Putting your best foot forward: preparing for a writers’ conference

Stepping Forward

Girl taking a tentative step forward

I’m preparing to attend Write Canada in Guelph, ON from June 12-14. This morning I jotted down items on my “to do” list under “Prepare for Write Canada”. Here are a few things I’m preparing with an explanation of why and how:

  1. Business cardIt’s a good idea to have a business card that you can hand out to other writers, interested agents, or editors you meet. That way they have your contact information and can easily follow up with you. Check out sample business cards on the Tinyprints site if you want some creative ideas.
  2. One Sheet – a basic overview of who you are and what you do. Some people will want more information about you than a business card provides, so a one sheet is a good thing to have with you. The Writer’s Alley gives a good overview of a one sheet and examples for you to see. Jennifer Beever shares some helpful do’s and don’ts from a marketing perspective.
  3. 30-second elevator pitch – This is a 50-70 word description of a book or magazine article idea you want to pitch to an editor. Check out “What’s an Elevator Pitch for Your Book?” for a good overview and links to examples.
  4. Unpublished work for Blue Pencil Review – Holly Case explains, “Back when copy-proofs were still manually cut, pasted, and photographed before printing, a blue pencil was the instrument of choice for editors because blue was not visible when photographed. The editorial intervention was invisible by design.” Some conferences offer an opportunity for you to meet with an advanced writer or editor who will read a sample of your work and offer unbiased suggestions.
  5. 5 minute piece to read – Participating in a reading session allows you to give people a sample of your writing. Make sure you select a reading that is able to stand on its own, but also leaves the reader wanting more.
  6. Published books – Often there is a bookstore at the conference where you’re able to leave your books on consignment. There is usually a fee associated with this service (e.g. at Write Canada the bookstore keeps 25% of the sale price).

Do you have other suggestions to help writers who are preparing for a conference? It’s time for me to get down to work. Maybe I’ll see you at Write Canada.



  1. jayne bowers on June 2, 2014 at 7:01 am

    Great suggestions. And thanks for the Tiny Prints recommendation. I have some business cards that were printed in the local UPS office, and while they’re “fine,” they’re not as creative and professional as I’d like them to be.

    • Ruth L. Snyder on June 2, 2014 at 8:34 am

      I’m glad you found the post helpful. It’s always nice to come across some fresh ideas to try and I liked the selection on Tiny Prints ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. storygal on June 2, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Knowing when to step out of the program and spending time apart to absorb what you have learned. This was one lesson it took awhile for me to learn.

    • Ruth L. Snyder on June 2, 2014 at 8:58 am

      I agree, Carolyn
      Thanks for adding that. The schedules are always packed, but sometimes you just need to be still and let everything soak in.

  3. stephseclecticinterests on June 2, 2014 at 9:34 am

    Great suggestions, Ruth. As an eclectically-interested individual, I would add that it is important to focus on one specific area at each conference. If you write both nonfiction and fiction, decide which you will seek to promote. If you write for a variety of age groups, again, zero in on one specific audience. I attend workshops and continuing classes for a variety of skill levels and on a variety of topics, but when talking to publishers, editors, and agents, I don’t want to appear scattered.

    • Ruth L. Snyder on June 2, 2014 at 9:41 am

      Thanks, Stephanie
      I find focus a challenge, because like you I’m an “eclectically-interested individual” ๐Ÿ™‚ You’re right, though. Editors and agents don’t want 5 asks; they want one.

  4. Janet Sketchley on June 2, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I second what Carolyn said, Ruth. “Be still” times and times building friendships are important too. My to-do list looks much like yours. Looking forward to meeting you!

    • Ruth L. Snyder on June 2, 2014 at 10:23 am

      Thanks, Janet
      Yes, it will be great to meet you and others that I only know from online conversations ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. twrcanada on June 2, 2014 at 11:20 am

    I always take time to know what my goals are for the conference. Is my goal to meet with agents, to learn, network?? Once I know what the main goal for my being there is, it’s easier to know when I need to step back, when to seize an opportunity even if it means skipping a session, etc.

  6. Endless Edits on June 7, 2014 at 6:54 am

    This is very helpful. I’m attending a convention later this year, and I hadn’t thought about business cards. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Ruth L. Snyder on June 7, 2014 at 8:48 am

      I’m glad you found this post helpful. Sometimes we forget the simple things ๐Ÿ™‚ Enjoy your convention!

  7. Bonnie Way on July 28, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Those are great tips, no matter what you write! I was just at a blogging conference this better and I wish I’d prepared my “elevator pitch” a bit more because of course everyone asks “what do you blog about?” Thanks for sharing!

    • Ruth L Snyder on July 29, 2014 at 6:02 am

      A blogging conference sounds like fun. Sometimes it’s good to be challenged to think about what we’re doing and why. I’m sure you could answer that question now ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment ๐Ÿ™‚

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