Nicki Salcedo is a graduate of Stanford University where she majored in English and Creative Writing. She has served on the Executive Board of Georgia Romance Writers as Recording Secretary, Vice President – Conference, Vice President – Programs. She has been the Moonlight & Magnolias Book Fair Coordinator, Maggie Award for Excellence Historical Category Coordinator, and Assistant Web Administrator. She has contributed to her chapter newsletter, The Galley, and the Romance Writers of America's PROspects. She has served as the Literacy for Life Raffle Chair, and on RWA Leadership, PRO Advocacy, and PRO Steering committees. She is currently the Book Review Editor for the Journal of Popular Romance Studies. In addition to the stuff above, Nicki also has a real job by day (one that pays her money) and at night she is a writer. She has three kids under the age of five (the monsters), a cat (named for a baseball player), and a husband (what’s-his-name). She is tired, but can be found blogging with Petit Fours and Hot Tamales and online at 8headedhydra.com
The RWA National Conference is an exciting time for any member of Romance Writers of America. After my first conference, I could only describe it as summer camp for grown-ups with my new 2,000 best friends. The event runs from Wednesday to Saturday. Earlier if you are a board member and different events are available if you are a librarian or bookseller, PRO member, or belong to a special interest chapter having events at Nationals.
(#1 New York Times Best Selling Author )
Thursday - Saturday are the workshops, editor/agent appointments, PRO retreat, and special speakers. You’ll really need to plan your time in advance to maximize the conference. Some people attend for the free books (yes, publishers have free signings throughout the conference), but do you really want to miss the all important craft workshops? Bob Mayer recently blogged about this topic, and I thought his comments were right on the mark.
National ends on Saturday night with the prestigious Rita and Golden Heart Awards. RWA puts a lot of time and energy into this event; you’ll feel like you are at the Academy Awards. It is a great way to end the conference. For more on RWA go to http://www.rwanational.org/
The same year I went to my first National conference, I also attended my first Moonlight & Magnolias. Georgia Romance Writers has put on one of the most successful regional conferences for over twenty-five years. It has all of the perks of Nationals – editors and agents, keynote speakers, author signing, and Maggie Award ceremony – but instead of 2,000 attendees there are 300. Instead of 50 editors and agents there are 10. If you do the math, the ratio of time and access to published authors and publishing professionals can’t be beat. Last year, attendees came from 23 different states and Canada. 70 published authors were in attendance for the conference and book signing. It cost less than half the price of Nationals, but it can be double the fun.
Go to http://www.georgiaromancewriters.org/mm-conference for more.
One-day events are a valuable to way to gear up for bigger events. Deb Dixon, Margie Lawson, Dianna Love and Mary Buckham, Bob Mayer, and Michael Hauge are well-known presenters and experts on writing. One-day events are just that, one-day and possible a hotel stay the night before or after. If you aren’t sure about spending your time and money on a full week or weekend conference, try a one-day workshop first.
I absolutely love RWA National and Moonlight & Magnolias. Every year I go, I feel that my money is well spent. I also like one-day events to give me a quick boost to my writing during the year.
Why Go? Why Spend the Money? Why not Stay Home and Write?
Going to a conference or one-day event is a great idea for a few reasons. It will:
- Motivate your writing
- Build a support system with other writers
- Educate yourself about the craft and the business of writing
- Connect and network with industry professionals and publishing houses
Here are some suggestions for making your experiences successful.
Leave space in your suitcase for goodies, books, or raffle prizes. Want to get really organized? Print it out my conference packing list!
What to wear
This is a professional organization and a business conference. Business casual attire is recommended. A sweater or wrap would be a good idea. Workshop areas may be cold. For the award ceremony, anything from professional to dressy is acceptable. Be kind to your feet at all times. Be ready for walking, standing, and dancing! A dear friend once mentioned to me that we are writers and we should be able to dress any creative way we like. I agree. She loves purple, and would never wear a business suit. Hey, neither would I! Allow your personal flair to shine through, too.
What to do professionally
Have a goal in mind. Are you there to learn? Are you there to pitch? Are you there to promote yourself? Create a plan based on the conference schedule. Attend the autographing. Organize your time. Plan for some down time.
What to do socially
Volunteer. Much of RWA’s success (and any local chapter) is built on the strength of its volunteers. Help and network at the same time.
Be friendly. I know you’d rather be in your cave writing, but pretend you are outgoing and make a new friend. Talk to someone you see standing all alone. Sit at a table with strangers and introduce yourself. Ask other writers about their work and listen to what they have to say.
Act like the world is watching you. This is not the time to be funny or strange or unprofessional. People are watching and remembering what you do and say. Be positive in all of your interactions even if the editor or agent isn’t interested in your manuscript. You don’t know who might be listening. Don’t talk too much about yourself. You should listen, too! But don’t be so quiet that you go unnoticed! Remember to smile and have fun.
- Arrive early for appointments and workshops
- Turn off your cell phone on during all conference events, workshops, meetings, or luncheons.
- Talk to authors who write what you want to write
- Thank speakers and congratulate award winners
- Be courteous, not confrontational, to:
- Workshop presenters. If you think you know more than someone else, don’t badger them. Submit a workshop proposal for yourself for next year.
- Editors and agents. Understand that the editor or agent who has your manuscript also has the manuscripts of 50 other people sitting on her/his desk. It is not personal. Don’t put an editor or agent in an uncomfortable situation by questioning them about the status of your manuscript.
- Conference staff, volunteers, and hotel staff. Understand that mistakes happen and allow the staff to try and correct it. It will make your conference experience much more pleasant if you thank the volunteers and staff members. The server pouring your iced tea, may one day be your biggest fan.
- Carry a mirror or walk with a good friend to check your teeth!
- Skip the perfume and scented lotions
- Note what grabs the attention of editors or agents and any industry trends
- Pitch finished manuscripts only
- Be ready with a 50 words or less high-concept “elevator pitch” of your manuscript
- Write down your pitch on a note card. This will really help you if you are nervous.
- Have two stories ready
- Be prepared to answer any questions about other writing projects and how long it takes for you to complete a book
- Bring your business cards
- Please be courteous of everyone's time in group appointments. Do not monopolize the time when others in the group need their fair share, too. Be respectful of others story ideas.
- Note how the editor or agent prefers queries (mail or email) and submission type (synopsis, three chapters, etc)
- The editors and agents will be giving their honest opinions on what they like or do not like. Publishing is not for the faint of heart. Any interest or praise or criticism is only one person’s opinion
- Don’t bring or give a hard copy to any editor or agent in person. If they want one, they will tell you where to mail one!
- If your pitch is requested, don’t delay. Send your queries within one month of the conference.
What to do post-conference?
Send thank yous to authors, editor/agents, and presenters who you made connections with.
Send emails to new friends.
Fill out the workshop and conference surveys.
Note what you learned, what you liked, and what you would do differently next year. Have fun at the conference, and then get back to writing!
Got conference tips? Post your suggestions.