memorable by helping others. It only takes 5 minutes of your time to sit down with authors that will be pitching for the first time and help them to practice/re-write their pitches. You never know, you might help someone find the wording that makes them more at ease with their pitch and they might get a request out of it. If you can help someone else advance then that’s just as important as advancing yourself because they never forget it and it makes you want to cheer them on twice as much. If you’re not able to dedicate the time at the conference to help someone, then give them your business card and tell them to email you. Always tell them that if they don’t hear from you within a certain amount of time after they send their email to follow up with another email or a Facebook private message (pm). You should try to answer their email within two weeks of returning from the conference, but we all know that the post conference flair of creative spark is insane. Also, life happens. For example, this year’s conference ended on July 30th. On August 3rd I was in a car wreck. That’s put me behind on answering emails, marketing, writing, etc. Now I’m trying to play catch up and it’s hard for me to find the emails that I need to respond to. I’m really hoping that I find them, but if not then a follow up email would be lovely! Everyone’s busy though, so we need to make the effort to locate those emails, respond to them, and enjoy watching other’s journeys. That’s our responsibility and it makes us memorable.
4. Don’t let newer authors sit by their books by themselves. If it’s a free book and the authors are signing it then it’s not going to hurt you to ask for a copy. It takes 3 minutes… and that’s at most, sometimes it only takes 1 minute. It’ll brighten the author’s day and possibly make their entire conference a thousand times more enjoyable. It’ll also give you a book that you can read or give away to your readers if you get it signed generic. I personally don’t see anything wrong with getting a book signed generic, as long as the person getting it isn’t selling it. It must be given away if I give it to you. The point of it is that even if you’re not going to read the book someone is. It’s not for you to profit off of, but if you give it away then you’re furthering the reach of an author. That makes a newer or not as well known author feel like they’ve achieved a tiny success. That’s the point of all of the hard work: the months (possibly years) of writing the first draft, the edits, the re-writes, the rejection notices, more re-writes, etc. When someone asks for one of their books from them… it’s Christmas.
5. Always remember that it’s about us, not me. Whether you’re a new author or a famous household name author there is one thing to keep in mind… your business may be your business; however, there are people that work really hard to support your business. That makes it their business too. Don’t tell people that you do it all on your own if you don’t. If you have a cover artist then put a mention to the cover artist in the acknowledgements section of your book, share their website occasionally, and mention them as much as you can. Same thing with your editor. If you’re an indie author and you use a contract editor that means they rely upon word of mouth, same as you. If they do a good job for you then tell someone. If they’re still learning, but have potential to be great then help them by showing them what you’d like to see more of. If you use an uploader that does a good job then tell people. Always give people an opportunity to put their best foot forward. If they’re still learning then that’s fine, you can help them learn. However, don’t lie about doing all of the work if you don’t do all of the work. That’s not fair to them and it sets you up for failure because you’re taking their success away from them. The point is to lift others up, and that’s sorely needed right now; however, it has to be done the right way. It’s done through servant leadership, mentoring, coaching, and taking the time to teach others. Kelsey Browning has recently been following this pathway by teaching others creative processes, answering how to questions, etc. She has opened herself up to servant leadership and it has made a difference in the lives of others. It’s amazing what can be accomplished if we just try to build others up instead of tearing them down…