Sunday, July 27, 2014

That Post-Conference Pay-Off

You came. You saw. You conquered . . . almost.

For writers, conferences like International Thriller Writers' Thrillerfest, Romance Writers of America's National Conference, and Killer Nashville are golden opportunities to learn, connect, and have fun. But just like gold, conferences can be costly. Between travel, hotel, plenty of meals, the cost of conference registration, maybe a new outfit or two, and--let's face it--all the awesome books you'll buy in addition to the ones you'll be given, a writer can spend a pretty penny. So how can a writer be sure to get her money's worth? She needs to focus on the post-conference pay-off.

Without focusing on the post-conference pay-off, a writer is only making a partial return on her hefty investment. But that doesn't have to happen to you. Here are my top tips for making the most of your conference experience after you come home.

Step one: Put those business cards you collected to work for you. After the event and while some names and faces are still fresh in your mind, jot a few notes to yourself about the people who gave you those cards. What did you talk about? Did you like the same books? Did you write in the same genre? Send a few of those folks an email letting them know how much you enjoyed discussing common interests or wishing them good luck with their queries. Sure, it can be daunting to email someone you just met, but you're investing in others and there's never anything wrong with that. Down the road, you might find you've developed a real friendship or a helpful professional contact. That person might faithfully buy all your books one day--or become famous and blurb them.

Step two: Put a technique to work for you. If you sat-in on a great seminar about plotting or a panel about breaking through to a larger readership, study your notes once you're home and set aside time to give this new technique a try. Change can be hard, but by tackling one technique, perhaps over a weekend, you're ensuring the money you spent to hear about that idea was well spent. This is an investment in your skill set. And any investment in you will pay-off after the long haul.
Step three: Put it all in perspective and let a fresh mindset work for you. By the time you leave the conference and walk through your own front door, chances are you'll be beyond exhausted. But then, it's back to the day job, the laundry, and life. From that perspective, it may look like you slid backwards instead of gaining ground at the conference. So print off a few photos and put them in your work space to remind you of the fun you had at that publisher's party or out to eat with your pals. And in the coming week, eliminate one chore so you can catch a little time on the couch or chase some more shut-eye. If you say it's all right to skip mowing the yard, odds are it really is all right. So let yourself relax and recover. Remember, we don't have to do it all. And we don't have to do it all right now. Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. And going to a conference can be as high a priority as doing the dishes. So invest in your mindset. It's worth everything.

Now, there you have my top tips for the post-conference pay-off. What do you do after you get home to make the most of a conference?


  1. Good advice. Hate I missed conference.

  2. Hi, Leigh. Thanks for stopping by. There's always next year's conference, though. And maybe some regional ones closer to home. I've set my sights on some closer get-togethers myself. That way, I can even more fun!

  3. Great advice, Nichole. I am just in from RWA and feeling pumped-up, so proud of Denny!, and have a big list of things to do. #1 is follow through. If you've been asked to submit something, do it! If you've been asked to send info to someone, do it! And like you so perfectly suggested, send an email thanking everyone who bought you a drink or sat and talked. These contacts are gold...maybe not now...but surely in the future.

    1. Hi, Emelle! Good to see you. And I agree. Send in those requests! I know after a conference some writers get cold feet, but really the hard part (making the pitch) is d-o-n-e. So send those requests and let your hard work pay-off, right?

  4. Going to a big conference always gets me revitalized for writing. And I always come home with a big to-do list garnered from things I've heard from speakers, panels and conversations. Best of all, I've got tons of material for my own blog.

  5. Hi, Marilyn. Thank for hanging out with the R8 today. I love your take on conferences. Let 'em work for us by energizing us and getting our blogs going! Good stuff!

  6. I went into the conference telling myself not to get hung up about picking the "right" sessions to attend. I purchased the conference recordings and can listen to them at my leisure. Nice to take that pressure off.

    What I really walked away from the conference with, though, is a raging desire to develop a 5 year business plan and put it into action. I've just ordered Amy Denim's "The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Writers." It seemed like a number of the writers I listened to or spoke with were engaged in long range planning. I pumped to give it a try!

  7. Hey, Keely, that's a post-conference pay-off that'll keep paying. Thanks for sharing the title of this plan with everyone who swing by the R8. And best wishes as you launch your five-year plan! Keep us posted on how it goes!