Don’t drop the ball! Following up after a conference

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

The ACFW conference has come and gone, and I know many of you attended this year. I have heard glowing reports from my clients who were in attendance. There were many blogs written before the conference about conference etiquette and appointment tips and I know Wendy wrote a post-conference blog. I’d like to add my thoughts about ways to follow up. This advice doesn’t just apply to the ACFW conference; it’s relevant for any writers conference.

1) Make the most of your investment. You put a lot of money in to going to the conference. Make sure you make the most of the information you gained at the conference. Buy conference CDs so you can listen again to the workshops you attendedΒ  and for the first time to the workshops you missed. The CDs or MP3s are usually only offered to those who have attended the conference, and only for a limited time, so hurry to order yours if you haven’t already. I also suggest you go over the notes you took during the meetings to solidify in your mind the information you learned. Your brain was overloaded during the conference; reviewing your notes will help you to sort out the jumble of input.

2) Edit your proposal and manuscript according to the input you received from the critiques. Don’t assume that your book is perfect. Listen to the professional critiquers and make some changes. Don’t let your time with them be a waste.

3) Submit your requested manuscript or proposal to editors and agents. If your manuscript was requested, be sure to send it in! You were given a huge opportunity to pitch directly to an editor or agent and getting a request is a big deal. The ball is in your court after the conference, and you’re the one who has to follow through and send in your materials. You’d be surprised by how many manuscripts I request during appointments and then never see.

4) Stay connected with the new friends you made. Follow them on Twitter and friend them on Facebook. Start connecting via email or form a critique group. These new author friends are a built-in support system that you don’t want to lose.

If you follow-up after the conference with these steps, you’ll get even more out of your conference experience! Now, I’d love to hear from you. Here are a few questions I’m wondering about, but feel free to add tips for fellow writers beyond the four I’m suggesting.

Do you usually purchase the conference recordings?

Have you ever not sent a requested manuscript? If so, why?

What was the best part of the ACFW conference for you?

What is the most useful part of writers conferences in your opinion?


51 Responses

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  1. Rachel, thank you for reminding us how important follow-up is!

    Yes, I’m tweaking requested proposals and will get those to my agent shortly.

    The most useful part of conference is probably the editor/agent/industry professional appointments. What a blessing to be able to connect with like-minded folks and talk about our projects.

    The best part of conference for me was dishing with friends–old and new. I also loved the myriad workshops, worship time, and a “certain” dessert bar where I ate one scone too many. But I’m sure the smoothie shots were fat-free. πŸ˜‰

    • Rachel Kent says:

      Calories don’t count at conferences. πŸ™‚

      • Tari Faris says:

        I am afraid I was one attendee that never sent the requested material. But at the conference I realized that my book had some huge structure problems like lack of goals for my characters. Unless you count “loving Jesus more” a goal.

        After attending a writing retreat shortly after conference I realized I needed to scrap the manuscript and start again.

        But I did make an effort this year to make appointment with the same people I met with last year where possible and explained why I never submitted and pitched my new complete book. They all went well and I WILL be submitting this year.

      • Tari Faris says:

        Oops- that wasn’t suppose to go under a comment. Maybe I should try and leave comments via my phone. Sorry.

  2. Good to see you back here, Rachel! πŸ™‚

    I went to ACFW and had the most fantastic time connecting with people. I did pray that God would use it to give me direction about my writing, and He answered that prayer in full force, mostly through my editor appointments.

    The best part for me was meeting all of my online friends in person. It just solidified my place in the writing community and truly made me feel as if I was “home.”

  3. Sarah Thomas says:

    I think the most helpful part of conferences is finding out that agents and editors are mostly regular people who have dogs and children and hobbies. They like to talk about current events and hear that their shoes are cute.

    The best part is meeting wonderful, generous writers who are all in the same boat as you and not only want you to succeed but will ask God to make sure that you do.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      Lol! I haven’t been told that my shoes are cute before. I guess I need to go shopping for new, cute shoes. Any excuse, right?

      The ACFW conference is such a great place to meet people who are in the same boat as you. Everyone is so friendly and encouraging. I just love that conference!

      • Jeanne T says:

        LOL. πŸ™‚ As a mom, you NEED cute shoes, right? πŸ™‚

      • Sarah Thomas says:

        The thing about shoes is that even when you’re having a nothing-fits-or-looks-good-on-me-anymore kind of day, you can still wear/buy cute shoes.

      • Rachel Kent says:

        Jeanne and Sarah, YES! Even more incentive to go shoe shopping.

        Maybe I’ll get my daughter a cute pair of shoes too.

      • There’s nothing cuter than teeny-tiny baby shoes. Except the baby who’s wearing them. And the little toes underneath… Aw, man, I’d better stop or I’m going to start wanting another one.

  4. The post-conference scramble always seems as hectic as the pre-conference scramble. One interesting thing I heard from an editor at ACFW was that she often finds a full inbox when she arrives home. Authors start sending the requested proposals/manuscripts almost before they have left the building. She suggested waiting a week or so, taking a final look through your material. Chances are you learned some new techniques that you can apply. If you send it the same day, it suggests to the editor that you didn’t bother to apply what you learned at the conference. I found that interesting, because I always assumed you should send it right away–before they forgot they’d even spoken with me! πŸ™‚

    The best thing at this ACFW (for me) was having a few of the editors recognize me and remember my name from previous conferences. That was fun!

    • Lisa says:

      I love that advice, thank you for sharing it!

    • Rachel Kent says:

      That’s true, Karen. That editor gave some good advice. Thanks for sharing it here! I think it’s essential to apply what you’ve learned to the manuscript before sending it in. If you don’t, then you aren’t making the most of the conference experience and you could be hurting your chances at publication.

  5. Lisa says:

    I hope to attend ACFW next year. I think I would love to meet everyone from online in person, sounds like a wonderful gift:)

    I was able to attend the Festival of Faith and Writing this past spring. I loved learning and soaking up everything I could.

    Thanks for that encouragement Rachel. It’s so easy to just plow ahead, but really taking time to solidify all you learned is such wide advice.

  6. Natalie K says:

    I didn’t attend ACFW but I went to PPWC earlier this year. I didn’t purchase the conference recordings and now I wish I would have! Instead, I downloaded the PDF worksheets that were available for each workshop. Not as complete, but the important bullet points are there.

    I wasn’t there to pitch, but I did talk to a fellow author who’d had her manuscript requested–the year before–and still hadn’t sent it! She said she couldn’t get it to where she wanted it. We encouraged her to finish one last round of changes and send it in. I guess she’s just afraid to let go!

    The best part of the conference for me was meeting other authors. The most useful part was a Read & Critique session where an agent read my first page and gave feedback. Some of her feedback was hard to hear (at the time), but she was right on. She inspired an entirely new scene for the beginning of the novel that changed the whole tone of the book.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      I think critique sessions are great, but they are usually hard. The group critiques are especially difficult. It’s hard to be the one doing the critiques too! I hate that I could hurt someone and I do try to be sensitive to the author’s feelings while telling the truth.

    • Ann Bracken says:

      I would LOVE a read and critique session! Then again, I’m one of those strange people who love being told what is wrong with my story, in great detail. After all, I want it to be perfect.

      Than again, I also think it should be CDO, not OCD, because then the letters are in alphabetical order.

  7. Anne Love says:

    I’ve purchased the CD’s and listened some, but this is a great reminder to dust them off again!

    This post is a good one Rachel. I last attended ACFW Indy 2010. I pitched to 3 editors –1 asked for full MS, one for proposal, and one said she loved it but couldn’t accept anything until I had an agent. As a newbie, I came home with my head and heart literally spinning and wasn’t sure how to weigh it all. For reasons only God knows, it just wasn’t the right timing to connect with agents. I sent the proposal–but not until 4-5 months later. I never sent the full MS because I thought that house wasn’t quite as edgy as I was writing and just felt uncertain. I would have loved to send to the third editor because I really connected with her.

    Another reason I didn’t send was that I only had one WIP to pitch. If they loved it, I had nothing waiting in the wings. Plus, I had no platform at all at the time. So, I’ve been writing WIP #2, working on platform, waiting God’s timing, researching agents. I think I’ll be more prepared for Indy 2013!

  8. Practical tips, Rachel. Thanks for sharing. The common aspect I notice is that these steps all require *action!* So important, yet we need reminders sometimes!

    • Rachel Kent says:

      It’s easy to feel like the conference is over so there’s nothing else to do, but authors do need to do the follow up and take that action. πŸ™‚

  9. Jeanne T says:

    Welcome back, Rachel. πŸ™‚ This is a great post, and the comments are helpful too. πŸ™‚

    I attended ACFW for the first time this year. I loved meeting people, celebrating unexpected victories with new friends, and learning that I can indeed pitch my story and live to tell about it.

    I received some promising feedback, and I’m working to weave in some of what I learned into my story before moving forward.

    I’ve been meaning to purchase the recordings. I guess I’d best get moving on that. πŸ™‚

    • Rachel Kent says:

      Thanks for the comment! I am glad you got some good feedback on your manuscript. I think the opportunity to get practical feedback is one of the best things that conferences offer.

  10. Jenni Brummett says:

    The useful part of attending Mount Hermon for the first time this year was the contacts I made. While there I spoke to an agent and a publisher about a niche market in Christian fiction that is just starting to be explored. Both of them stated that if I wrote a manuscript in this genre I should send it their way.

    I have been working on my story since April, and though I have a long way to go, my motivation is buoyed by the fact that I may be able to pitch my manuscript to these two experts in the future.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      Ah! I love that the meetings are providing you with inspiration to keep moving forward with your project. That is a great conference benefit!

  11. Thanks for the great reminders, Rachel.

    Recordings is one thing I would love to see offered at our conference. As registrar, I don’t get to attend many of the panels, since I like to be around to answer questions throughout the day. I find I usually buy books from authors who sat on panels I’ve enjoyed.

    While I didn’t get a request for my manuscript last year, I made changes based upon feedback from the agent I met with. That feedback also helped with my current WIP.

    My favorite part of a conference is sitting down to lunch with everyone. It allows us to talk books. The most useful part, however, is workshops that give me a chance to write while I am there. That’s what I like most about the online writers conference I attend each October. Homework is the norm, and the feedback from presenters is golden.

  12. Great tips, Rachel. The top two important things that come to mind for me would be the encouragement you get from attending any Christian writers conference and the new writing friends you meet.

  13. Sarah Sundin says:

    Such great advice, Rachel! And Karen received great advice too. But one thing I see too many writers do…they pitch at a conference and get asked to submit a proposal…then they dig into a deep, long rewrite for the next year and never send it in. Then they pitch the next year, get a request, dig into a rewrite…and on it goes.

    I think it’s really important to take no more than a month or so in rewrite-land – then turn it in! It’s a golden opportunity not to be wasted. This is also good practice for when you do have a contract. When the editor sends your content edit – and it could require massive changes – you only get a month to make those changes.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      Good advice, Sarah! I think some authors use rewriting as an excuse not to send in the project because they are nervous about it. Authors need to get past the nerves(as best as they can)and just submit the book.

    • Jenni Brummett says:

      Sarah, I attended the Historical Research class that you taught at Mount Hermon. Using the techniques you mentioned has really helped me delve into details and backstory for my WIP. Thanks!

      As a fellow Bay area gal, I hope to see you at Mount Hermon in 2013.

    • Thanks for the rewriting advice, Sarah! I’m one of those that edit my MS until it oozes red ink. lol

      I need to contain that in a time frame. One month. Got it! πŸ™‚ Now for practice…

      • Sarah Sundin says:

        Rachel – that is so true. I’ve seen those fears hold back some terribly talented writers.

        Jenni – I thought your name was familiar πŸ™‚ I’m glad the class helped! And yes – Lord willing – I’ll be at Mount Hermon next March. It’s my all-time favorite conference.

        Morgan – Red ink is a sign that you’re realistic, humble, and teachable. No red ink…THAT would be a problem πŸ™‚

  14. I had never thought to purchase conference CDs because my listening time is limited, but I volunteered at a local writers’ conference and received the CDs as a thank-you for helping out. Wow! But that wasn’t even the best part of volunteering. I got to interact with the conference leadership, the other volunteers, and some of the presenters and formed friendships out of that experience. When another event rolled around, they asked me to present.

    I know how hard it is to get to a conference for most of us in this economy, and I know writers who say it just can’t be worth it. They maintain you can do almost everything via social media. But nothing will ever replace a face to face contact!

  15. I didn’t attend the ACFW Conference. I have only heard great things about it though…especially when my friend, Melanie Dickerson, won the Carol! πŸ™‚ woohoo!

    I am attending the ETBU Conference in TX at the end of this month and I’m gearing up for it. I am also a first-time presenter, so I’m excited and nervous about that.

    Welcome back, Rachel! And thanks for the advice. I know in the past I have felt overwhelmed after conferences, but we must find some kind of method for us to debrief afterward. I’m already going to make my game plan for after the ETBU conference. Thanks!

  16. Back in the 1980s when I attended my first Mount Hermon conference everything I submitted was requested so I thought the editors were just being polite. Obviously I had a lot to learn! I always buy the tapes, CDs, MP3s or whatever the current technology may be and play them in the car while driving. They don’t distract me and the information sort of sinks into my subconscious. Listening to them has also made me a better – or at least more confident – speaker because I hear even the most famous speakers make mistakes once in a while.

    • I am curious what percentage of conference appointments result in requests. It seemed like everybody I talked to at ACFW was getting requests. Maybe that would make another good blog post for Books & Such.

      • Karen I don’t think there are as many as there used to be. Back then there were no agents in the Christian publishing industry and that conference was much smaller. Because of the economy and changes due to e-books publishers are more cautious today.

      • Rachel Kent says:

        Karen, I’d guess that I request 60% of the projects I’m pitched at conferences. It’s a much higher percentage than snail mail queries because I know that people who invest in their writing careers by going to the conferences are taking writing seriously.

  17. Great tips, Rachel! I love what you said about connecting with new friends. During conferences, I always keep a stash of all the business cards I collect, and one of the first things I do when I get home is look those people up on Facebook. Many of those connections have developed into deeper relationships.

  18. Lisa Bogart says:

    Though I didn’t attend ACFW (non-fiction here) I’ve been to Mt Hermon many times over. I like to send thank you notes to everyone I had meetings with, whether I was asked to send a manuscript or not. I think and hand written note thanking them for their time and consideration goes a long way. Often times I’ve made some connection with them and while they are not interested in my current project it’s nice to stay touch and be friendly.

  19. Ann Bracken says:

    I didn’t get to go to ACFW either, but am attending the HOW conference in Park City this weekend. I went to the same conference last year as a new writer. I think the overriding expression on my face was –> O.O

    I submitted to every agent who requested, and received lovely rejections. My manuscript has been edited more, so I’ll see how this time goes, although one of the agents attending already has my full.

    The best thing about attending conference, for me, was meeting so many wonderful, supportive writers. It surprised me how many people take pleasure in other people’s success.

  20. Thanks for the reminder. I’d been working on the manuscripts to send out and thank yous to many who’d worked so hard. Now it’s time to connect with the people on the cards I collected. Doing that last year developed friendships with people who will be live-long friends.
    My favorite part of ACFW would have to be worship. And that’s saying a lot because there was so much good stuff. But the worship always reminds of the “whys” of what I do and encourages me to do the hard work it takes to put out a polished product.

  21. Jill Kemerer says:

    I’m so glad I didn’t miss this post, Rachel. The comments are full of great info!

    Like Sarah Forgrave, I immediately add my new contacts on FB or Twitter so I can keep up with them. I also like to send notes to friends who won Genesis or Carol awards.

    I spend time thinking about any feedback from editors/agents and deciding if and what advice I agree with to improve my book.

    Mostly, though, I spend time in prayer to make sure I’m on the right path. πŸ™‚