(Sorry for the late post on this lovely Monday morning. In our neck of the woods, yesterday was not so lovely as we rode out Mid-Atlantic storms and a nearly 20-hour power outage. I am happy to report that I now have electricity again, which brings with it Internet connectivity and air conditioning, so to quote our 8LW mentor Jenny Crusie, nothing but good times ahead!)
Last week, as I’m sure you know, most of the 8 ladies were in San Antonio at the RWA National conference. While I couldn’t join them this year, I did think about them often and can’t wait to see their pictures and hear their stories about the week. Several of the ladies are seasoned conference attendees, business travelers, and networkers, so now that they are back home, they’ll organize their contacts and information and start building on the connections they made.
But maybe some of you who attended Nationals or who plan to attend an upcoming conference are more like I was at my first few conferences: a deer in the headlights before, during, and after the conference. If so, you might be sitting in your home office or at your dining room table surrounded by stacks of business cards, hand-outs, give-aways, and books, wondering what to do with it and how to apply all (or any) of it to your own writing goals. As one who has squandered potential important contacts and post-conference strategizing in the past, allow me to make a few suggestions.
1. Organize the business cards, scraps of paper, and hastily-scribbled notes about the people you met. Even if you organize nothing else, throw all the other conference paraphernalia into a drawer and never think on it again, DO NOT disregard the personal contacts you have made. I recommend separating them into piles based on what you hope to achieve through each contact.
For example, did agent x and editor y request manuscript pages? Did published author z express interest in your ‘elevator pitch’ and offer to read a few chapters to give feedback? Did you meet some great ladies whose blog or twitter feeds you want to follow, or who might make great critique partners?
2. Build a contact plan. If you’ve ever worked in sales or business development, you’re familiar with the importance of this step. What kind of package will you send to contacts who have requested pages, and more importantly, what is your timeline for doing it? Set some goals, get milestones on the calendar. Make a list of the blogs and twitter accounts you’re going to follow.
As for the people you met who might become critique partners or part of your writer support network, prioritize them and decide how much time you are going to put into contact. Will you craft an individual note to each? Write a standard email (it was so nice to meet you at the conference, etc.) and insert a few sentences at the end to personalize it? Come up with an approach that makes you comfortable, because in the next step, you need to…
3. Execute your contact plan. For introverts, as many of us writers are, this step can be more difficult than it sounds. Chances are, many of the people you met are also introverts. And they are probably busy women who came home to sick kids, needy spouses, and overflowing work email boxes. Be the braver one. Be the one who makes the time to reach out to the fabulous people you met. You might meet your new agent or editor, the best critique partner you’ve ever had, or some of your new closest friends.
4. Organize the give-aways and goodies into keep/give away/toss piles. Obviously, this cuts down on clutter and allows you to enjoy the fun things you collected because they won’t be buried in the mound of stuff you don’t want to keep. But if you are like many authors, you had an ulterior motive for picking up all those goodies – you want to steal ideas for your own future marketing campaigns. Organizing this booty will help you determine what has ‘shelf life’ and what is likely to get tossed quickly.
As for the items you do keep, over the next several months as you use or see them, consider whether they are serving their purpose. Are they reminding you to go to an author’s website, pick up her latest release, sign up for her newsletter? If not, it doesn’t necessarily mean the marketing campaign was a failure; perhaps others did act on the reminders. But when it comes time to spend your own marketing dollars (because even if you end up with a traditional publisher, you will spend your own marketing dollars), you will have already put some thought into the give-aways you find most appealing.
5. Give away the books you don’t want to keep, but NOT before looking at them, really looking at them, if not reading them. You might know immediately that a book isn’t in a genre that interests you, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can learn from it. Knowledge is power, and seeing what trends are out there, what is selling, and what will hit the stores over the next year (as many free books at conferences are yet-to-be-released), is more knowledge you will have as you work on writing and marketing your manuscript.
But when you are finished with the books you don’t want to keep, please do give them away to an interested friend, a library, or a book drive. This might put the book in the hands of an interested reader and spark future sales for the author. It’s your opportunity to be part of the supportive community of RWA.
6. Make a lessons learned list. This is one of my favorite tips, and it’s one I learned from my husband. Whether it’s what to pack (more shoes) or not to pack (didn’t need that winter coat in TX), which speakers are ‘must sees’ and which are ‘must avoids’, how to organize your time better, or anything else that you are glad you did this time or don’t want to repeat next time, write it down. Don’t count on remembering it a year from now. And if you really want to be organized about it, type it into a file and attach the file to your Outlook or other electronic calendar so it pops up next July. Then you won’t even have to remember to go looking for your lessons learned file – it will come to you.
I hope some of these tips are useful to those of you who are unpacking from the conference and getting back to your daily lives. Does anyone else have post-conference tips or lessons learned? Or just some fun RWA Nationals experiences to share?