6 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid at a Writers Conference

by guest blogger Katelyn S. Bolds, web writer and social media strategist

1.  Bring snacks

Don’t make the mistake of not planning for meals. Have a little snack stashed in your attaché for a slow moment. Don’t let your stomach growl when pitching your book! Bring a granola bar or trail mix as a speedy way to subdue your hunger. Choosing protein and low-sugar options will help keep your energy levels up and prevent you from crashing in the mid-afternoon slump.6-rookie-mistakes

2.  Make goals

Attending a conference with no goals in mind is a complete waste of money. Even if your goal is “find out what my goal should be,” you should still have some in mind.

Make a list of the editors and agents you want to meet with or touch base with. Do your homework and research them online. Try to find out interests, and see if your story would fit well for them. If an agent only works with fiction, don’t try to get them to make an exception for your manuscript.

3.  Avoid burnout

Know what is the right amount of conference for you. When you start to feel overwhelmed, leave the conference. Go outside, take a nap, call your family. Skipping meals or sleep will not impress anyone, but rather give the impression that you are inexperienced and unprofessional. Everyone needs a break after a long conference, but rest assured you can recover.

Read more here about avoiding conference burnout.

4.  Network and connect

Don’t underestimate the power of connections and friendships made at conferences! Use your time between sessions to speak with those around you. Swap struggles and tips with other writers and make sure to get names and e-mails if you feel the connection has potential. Writer friends are important for support, idea generation, and later networking opportunities. Be kind and see where it might lead!

5.  Pitch perfectly

Know your story backwards and forwards. It’s hard to sell a story short and sweet, but shoot for the style of a back cover. Focus on the main plot and emotional draw. In three to five sentences, explain the mass appeal of your work and why the publisher should be interested. Be polite, but don’t waste time chatting about the weather or the conference. The agent or editor is there to hear your pitch.

6.  Follow up and follow through!

Follow up with everyone you spoke with for more than a few minutes. Send them a thank you e-mail referencing interesting conversation points you discussed and tell them it was nice to meet them. This little touch will remind them who you are and set you apart from the crowd.

Follow through with anyone who asked you to send them something. If an editor asks you to tweak your story before sending them your manuscript, don’t let pride or lack of time stand in your way. Send it to them with haste! You may find that they are willing to work with you in the future, knowing how dedicated you are to impressing them.

Now that you know the rookie mistakes to avoid at writers conferences, be sure to sign up for the 2017 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal!

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katelynsbolds_headshotKatelyn S. Bolds balances work as web editor, author services extraordinaire, and freelance writer. She is married to coffee; also her husband. At times this DIY life might get a little crazy, but she takes it one day at a time. A little yoga, a lot of organization, and a holistic approach make for a Bold Life. Follow her on Twitter, (@KatelynSBolds), Facebook, and Pinterest.

 

Doc Hensley Explains the Art of Pitching

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

Dr. Dennis E. Hensley has probably lost count of the number of conferences he’s spoken at over the years. He’s taught workshops, served on panels, presented manuscript makeovers, met personally with conferees, and often served as the keynote speaker. Through it all—and while pitching some of his own 60 published books—he’s learned from his publishing colleagues what impresses editors and agents the most during their appointments with conferees.

DocExplainsPitchingAs director of the Professional Writing department at Taylor University (Upland, IN), Dr. Hensley shares this knowledge with his students, along with readers of his column in Christian Communicator magazine. Now he’s letting Renewal conferees in on the secrets to effective proposal pitches.

The following article is an excerpt from the book Finding Success with Your Dream Writing Projects (by Dennis E. Hensley with Diana Savage), which will be released this August by Bold Vision Books.

MASTERING THE 15-MINUTE BOOK PITCH

Pop artist Andy Warhol once said that every person, sooner or later, enjoys 15 minutes of fame. In the arena of pitching book proposals, it comes down to 15 minutes of fame or 15 minutes of shame. When you attend a writers conference and schedule an appointment with a literary agent or book editor, you have 15 minutes—sometimes less—to convince that person your book is worth considering for publication and that you are someone this individual will want to do business with.

That’s not much time, so let’s talk about how to make those minutes count.

  1. Look professional. Although writers conferences are usually casual in attire, trying to convince someone to invest more than $35,000 to launch your book is big business. You need to look like someone who would appear impressive on talk shows, when giving speeches, and when meeting folks at autograph parties. First impressions are lasting ones.
  2. Have an actual book idea. Some would-be writers come up with a great title and even some clever research, but trained editors can see what would make a good article and what would actually sustain a full book. A published book usually is somewhere around two-hundred pages, with about four hundred words per page, which is 80,000 words. Thus, if you don’t have an idea that can be content heavy for 320 double-spaced manuscript pages, don’t waste the editor’s time.
  3. Know the competition. Anticipate that the agent or editor will ask you what else is on the market similar to your topic. It’s good that other books exist on your topic, because they show that other publishers have seen market value for it. Your job will be to explain how your book is different. Perhaps you have newer research, better photos or other graphics, a broader range of topics, exclusive interviews, distinctive sidebars or reading lists or quizzes. Emphasize how your book is unique and better than the competition. One special insider tip is this: Prove that your book will still be interesting a year from now when it finally gets into print and how it will contain enduring elements that will make it stay in print several years thereafter.
  4. Speak as though this person is a committee. Although you are addressing just one person, he or she will have to champion your book before a publication board. It will be made up of people from sales, publicity, layout and design, marketing, accounting, legal, and editorial departments. As such, explain how you will help to market the book via speaking engagements, blogging, social networking, library appearances, webinars, professional organizations, public readings, writers workshops, reviews, and autograph parties. Don’t give anyone on the board a reason to reject you.
  5. Sell yourself with wild abandon. No one likes a braggart, but when it comes to selling a book, you need to prove that you know what you’re talking about. You can do this by providing a résumé that stresses your education, your list of previous publications, any honors or awards you’ve received, and your professional credentials. Stress the research you conducted in preparing this book manuscript. Additionally, if you can produce a list of endorsements from people with name recognition, this will certainly work in your favor.
  6. Hand over a solid book proposal. Despite the fact that you will have a well-organized, extremely focused conversation with this agent or editor, you still will need to have a high-quality book proposal to leave with this person if he or she decides your book idea warrants publication consideration. Your cover letter will explain why you feel this publisher is right for your book; highlights of your career after age twenty; a terse description of your book (“The Help is about African-American maids who find ways to shame their oppressive suburban white employers during the 1960s”); mention of your best endorsements; and a word about your target readership. You’ll need to have from one to three fully completed chapters, a one-page biography (write about yourself in the third person), a table of contents that you may wish to expand into an outline, a one- or two-page synopsis of the entire book (yes, do tell the ending), and information about your personal platform.
  7. Anticipate blunt objections or questions. Editors may ask if the manuscript is “clean,” meaning void of mechanical writing errors. Say (truthfully) that you’ve had other eyes go over the entire book (professional editors or maybe members of your writers critique group). Editors may ask “Who cares?” about your topic. Have statistics ready, audience surveys, sales records of similar books. The editor may ask, “But who are you?” so have credentials and experience to show you are the perfect person to write and promote this book.

Contrary to common belief, editors come to writers conferences because they want to discover talented writers, and they want to find publishable books. How else can they stay in business? However, their greatest joy is to discover someone who is polished, professional, and savvy about writing and marketing books. This could mean a long-term working relationship. So, when the clock starts ticking, use every second to show that you came prepared to do business.

© 2016 by Dennis E. Hensley, all rights reserved

Learn more valuable tips from Doc Hensley at the 2016 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal. Sign up today!

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Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and the coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

Children’s Author/Illustrator Shares Secrets to Publishing Success

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

ChristaPierceLast year I received an enthusiastic e-mail from our conference’s retiring program coordinator, Clint Kelly, telling me he’d found another great workshop leader to keep in mind for the 2016 Renewal. As the new director of the conference, I was all ears.

He told me that the candidate was Christa Pierce, a recent Seattle Pacific University grad. Clint said she’d found a top agent and received a contract from Harper-Collins for a two-book deal. He added that she’d accomplished it while still a senior at SPU!

The first book she wrote and illustrated for kids four to eight years old is Do You Know That I Love You? “It’s a charmer,” Clint told me. “I sat in on a session she did at the SPU library, and she is as delightful as her book. A great sense of humor and very open about her experiences, including her work now on book #2 for Harper and why, after she completes that obligation, she will seek out a smaller publishing house.”

Christa, who is from Portland, Oregon, calls herself “a lover of tea and acrylic paint—but not together.” Her BA from SPU is in Illustration, with a Creative Writing minor. Her book has been featured on the Today Show, praised by Brooke Shields, and reviewed by The New York Times.

At the 2016 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Christa will teach two workshops:

Getting Started in Children's Publishing1) Getting Started in Children’s Publishing – Through her personal story of navigating the publishing world, Christa shares her accumulated knowledge of the industry. Included: helpful writing resources, plus how to find an agent, pitch your ideas, work with an editor, survive the editing process, promote your book, and successfully negotiate a contract. Time for Q&A included.

Secrets to Effective Illustrations for Children’s Books2) Secrets to Effective Illustrations for Children’s Books – Christa shares the “crash course” that trained her in illustrating children’s books when, at the beginning of her career, she interviewed with New York publishers. She will cover world-building, telling a second story through illustrations, deadline expectations, working with an author/designer/editor, layout for publication, and the visual elements that Caldecott-award judges look for. In class, view actual sketchbooks, in-process work, and correspondence between an editor and illustrator. Time for Q&A included.

When she’s not drawing, Christa loves to go to storytelling events, speak to students about the relevancy of the arts, meet other artists, and play with her puppy, Sir Lancelot.

To attend Christa’s workshops or to request an appointment with one of this year’s seven editorial reps, sign up for the Renewal today.

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Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and the coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

Learn Dynamic Dialogue and Business Strategies from Author Darlene Panzera

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

DarlenePanzeraIf you’re passionate about writing and serious about investing the necessary time, money, and effort it takes to improve your skills and get your projects in front of industry professionals, congratulations! You’re the CEO of your own business; it’s up to you to grow that business and keep good records.

In other words, you need a business plan.

Multi-published author Darlene Panzera knows all about business plans for writers, and she will share her knowledge and expertise at the 2016 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal in the following workshop:

Secure Success with the Right Business PlanSecure Success with the Right Business Plan – As the CEO of your writing career, you need a concise map of what you want to achieve and the steps you’ll need to get there. Learn how to put together a professional business binder that will include an action plan for your writing, a mission statement, business strategy, marketing plans, and detailed pages for tax deductions. Templates are provided so you can walk out the door with your plan in hand.

As the successful author of sweet, fun-loving romances, Darlene will also teach the following workshop:

Bring Your Writing to Life with Dynamic DialogueBring Your Writing to Life with Dynamic Dialogue – No matter what you write—fiction, nonfiction, magazine articles, or even poetry—most likely you will include dialogue in your work. In this class you will learn how to properly construct lines of attention-grabbing, “dynamic” dialogue and how to make those dazzling words work on multiple levels to advance the story, add subtext, reflect point-of-view, flavor the prose with personality, and effectively hook your reader.

“I love writing stories that inspire people to laugh, value relationships, and pursue their dreams,” Darlene says.

To meet her and learn from her workshops, sign up for the Renewal today.

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Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and the coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

A Dozen Surprising Facts about Doc Hensley

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

Perhaps you already know that Dr. Dennis E. Hensley is the author of 60 books.

You may have heard that his more than 3,500 articles and short stories have appeared in Reader’s Digest, Parade Magazine, USA Today, Vital Christianity, and many other periodicals, too numerous to mention.

DocWithCokeCaptionedIt’s common knowledge that he holds a PhD in literature and linguistics from Ball State University and directs the professional writing major at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.

But are you aware of these 12 facts?

  1. Doc’s best friend is Jerry B. Jenkins, author of the wildly successful Left Behind series of novels.
  1. Dr. Hensley has written more than 1,800 radio scripts for the Fresh Perspectives daily devotional radio show on WBCL-FM, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
  1. Doc Hensley loves jokes and cartoons. Whenever he runs across a new cartoon or amusing quote regarding grammar or the writing life, he posts a print of it on his Taylor University office door for his students to enjoy.
  1. When he left Detroit for his tour of duty in Vietnam as a chaplain’s bodyguard, the temperature was 3 degrees. A few days later, when he landed near Saigon on January 2, 1971, it was 103 degrees.
  1. Nearly all of Dr. Dennis E. Hensley’s book coauthors have been women: Holly G. Miller, Pamela Rice Hahn, Rose A. Adkins, and Diana Savage. The one exception is a 1984 writing textbook he coauthored with Stanley Field.
  1. In his fiction works—including the recently released inspirational suspense novel, Pseudonym, that he coauthored with Diana Savage—Doc often names supporting characters after friends and family members.
  1. Dr. Hensley is a film aficionado and can tell you the plot and interesting quips from a wide variety of motion pictures.
  1. An excellent guitarist in his younger years, Doc formed his own rock-n-roll band in high school. Later he was a staff writer for Guitar Player magazine for 6 years and did freelance writing for Country Music, Downbeat, Stereo, and Music City News.

           Tweet Did you know Doc Hensley is a former Rock Star?

  1. One of the songs Dr. Hensley has written, “Jesus Is the Same as He Was Back Then,” has been recorded by 8 different musical groups.
  1. Growing up, his nickname was “Butch.” His brother and sister still call him that.
  1. Convinced of the importance of keeping one’s shoes polished, he motivated his young son in that discipline by polishing one of his son’s shoes and placing it next to the unpolished one. Doc reasoned that his boy wouldn’t be able to wear a pair of shoes only half polished and would finish the job himself. The ploy worked.
  1. Dr. Hensley is recognized as an authority on 20th-century author Jack London and has given guest lectures on the famous author at 22 colleges worldwide. Doc’s writings about Jack London include his PhD dissertation, dozens of scholarly articles, and two textbooks:
  • ­ The Annotated Edition of Jack London’s Martin Eden
  • ­ Jack London’s Masterplots

Doc Hensley’s reputation as a conference presenter is legendary. “I’ve heard Dennis Hensley speak at various writers conferences for the past 25 years,” says Sally E. Stuart, founder of the Christian Writers’ Market Guide. “No one is more informative, entertaining, focused, or knowledgeable about writing than he is. Anyone privileged enough to study under him is bound to become successful at writing.”

Attendees at other conferences agree:

­ “Doc Hensley was outstanding! Examples were riveting and memorable. Hearing him was a rare treat.”

­ “Wow! What a powerful presentation. I enjoyed learning so much from him.”

­ “Great presenter. Held my attention. Engaging and knowledgeable and great advice.”

Now you have the opportunity to learn from Dr. Hensley at the 2016 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, an information-packed two-day conference in Bellevue, WA. You’ll be supercharged by hope as Doc shares his vast knowledge learned through decades of writing professionally.

TweetDoes your writing life need to be supercharged? Let Doc Hensley inspire May 13-14 at the @NWCWriters Conference in Bellevue, WA

Conference registration is now open. Be sure to sign up and let Doc Hensley guide you to your next level of writing success.

TweetA Dozen Surprising Facts about Doc Hensley

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DianaSavageDiana Savage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and the coauthor—with Dr. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

Former Spy Dennis Brooke Ferrets Out Technology

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal

A number of years ago, Dennis Brooke served as an Air Force missile officer. For four years he pulled duty sixty feet under the Montana prairie. He also spent a day in the skies as a spy.

“What was it like to be doing that job,” he asks, “when we thought the Cold War would last for decades to come or turn into a hot war any day?” It wasn’t until he stood on the Berlin Wall when it was coming down—just a few yards from Checkpoint Charlie—that he realized more fully why our military personnel serve their country.

Dennis has turned that experience into a topic for writing and speaking. Some of his other experiences-turned-topics include “Wooing Your Wife,” “Project Management,” and “Web 2.0.” His eclectic repertoire is revealed in the wide variety of publications he’s written for. “Until someone proves me wrong,” he says, “I’ll claim to be the only person to have been published in both Combat Crew and Focus on the Family magazines.”

DennisBrookePinablejpgWhile on the NCWA board, Dennis brought our organization into the digital age through a new database program for managing our membership and website, along with a cloud-based storage system that board members and key volunteers can access for necessary documents.

At the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Dennis will co-lead three interactive sessions of a WriteCoach Lab especially designed for those who have questions about basic technology and also moderate a marketing panel of experts:

BYOD-Tech Essentials1) BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Tech Essentials (WriteCoach Lab, Friday, May 15, with Mindy Peltier) – Ever wonder how to make those graphic “thingies” you’re supposed to include in blog posts? Stumped trying to build an email list? Wish you knew how to use hashtags, make captions, or manage friends/followers? Nervous about uploading photos to “the cloud”? Recently changed from PC to Apple—or vice versa—and feel lost? At this BYOD Tech Essentials Lab, no question is too basic for experts Mindy Peltier and Dennis Brooke. And if they don’t know the answer, they’ll demonstrate how to search the Internet for solutions. Bring your own laptop, netbook, tablet, smartphone, etc., to gain the most from these sessions.

Market Like the Pros Panel2) “Market Like the Pros” Panel (Workshop, Friday, May 15) – Dennis Brooke will moderate a panel composed of publishing experts Carolyn McCready, Grace Fox, and James L. Rubart. You’ll learn secrets for getting your labors of love the attention they deserve. The panel will address marketing for both traditional and indie writers. Bring your questions and be ready for concrete ideas and inspiration.

Want to hear the rest of Dennis’s spy adventure? One time as an Air Force officer, he went on an Army Intelligence RC-12 spy mission. “We flew up and down the East German border all day,” he recalls. “It was very boring until we came in to land, and one of the landing-gear indicator lights that show “gear is down and locked” failed to illuminate. Fortunately, it was just a burned-out bulb, and my one day as a spy didn’t end in a crash landing.”

These days, Dennis is much more interested in the publishing contract he recently signed for his novel The Last Apostle. The book will be released January 2016.

To get your questions answered concerning technology and marketing—and perhaps even spy missions—sign up today for the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal.

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DianaSavageDiana Savage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she is also director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. Her latest book is 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times.

James L. Rubart Credits Wife for His Success

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

Jim Rubart’s wife, Darci, bought him a plaque that said “Future Award-Winning Author” and told him to hang it in his writing room. That was years before Jim ever believed he’d be published.

Then in 2002, Darci felt led to go on a fast. Without know why or for how long, she obeyed. Halfway through the third day, Jim sensed the Lord saying, “I’ve given you the desire and ability to write. When are you going to step into your destiny?”

Jim told Darci, “I know why you’re fasting. I’m supposed to be a novelist.”

She stared at her husband. “Wait a minute. I’m hungry for three days, and you get the answer?”

JamesLRubartPinableThree years later Jim finished his first novel and submitted it to four contacts he had in the publishing industry. Everyone rejected it. But the following spring, 2006, he attended a writers conference and made new connections.

Eventually Jim published his first novel under the byline James L. Rubart and became the best-selling and Christy-award-winning author of Rooms, Book of Days, The Chair, and Memory’s Door.

At the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Jim will lead a WriteCoach Lab and serve on a marketing panel of experts on Friday, May 15:

Discover and Sharpen Your Brand1) Discover and Sharpen Your Brand (WriteCoach Lab) – Do you know what your brand is as a writer? Need help developing it? As a best-selling author and owner of an ad agency/marketing firm, Jim Rubart will give you personalized help in defining your brand and learning specific ways you can promote it.

Market Like the Pros Panel2) “Market Like the Pros” Panel (Workshop) – Along with moderator Dennis Brooke and fellow panelists Carolyn McCready and Grace Fox, Jim will help you learn how to get your labors of love the attention they deserve. The panel will address marketing for both traditional and indie writers. Bring your questions and be ready for concrete ideas and inspiration.

Although James L. Rubart is the owner of Barefoot Marketing, a Pacific Northwest marketing and consulting firm, he gives his wife the credit for his writing success. “Darci’s talked me off the ledge so many times, she’s got a lawn chair set up out there,” he says. “It’s cliché to say it, but there’s no question I wouldn’t be where I am without her.”

To benefit from Jim’s wisdom and experience—along with his willingness to give credit where credit is due—sign up today for the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal!

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DianaSavageDiana Savage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she is also director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. Her latest book is 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times.