Monday, March 26, 2012

Conference Tips

What I'm reading: Trophy Hunt, by C.J. Box; Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts; Victims, by Jonathan Kellerman.

First -- I'm overwhelmed at the success of SAVING SCOTT at the Nook Store. I never dreamed of making the top 100 bestsellers, much less hitting #15. Hard to believe Scott was only a few books behind the Hunger Games and 50 Shades of Grey series. I'm humbled. The Nook First program and Barnes & Noble has been excellent, and I'll be reporting on my experiences.

Next: my Spring Newsletter is about ready to go. Make sure you're signed up at my website so you don't miss a chance for special offers.

I'm also busy ... last week was the trip to LA, and on Thursday, I'm leaving for Sacramento and the Left Coast Crime Conference. I'm rerunning the post I did last year about going to conferences. I think it's still timely.

Conferences are great ways to refuel. Writing is a solitary occupation, and sometimes we need to get out and among people who understand what it's like to have voices in your head. It's also a great opportunity to see how other people handle all the aspects of the craft. No two people do things the same way, and what works for one doesn't work for all. However, there's always a tidbit to be gleaned, and usually a way to adapt it for one's own writing process. Kind of like 3 days of blog-crawling, but with live people.

On that note, I'll share a few things I've learned from attending conferences, in no particular order of importance.

1. Have copies of your receipts. Nothing like finding out they've lost your registration or meal choices or room reservation to start things off on a stressful note. And, the way my life works, if you have them, you won't need them.

2. Bring your own tote if you have one. Although most conferences hand out tote bags, they all look alike. If you bring one from a different conference, you're less likely to have it picked up by mistake. (I also bring my own badge holder—the kind with compartments from another conference, just in case they give you a simple plastic one. This way, I've got a secure place for my badge, meal tickets, a little cash and other vitals—like bookmarks.)

3. Don't be afraid to meet people. It's not required that you travel with a glued-to-the-hip companion. Take an empty seat, smile, hand over your bookmark and introduce yourself. This is one place where there's an immediate conversation starter: "What do you write?" (Or, in the case of a readers' conference 'read'?)

4. Bring comfortable clothes, especially shoes. For whatever reason, romance conferences are the dressiest of any I attend, but I tend to be a middle-of-the-road dresser. You'll be doing a lot of sitting, and a lot of walking, depending on how far apart the meeting rooms are. Also, bring layers. Regardless of the outside temperatures, meeting rooms can be meat-locker cold or steamy hot.

5. Pace yourself. You're not obligated to participate in every single event. Take breaks. Hide in your room for an hour if you need to. I long ago stopped feeling guilty about crawling into bed with a book at a decent hour. I've also never (so far) come home sick from a conference.

6. Speaking of books…bring either a bigger suitcase than you need, or some other method of transporting books. Most conferences are heavy on giveaways—and then there's the inevitable bookstore and/or book signing. Another good reason to bring your own tote. Use the one they give you for books.

7. Budget. Long ago, when I traveled on my husband's per-diem, I learned how to save a few bucks. Think college dorm room. Almost all hotel rooms have coffee makers. They make hot water as well as coffee. There are all sorts of "just add boiling water" meal options out there. I'll have instant oatmeal in my room for breakfast. This saves getting dressed early and going downstairs to a crowded hotel restaurant and blowing way too much money on a simple meal. I'll carry snacks as well. I'm not one for huge lunches at home, so for conferences that serve a banquet meal at lunch—well, that's usually my dinner as well. A drink at the bar, maybe an appetizer or salad. No need for another huge and expensive meal. I can buy books with what I've saved.

8. Scope out the facilities. Find out-of-the-way restrooms. Most romance conference attendees are female. Some hotels will convert a men's room to a ladies' room, but don't count on it. Given short breaks between sessions and everyone on the same schedule, lines can get long.

9. Have fun.

Tomorrow, my guest is Susannah Sharp, and she's going to talk about how she researches setting for her books set in Ireland.

Like this post? Please share by clicking one of the links below.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Thanks for these tips, Terry! I think I need to print these out and keep them as reminders for the next con.

Terry Odell said...

They've worked well for me, Elizabeth. Thanks

Mario Acevedo said...

Congratulations on the Nook sales. Very inspiring. You didn't say anything about hanging out at the bar at conferences. That's the most fun of all. And tax deductible!

Terry Odell said...

Mario -- I thought hanging out at the bar was a given! But thanks for pointing it out to everyone. It should be #9a, I guess.

Stacy Green said...

Great tips, Terry. I hope to attend a conference eventually, and I'll need them.

And major congrats on the Nook sales!

Peg Brantley said...

Congratulations on those sales, Terry!

Enjoy LCC. I'm missing it next year, but plan on attending in 2013.

Terry Odell said...

Stacy - getting to conferences is a fantastic way to network, and to feel like you're actually "getting somewhere"

Peg - since it's in CO next year, I'll be there, too.

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Thanks, Terry. Good tips and reminders! I have a bunch of conference coming up, so these came at a good time for me!

Sylvia Dickey Smith,
Writing Strong Women

Terry Odell said...

Sylvia - glad the timing was right. Have a great time at your conferences.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Also remember to exchange business cards whenever possible to build your mailing lists. These are all good reminders, thanks.

Terry Odell said...

Nancy - I suppose I should get that stack of cards out of my desk and do something with it! Thanks for the nudge.

Karen C said...

Terry, I followed a lot of these tips for the work related and professional organization conferences I attended - good tips!