What to Do (And Not Do) After Attending a Writer's Conference

Literary agent Irene Goodman shares some insider do’s and don’ts about what to do after you attend a writing conference and how to get the most out of your experience.
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Everyone can tell you how to prepare for a writer's conference--how to pitch, how to schmooze, what to wear and what to say. But no one tells you what you should be doing after the conference is over, and how to enhance and get the most out of your experience there. Here are some insider do’s and don’ts:

This guest post is by Irene Goodman. Goodman has been agenting for 37 years, and after a slew of #1 bestsellers and successful authors, it just never gets old. She loves to find new authors and help them to create careers. Originally from the Midwest, she learned early to talk straight and stand up straight. There are seven agents in her agency, The Irene Goodman Agency (all women). They are known for their joyful approach, fierce commitment to excellence and killer shoes.

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Follow her and her agency's stable of agents on Twitter @IGLAbooks.

Post Writer's Conference DO:

Follow up immediately. Like the day you get home or the day after. Not a month later and certainly not a year later. If someone requested ten pages or a few chapters, send them before the dust settles. This means they should be ready to go before you leave your house to go to the conference in the first place. This will accomplish two things: 1) You will be first in line. It’s always good to be first. 2) You will demonstrate that you are prompt, you have drive, and you know how to deliver what was asked.

Post Writer's Conference DON’T:

Wait too long to send your material to an interested agent. If you send requested materials six months later, you run the risk of not being remembered at all. Remember, we have to read a lot of stuff. The personal connection you made will be diluted or lost if you don’t strike while the iron is still hot. It’s not that you can’t send it six months later, but the lack of promptness will signify insecurity and lack of preparation. It makes me feel that you were just floating the idea back at the conference, and that’s not really what pitches are all about.

Post Writer's Conference DO:

Send brief emails to absolutely everyone that you met, including the conference hosts. Add one short personal thing if you can. “Hi, Matilda, I enjoyed meeting you at the Bullfrog conference. You were right—that Merlot was fantastic. Best, Hermione.” That’s it. Seal the connection and file it away. You and Matilda may need to find each other one day, and it may be sooner than you think.

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Post Writer's Conference DON’T:

Never assume that small, seemingly insignificant contacts are not worth pursuing. You just never know. Today’s junior assistants are tomorrow’s editorial directors. I have known some editors for decades, and we first met when we were both assistants. Now we can schmooze like old friends, because we are. We ask about each other’s kids and know each other’s tastes. It all starts somewhere, and that time is now.

Post Writer's Conference DO:

Keep all your notes where you can find them. You learned things at that conference that will come up one day. Sure, there’s a lot you don’t need, but save those golden nuggets because they will add up.

Post Writer's Conference DON’T:

Don’t believe everything you hear. Sorry, folks, but sometimes people lie. I don’t mean that they embellish or spin or misheard. I mean they LIE. Agents know to brace themselves for those calls that come on a Monday after a conference. “Matilda is getting a $2 million dollar contract, and I’m only getting peanuts. Why don’t they love me?” This actually happened to me once. After a quick call to Matilda’s editor, and after that editor stopped laughing hysterically, I was able to call back my author to tell her that she had it wrong. Matilda had flat out lied to her face. It happens. Take what you hear with a grain of salt.

Post Writer's Conference DO:

After your followups have been completed, take a day off. A conference is not a leisurely experience. You have to be “on”, and you strive to make the most of it. That requires energy and work. Most people don’t understand that. They think you’ve been off whooping it up, staying up late, tossing back Cosmos in the bar, and making your dreams come true. And maybe you did all those things, but the reality is that you had highs and lows, one exhilarating experience, one disappointing one, you met some people you liked and other people who made you uncomfortable, and you ate rubber chicken and scrambled eggs made from a mix. Now you are home. The roller coaster has stopped. Take some time to unwind. You may not realize it, but you need it.

Post Writer's Conference DON’T:

In spite of all this, don’t take the whole thing too seriously. Get what you can out of the experience, and move on. If you made a terrible mistake at the conference, it probably wasn’t so terrible and you’re the only one who remembers it anyway. If you feel like Cinderella who just home from the ball—good! Enjoy the feeling.

Conferences provide a lot of opportunity and they are a huge bazaar of people who are connecting, trading favors, hustling, and meeting their peers. You were there, and you were one of them. Give yourself a gold star.

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
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