Chip MacGregor

August 16, 2012

Thursdays with Amanda: Promoting Yourself at a Conference Part 4


Amanda Luedeke Literary AgentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.

You have your career focus. You have your brand. So how do you maximize time at a conference and make sure to come away from the event with more readers than when you went in?

As usual, I’ve got a smattering of ideas…

How to Promote Yourself at a Writer’s Conference

1) Go all-out with brand. So let’s say your brand involves wearing purple shoes…that’s how people are going to remember you, and it’s fitting, since you write romantic comedy. All your materials (your business cards, one-sheets, web addresses, web sites) should support this brand. This is because people aren’t going to come away from the conference, thinking I really liked Halee Matthews. They’re going to think, I really liked that writer with the purple shoes. And they’ll dig through their stack of cards/one-sheets/odds and ends LOOKING for those purple shoes. If they don’t see them, you’ll disappear.

2) Meet people. As writers, it’s easy to latch on to one or two people at a conference and call it a day. That’s because most of us are introverts. But if you’re serious about getting people on board with your writing (whether you’re published or unpublished), you need to branch out. Sit at a different table every meal. Form relationships with the people sitting next to you in workshops. Attend the parties and the late-night gatherings. It will be exhausting, but it’s exactly what you need to do to spread awareness.

3) Talk about yourself. I don’t mean force people to listen to your book premise or your publishing history. I’m just talking about having some rehearsed and appropriate ways of bringing your book up in conversation.

The important thing to remember here, is not everyone is going to be an ideal fit for your book. And that’s okay. Your job is to be able to identify when you’ve found someone who IS a fit. Then, casually bring your book up in conversation so that they’re aware. If you’re published, this could result in more sales at the conference bookstore. If you’re unpublished, it could result in people wanting to test read your chapters or be your critique partner. You have to be careful what you agree to, but in my opinion, it’s always a good idea to feed words to people who believe in what you write.

4) Make a great impression among faculty. Most authors make a point to meet the visiting editors and agents at a conference, but they tend to go about it the wrong way. The natural inclination is either to give the faculty their space (because you rightly assume that they’re constantly bombarded and need a break), or to introduce yourself and then talk about your book or your career or your experience. Neither of these are the way to go.

Do you know how exhausting it is to talk about everyone else’s dreams? Goals? Books? Careers? I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have an attendee ask me about myself. How I got into the business? What I read in my spare time? Whether I write? Focusing the conversation on the faculty rather than on yourself, is a great way to make a good impression. And you’ll also find that most of them will end up asking you those questions you’ve been dying to hear, such as “so what’s your book about?”

5) Strategize your time. Do your research. Know which agents and editors focus on your genre. Figure out which workshops will be filled with people most likely to be interested in your book. Targeting the right events and people can make a world of difference when trying to promote yourself at a conference.


That’s all I have for today…what are YOUR ideas? How do you rise above the hundreds of writers at a conference and come away with fans, supporters and even some industry contacts?

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  • Jackie Layton says:

    Hi Amanda,
    Thanks for taking time to share these tips. I’m so excited to be going to my first writing conference in Sept.
    You’re helping me to feel more comfortable.
    Thanks so much!

  • Thanks!

    I have no ideas, but I did join Toastmaster several months ago and I’m hoping that will help me to stop being so tongue-tied at conferences. The feedback I’m getting there is that I need to smile more and stop looking like a deer in the headlights. So, maybe I’ll try that for a couple of conferences and if that works, I’ll move on to some signature article of clothing.

    I have a horror story to tell, though, about how you don’t want to be remembered. Once, a couple of days before a conference, I broke a tooth. I didn’t have time to fix it and I had to go and talk to editors and agents with this big gap in my mouth that was very visible when I smiled. Worse than a gap, there was a half a tooth there. UGH! What a nightmare!

    • Jackie Layton says:

      Oh, Sally, how horrible for you.
      I may have to check out toastmaster b/c I see myself more as sitting back and watching others reach their goals.

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Oh no!

      I think you’ll be surprised to find how friendly everyone is 🙂

  • Renee Gray-Wilburn says:

    Thanks, Amanda, for some great tips! I’ve been on both sides at conferences, as a writer and as faculty, and my advice to writers is to learn the balance between self-promoting and not being a pest! It’s good to talk about yourself, but don’t over-do it or people will start tuning you out. Be a good listener and you’ll pick up on cues as to when it’s the right time to talk about yourself or your book!

  • R Taylor says:

    Thank you for these posts, I’m soaking up the info! I’ll be a first-timer at the ACFW conference next month. Could you possibly write something about the correct way to approach agents? Maybe some Do’s & Don’ts on how to grab the attention of an agent and randomly pitch your book? Thanks!

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      I mentioned it briefly in the above post, but I mentioned the topic to my colleagues in case they wanted to cover it in an upcoming post. My posts are focused on marketing 🙂

  • Tiffany Amber Stockton says:

    How do *I* rise above and walk away with fans, supporters, and industry contacts? Well, I’ve done a great job at being memorable as me, but not so great at securing readers, supporters, and fans. A lot of people in the industry know me, and I’m on a first-name basis with them (and sometimes their hubbies or kids). Chalk that up to those famed Tiki-bird slippers and my outgoing personality.

    While those contacts are treasured and valuable, they don’t translate into sales. As my 2 royalty statements this year attest, I have a LOT of work to do in the reader/fan/supporter department. So, this year at ACFW, I’ll be attending workshops focused on growing my readership, and finding fans who will fight for me and my books, plus learning from those who have figured this out. It’s all about relationship, and I clearly need to improve in that area.

    Thanks for this series, Amanda. It’s jam-packed full of excellent wisdom and advice.

  • Jan Cline says:

    Again, more great advice on conferences. I would have to disagree with fivecats on one point. In my experience as a conference director and attendee, I find that a great number of attendees do NOT know their craft. Many are first timers and new writers and, even though some may have published a book (generally self pub) their level of writing skill is surprisingly low. The larger conferences may have a higher number of more skilled writers, but I think on average, attendees have no idea how much work is ahead of them and how deep the well of craft really is. I know I didn’t.

    Thanks for this series of posts Amanda. They have been very helpful!

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Going off of this…My big piece of advice is to surround yourself with writers who are better than you. There’s so much that can be learned in writer groups…but only if those writers are pushing you to be better instead of telling you how amazing you are or even giving misled advice.

  • fivecats says:

    6. Talk and Listen to Other Writers
    When I was in college one of my professors told us that we were likely to learn more from our fellow students than we were from our professors. When it came to writing my thesis, he was exactly right — the person who took the time to listen to my problems and gave me the framework I was missing was a fellow student.

    As a writer, you’re in the same situation. Writers at a conference likely know their craft. They’re also likely to be facing the same problems, have the same questions, and be as good of a sounding board as you’re willing to be for them.

    Be prepared with some questions you would like to have answered by someone who is as involved in the writing process as you are. You’re not likely to have many situations in life where you can ask those questions and have the questions, and the answers, treated with the same amount of recognition and respect.

    7. Remember that Agents are People, Too

    I once read about a conference where everyone — agents and unpublished writers — were all in the same room together. When everyone was seated, the writers shied away from the agents like they were people to be feared. The one writer who chose to sit near the agents was thanked by the person she sat next to.

    Treat an agent like the person they are first, and someone who might be able to help you get published second.

    8. You Are Interviewing Them as Much as They Are Interviewing You
    In the blind rush to become A Published Author you might think that the first agent who offers you a contract — ANY agent who offers you a contract — is The Agent For You. Not true. You need to remember that your agent works for you, not the other way around. And since your agent is going to be responsible for so much of your published writing career, you need to consider any time with an agent as a two-way interview. An agent wants to know if you’re the kind of author they can successfully represent; and you want to know if the agent is the kind of person you trust to represent you.

    The interview doesn’t stop there. Within weeks of sending out my initial queries for my book I was offered a contract with a known agent. The thrill of being offered a contract was quickly tempered by the contract itself. That contract spelled out what I was going to be doing for them, but not a whole lot about what they were going to do for me. As well, their terms and conditions were awfully one-sided. Even though I knew it might take me years to get another offer, I didn’t trust the contract — and therefore the agent — enough to sign with them. (And while I still don’t have a contract with another agent, I know I made the right decision for myself)

  • Andrew Winch says:

    Great article, Amanda. One thing that has worked for me has been after-conference follow-up. Last year was my first time, but I walked away with an amazing critique group and regular correspondence with around a dozen or so published writers, agents, and editors via facebook, email, etc. Aside from the obvious benefits, surrounding yourself with industry professionals is amazing motivation to keep writing and seeing your “hobby” through to a career.

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