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Monday, November 14, 2011

11/11/11 - 11 Ways to Make the Most After the Conference

by Marcy Collier & Kitty Griffin

Tri-Conference SCBWI Agent Panel

Kitty and I attended the SCBWI Tri-Regional Conference in Gettsyburg last weekend. For the first time, the regions of Eastern and Western Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia joined together for an action-packed weekend. We heard delightful and inspiring tales from Patricia MacLachlan, Jim Murphy, E.B. Lewis and Lin Oliver. We participated in exciting workshops and got to know many of the agents and editors. On the ride home, we discussed strategies on how to make the most AFTER the conference.

1. Write thank you notes:  If there was an agent, editor, author or illustrator who you enjoyed meeting or talking with at the conference, send a handwritten thank you note. Not an email or a tweet, an honest-to-goodness handwritten note thanking them and letting them know you appreciated meeting them at the conference.

2. Type up your conference notes or if you jotted them on your IPAD, decipher your scribble. An attendee’s head is filled with industry information after a conference. If you wait a week, your notes may not make sense.

3. DON’T – and yes, this is a shouting – DON’T – mail out your manuscript the moment you return home. Consider what the panel said about your first page. Allow the criticism you received during the manuscript review to percolate for a while. Sit down and make the suggested changes. DON’T send your manuscript until it’s ready or as Jim Murphy so eloquently put it, “Your manuscript doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be good enough.”

4. Identify the agents or editors who you feel would best represent your work. It is important to meet these professionals in person. You get a good feel for their tastes and their personalities. That is why conferences are so very important.

5. Research. Research. Research. Research the agents and editors from the conference. Read books that they have published before you send to them.  

6. Check out publishers’ and authors’ websites and guidelines. If you’re going to submit, read the guidelines and pay attention to the rules before you submit.

7. Keep your query letter to the point. Tell the editor or agent why you’ve targeted them specifically. Do not argue or become defensive in your query letter. Keep your letter focused.

8. Stay in touch with other writers or illustrators you’ve met at the conference. Think of your colleagues as fellow travelers who can help you on your journey. You will inspire, encourage and share stories with the people you met and make lasting friendships.

9.  Challenge yourself. Pick one weakness in your writing (plot, characterization, voice, etc.). Go to the library. Read as many books as you can on craft. Study. Work hard until this aspect of your craft soars.

10. Embrace social media. Expand your social network. If you sign with an agency, you are expected to use these social networking tools. Many of us fear the technology because it is new to us. Learn it and use it. The Route 19 bloggers have been fearful to join Twitter for a long time now. Kitty and I listened to some interesting conversations regarding social media. Based on what I heard, I signed up for a Twitter account today.

11. Give yourself a deadline to submit to an editor or agent. Don’t become a revision addict. Do not make excuses or procrastinate. Get the manuscript ready and send it off. Be polite, have business sense and believe in yourself and your work.

And if you do as Kitty and I have suggested, you will make the most out of your conference!

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