I went to LTUE last week with a writing friend, Christine Haggerty. You should read her books. She’s brilliant. Not only do I adore her writing, but she dragged me to a conference where I learned a lot, met a lot of people, and fell in love with a writing community.
With that said, here are the top tips I have for writers from this conference. Aside from the obvious one of go to a conference. Preferably LTUE so we can all hang out. It’s also a super chill conference and it’s priced right.
“Before you go” list
1. Business cards
Before you head off to Salt Lake City (actually Provo), get some business cards. I had 250 through my publisher. I gave away around 20 and got back even more than that.
Business cards show you care. They show you are motivated. They show you expect something to happen with writing and you treat it like a business venture. Have business cards.
Vista Prints does a good job. When I run through the ones from my publisher, this is who I will be using. There are countless other places where you can get 250 business cards for a low price. Do it.
2. Practice your pitch
There is a fear about pitching, especially the elevator pitch. Have a ten second pitch. This should compare your work to something out there and commonly known.
“Drowning the Sands of G’desh is an Arabian Nights’ inspired epic fantasy about a holy war. You follow a soldier, prophet, and djinn assassin.” Bam. I do still stutter or pause when saying it because I get nervous. Either way, people know what I’m selling from that pitch, and who doesn’t want to read about a djinn assassin?
Grow from there. When I follow up I talk about how the soldier is uncovering a corrupt government, the prophet is nervous about leading his people, and the djinn assassin is learning there’s more to life than money. One guy told us he had prepped for all of his books a ten to sixty second pitch. This is tied with business card as to most important prep work for a conference.
3. Pick out your panels and have a goal in mind
When I planned out the panels, I wanted to emphasize business development. No matter what, a panel on marketing, sales, queries, social media, and so on won. On Wednesday I hunted down every one of these and wrote them in my notebook which was my itinerary.
After that, I really wanted to be more well versed in world building, so I hunted those panels down. From there, whatever looked fun.
I did not skip a single developmental panel. They were too important. For the sake of networking, I did end up skipping some of the other panels. However, if you go in with a goal and plan, you will get the most out of the conference. This is all about being prepared so you’re not playing catch up once there.
At the Conference
This is the single most important thing you can do while at the conference. This is why you need business cards. Talk to people. Anyone there. You see someone chilling at a table? Go talk to them. Yes, some of them will stare at you with cold dead eyes. that’s the cue to walk away. Many of them are waiting for you to speak to them. Many of them, ones not published, have business cards and websites. If you are not published or freshly published, these are your peers.
I cannot tell you how many times I made a friend only to find them on a panel the following day. Now, mind you, I also know LTUE is far more accessible than most conferences as far as panelists, but even the big names were immensely friendly and helpful.
2. Put them first
Networking is great, but I can’t emphasize enough to talk about them first. Ask the person you’re conversing with what they’re working on, who they like, what panels they’re seeing. Talk about them. People love that. People love to talk about them.
Remember that a lot of the people there are as uncomfortable as you. However, they are used to a scary world that paints writers as trivial. It is a world that rips them down. Build them up. They will remember you. Usually.
Despite putting the person you’re talking to first, know that you’re likely on about even footing as far as fame and fortune in the literary world. You wrote a pitch. Pitch it. Give them the brief pitch. If they are interested, tell them more. Ask what books interest them and find out if this is in their wheelhouse. Not every book is for every reader.
Do not be afraid of talking about your novel. If it’s not a novel, then your short story, novella, novelette (I still stand with this is a pretend word), or WIP.
4. Take notes
You are overloaded with information. You will forget most of it. Take notes. Write on business cards why you took the card. Put down ideas. Come back to it when you return home and decompress. But no, you will not remember everything you wanted to. There’s simply too much in too little time.
1. Review notes and business cards (those things you of course remembered to bring)
Give yourself some time to decompress. A day? I spent a day with family and day at a funeral. With family. It was a bitter sweet decompression.
You have your notes, your business cards, and your ideas. Start filtering through them. Figure out what you want to do with business cards. Those which are unimportant at the time, put in a file. Those requiring action in the next week, put on the side.
2. Create an action plan
You should really be doing this the entire convention/conference. When you learn something you like, you should note it down as something to do when you get home. For me, it’s time management.
My action plan is to work on literary pursuits for four hours a night. One hour will be my novel, another on short stories, another on marketing and maintaining social media, and the final hour will be reading. I know this isn’t realistic. I know I cannot maintain this. I also know some days I will end up writing my novel for two hours and I won’t do social media that day. Some days I’ll read for two hours.
I also came up with a plan on releasing short stories/novellas every other month and a novel every nine to twelve months. I actually think I can pop novellas quicker than every other month, but I’m starting at that point.
There are countless other tips I was given that I will be utilizing. I still haven’t even started going through the cards, these are just from the briefest of notes.
3. Keep in touch
You’ve met all these people. You shared nerd moments. You will see each other again in a year. But why wait that long?
Before I got home I had Facebook friend requests. I plan on reaching out with some of my own, along with LinkedIn. I have a list of people I want to ask for reviews, along with blogs I’ll be following. Get an idea of where they compare to you, and make the appropriate forays. Some of the people I only met in passing, or I watched them on a panel. I’ll follow their blogs. Others, we really discussed writing, swapped books, and so on. Facebook besties it is.
4. Don’t stop moving
You did it. You went hard, learned a lot, and came back with Santa’s sack filled with ideas. Do not let that sack atrophy. As time goes the gifts in there will disappear. They will disappear because you removed them, or they will disappear because you waited too long to act on them. Act on them.
Without going into the individual lessons, this is what I learned on how to approach the event. A lot of this I learned through the food service industry, where I still go to training, meetings, conferences, conventions, and so on. It’s amazing how different lines of work can cross over.
So find a conference and dive in. If you’re looking for one I know is awesome, check out LTUE because it’s awesome. How many times do I need to plug that? Did I mention I learned a lot about marketing? Shameless marketing.
Speaking of, don’t forget about the novel with the djinn assassin. Because how much more bad ass does it get than that?
Good luck with your writing!