If you’re a YA or kidlit writer in New England, chances are you’ve heard of the regional NESCBWI conference. I’m going for the first time this year (excited!) and am in list overdrive, writing out things I need to collect for the conference (chocolate), work out before the conference (the calories from the chocolate), and generally do before the conference (buy more chocolate). Of course, since this is only my second conference, I’ve also been spending a fair amount of time on the interwebs collecting tips. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Three tips from agent Sara Megibow @ Nelson Literary, via their marvelous e-newsletter:
1. Work the blurb. Make sure you can rattle off a 2 sentence pitch at any time.
2. Be prepared to submit. Have a sample (say 3 chapters or 30 pages) ready to email and easy to access/email. Have a full ready, too, both in MS word format and with all your contact details included.
3. Update your blog/site! It’s a fairly common practice to check people out online nowadays, so make sure your website puts your best (virtual) foot forward.
And a couple from Cynthea Liu’s Writing for Children’s and Teens (head over to Cynthea’s post for more great tips):
1. Work the room and meet people. If the highschool prom wallflower routine is your usual thing, it’s time to break out and try something new. Conferences are a great opportunity to meet people with similar interests–and people who take YA and kidlit seriously–and learn new things. You don’t have to engage in hours of dreaded small talk to get involved. Try asking about someone’s writing, or what they thought of last year’s Newbery/Printz/awesome award winners.
2. Think about your outfit. Don’t rock up to a conference in your PJs or baby-stained overalls. You don’t have to do the totally geared up business deal, but try to be neat and tidy. Worried you won’t be memorable without your hot pink fedora? Don’t worry. As long as you’re honest and involved, you’ll stand out to the people who matter.
And a few of my own, based on my experience at the Utah-based Brigham Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop a couple of years ago (and some intense, freaked out brainstorming this week):
1.Take a pen and paper. Do not depend on your laptop/smart phone/teeny-weeny device for everything. Sometimes, it’s too hard to whip the thing out, other times, well–devices fail. Batteries fail. Don’t let your love of funky new gadgets leave you in the lurch.
2. Get some business cards. In Utah, I ended up scribbling my email address on lots of tiny slips of paper ahead of time, because people kept asking for my details and I wasn’t prepared enough. And yet, it wasn’t ‘til this past week that I learned my lesson (I’ve been asked for a card three times). Business cards are easy and inexpensive to make–there are a lot of online services around, or you can do it in person at your local Staples/print center. If you’re a social networking tech kind of person, make sure you include your website, twitter, Facebook details etc.
3. Take snacks. Conferences do have some food, but there are often queues, and there’s not guarantee there’ll be food around you like/can eat, especially if you have dietary restrictions (I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t eat dairy products). Throw some granola bars and fruit, or even sandwiches in your bag. And include a bottle of water. All that discussion is thirsty work!
4. Know your stuff. Make sure you know not just about your work, but about what’s going on in the industry. You don’t need to know the finer points of everything, but it’s a good idea to be familiar with the Big Things in publishing. Spend some time reading up on PW.com, or surfing agent and writer blogs for information.
5. Learn new stuff. Even if you know all there is to know about a topic, try taking a back seat and letting other people talk. Most people clam up in the face of a lot of knowledge, which means you could miss out on a new or useful viewpoint, or learning about a great new resource.
6. Ask questions. At the Utah conference, a lot of people were very shy about asking questions because they didn’t want to look stupid. But, as my good friend Chris once told me, “There are no stupid questions. Just stupid answers.” Whenever I’m balking at opening my mouth, I repeat that a couple of times, then stick up my hand. Still feeling shy? Remember that asking a question actually puts the spotlight on the person answering. It also, for good or ill, puts all the expectations on them rather than you.
7. Make a list of what you want to get out of the conference. I like lists for a reason–they help me visualize what I want, remember what I need to do, and generally make me more effective. While you mightn’t want to include nebulous goals like “find the perfect agent”, a few well-thought out items like “meet writers in my area” and “learn about trends in YA” could help keep you focused on what’s important to you, and getting the most out of the event.
8. Agents and editors are people, too. I’ve heard several horror stories about people pitching agents and editors in bathrooms and elevators, and a lot of reasons not to do it. And while I agree you shouldn’t stalk publishing professionals, I think it’s important to remember that they’re a lot like us–people who love books, reading, and possibly even chocolate. So if you’re lucky enough to end up chatting with a couple of agents or editors, don’t freak out or go all hero-worship on the poor folks. Just relax, and talk like you’d talk to anyone involved in your industry–calmly and professionally.
Do you have any handy conference tips? Have you been making lists in preparation, or are you a more easy-going attendee? Are you excited about the conference? Nervous? Blasè?Read More
Earlier this year, I contributed a number of articles to the Daype Classified News Blog. Most of them concerned classifieds, job searching, and personal promotion. While I was researching and interviewing for the content, I often found myself thinking, “how does this apply to me?”
The most important thing I learned from my work with Daype is that an online presence is vital. This is true for any business, but I think it’s especially important for writers. Here are my top 3 reasons.
1. Writing Is What We Do
I’m a writer–anyone who visits this blog can see that. It’s stamped all over these pages, from the title to the portfolio pages to the how-tos. Thing is, anyone who writes a blog is also a writer, a fact which is contributing to the death of newspapers the world over.
Writing is a difficult business. It’s full of what-ifs and maybes. It’s also full of wannabes–after all, anyone with a pen and paper can set up shop as a writer. Which is why writers–serious writers, people who are willing to put in what my Papa would call “the hard yards”–have to establish themselves online. Why? An online presence gives you the opportunity to make yourself stand out from the crowd. It lets you demonstrate that have the necessary toolkit (grammar, vocabulary, ideas etc.) to do the job, that you’re more serious than Joe Bloe and his rant about how Starbucks killed the Coffee Connection.
2. Get To Know Your Topic
The power of blogging has been established–every man and his monkey has a blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter feed. And while blogging is an excellent way to disseminate information, it’s also a great way to gather it.
How? Blogs are a bit like newspaper columns–the best ones have a focus. Why? A focus keeps the writing fresh and informative. Treating blogging like a newspaper beat, like a job, forces you to stay informed. And staying informed is an important part of establishing a trust-worthy web presence.
(For more, check out the exploration section in Monday’s post.)
In the words of literary agent Sara Megibow (Nelson Literary Agency):
“If I am reading sample pages that I like, the very first thing I do BEFORE asking for the full manuscript is a Google search for your website. Hopefully, you’ve included the url in your query letter but if not, I go on a hunt. No, it’s not a deal breaker if you’re not 100% web savvy, but I consider websites, blogs, etc., to be a part of the package, a part of the “resume,” so to speak. And, yes — I take it seriously.” [read more of Sara's tips in the October newsletter from Nelson Literary.]
Why do Sara and other agents look for a web presence? Because a web presence is a measure of a few things. First of all, it shows how seriously you take your job. If you’re trying to land an agent for a middle grade novel and your page is covered in curse words, it’s going to send out a lot of unprofessional signals. Similarly, if you’re trying to sell a Vampire novel and you’ve got a page full of Vampire lore, an agent may be more interested in your work.
Second, a blog is like a portfolio. It shows the quality of your writing, and, to the trained (agent) eye, it’s a glimpse into how you think. Blogging about things relevant to your craft and your niche helps industry professionals see that you’re willing to work (remember those “hard yards” from above), and, perhaps more importantly, willing to learn. After all, nobody wants to work with a know-it-all, right?
Why do you blog? Do you have a goal for your blog?
Job hunting is hard. Right now, it seems as if everybody and their dog is searching through the job classifieds, meaning that employers can be extra choosy about new hires. So how can you stand out from the crowd?
One way is by keeping things simple. Employers are regular people, just like you and me. They have work commitments, family commitments, and half a dozen other things besides. Keeping your cover letter and any supporting material short, simple, and easy-to-read cuts down on the amount of time an employer needs to spend – and helps you stand out.
Why do you need an online portfolio?
As you’ve probably noticed, more and more employers are asking applicants to include a website and clips or samples in their applications. A great way to demonstrate that you’re up-to-date, efficient, and willing to go the extra mile is to spend a couple of hours setting up an online resume and portfolio. Though this may sound a little daunting at first, WordPress makes setting up a website easy. Not into WordPress? There are several services out there; Blogger and WordPress are the simplest to use. The advantage to WordPress, however, is that you can create the look and feel of a custom website, while Blogger and other services like it limit users to a single page blog…[more]