Top Conference Follow-Up Tips

Written by A Guest Author | September 21, 2017

by Devon Ellington 

Meeting agents and editors at conferences gives a stronger sense of whether your work is the right match. You also meet other authors, who provide mutual support on the publishing journey.

Conferences are both exhilarating and exhausting. How often have you returned from a conference, dumped your bag in the corner and not unpacked for months? You picked up giveaways, information packets, postcards, bookmarks, press releases, and all kinds of promotional materials, all with contact information and buy links on them. You gave away your share. But what do you do with it all?

I’ve done conference rounds for years: as author, as presenter, and as support for the organizers (when I was a Trustee for Cape Cod Writers Center). Over the years I’ve developed ways to organize, optimize, and build on the contacts made at conferences. I also asked a few friends and colleagues to chime in with their advice.

Organize

 The day after I return from a conference, I tip out my writing bag, and sort out what I’ve collected.  I put away my own materials and sort the other material into business cards, book promotion, services, agents & editors. If I received free books, they go to the top of the TBR pile. I separate each pile into people I met/exchanged information with or material picked up because it looked interesting. Requests from an agent or editor at the conference get top priority.

Optimize

Requests for partials, fulls, or proposals go out within three days of the end of the conference, with a short note/email thanking the agent or editor for interest, and reminding the person of our meeting and that the material was requested. That means I did whatever work required to revise the requested materials if necessary. Those materials are entered into my submission log.

It’s important to make sure the material is ready for submission, not just sent in a rush, warns agent Marilyn Allen. “My favorite follow up has a clear subject line reminding me of the conference and the book pitched. I encourage writers not to rush this process. Be sure their proposal and sample materials are complete and in perfect shape before following up. Agents actually remember for many years the conferences and pitches they heard. You get one shot!”

“Expensive bottles of Malbec are always welcome,” half-jokes author and editor Chantelle Aimée Osman. “Barring that, a friendly but professional e-mail is the way to go. Put in enough detail that I’ll remember you and your work. If I asked you to send something to me, only include what I’ve asked for. Be brief and respectful.”

Within the first week, I email everyone I enjoyed interacting with: other authors, conference presenters, agents and editors with whom I had interesting conversations (even if they didn’t request material). Just a quick note, telling them I enjoyed meeting them, reminding them of our interaction, I look forward to reading their book (if appropriate), and wishing them well. I also let them know my Twitter and Facebook handles, and follow or friend them.

Author Nancy Rubin Stuart, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Writers Center, and main organizer of their annual conference, agrees.  “While you may chat or befriend other writers and faculty at a conference, the best way to build on those initial contacts is by following up soon after with a friendly email. In that note, remind them about your conversation to jog their memory and write back.”

Author Arlene Kay waits a little longer: “I typically wait 60-90 days before initiating contact and then do so by e-mail only. My experience has been that they usually have absolutely no interest in me or my work if they’ve waited that long. At ThrillerFesttwo years ago, an executive editor from a major house actually approached me after I appeared as a panelist and asked me to send her my latest project. I was thrilled of course and did so promptly. When I hadn’t heard from her after 90 days, I emailed her. Response: ‘so sorry but your project doesn’t meet our needs.'”

I go through other promotional/conference information to see what’s time sensitive, if there’s another conference or event I’d like to either attend or where I’d like to present.

Build

With fellow authors, I read the books of those whom I met first, and send a quick email. I work my way through the promotional material, happy to read new-to-me authors. I try to support my fellow authors by buying books, sharing information and interacting on social media, etc. I’m big on handwritten notes and holiday cards.  Maintaining relationships, even if I don’t have something suitable for an agent or editor in the moment, often pays off when I do.

Contributor Bios:

Marilyn Allen is a partner in the Allen O’Shea Literary Agency (www.allenoshea.com) and represents many successful authors. The agency focuses on nonfiction books from writers with large dedicated audiences.

Arlene Kay is a former government executive and the author of seven published mystery novels, including the Boston Uncommon Series by BelleBridge Books.  http://www.arlenekay.com

Chantelle Aimée Osman is a freelance editor, consultant with 22 Literary, instructor at LitReactor and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing as well as an author of short fiction and The Quick and Dirty Guide to… series of writing guides. www.22literary.com

Nancy Rubin Stuart is an award-winning author of seven nonfiction books and the Executive Director of the Cape Cod Writers Center.  www.nancyrubinstuart.com   www.capecodwriterscenter.org


Author Bio: Devon Ellington publishes under multiple names in fiction and nonfiction, and is an internationally-produced playwright and radio writer. Her blog, Ink in My Coffee is at http://devonellington.wordpress.com, and her main website is http://www.devonellingtonwork.com.