An Author's Guide to the RWA Conference

June 29, 2016

So, you're going to "Nationals" this year, right?


Yay!! I hope to see you there.

Want a few tips/tricks/where to hide if all the people get to you ideas? I thought I might combine all of my profound wisdom (read: not much) or maybe just gather my random thoughts from my own conference experiences that you might find useful here. Random thoughts are more my cup of coffee.


Here we go.

Let's start with 

What to Pack:

Don't be like me and wait to pack until the night before the conference because you've (yet again) signed on to release a book the week of Nationals and you're doing promo until the wee hours of the morning just before you get on a plane. Yes, I did it again this year. Like I said, don't be like me. 

Moving on. Here's a quick list of must-haves for an enjoyable conference experience:

Nice(ish) clothes - My youngest son pointed out last year that it was odd that an entire grouping of people who generally work in either 3-day old pajamas or old yoga pants need dressy clothes for their annual conference, but it's our time to put on our best and shine. 

You'll be meeting other authors, agents, publishers, and lots of other people who help authors get their books to readers. Oh, and at the big massive literacy signing where all of the proceeds go to my very favorite charity - The Proliteracy Foundation - you'll be meeting readers! So, do your version of cool chicky-mama but...

Shoes - Wear comfortable shoes. You'll be walking, and walking, and walking. I also highly recommend bringing blister band-aids or moleskin so that even if you get a blister you can keep right on trucking along. Put a few in your day bag. AND bring socks. Even if you won't be wearing them during the day, it's nice to have them at night to nurture your sore feet when you (eventually) retire to your room. 

You might also want to pack a few pairs of those comfy yoga pants (I like to think of them as a security blanket) to wear in your room as well. 

Things To Go In Your Day Bag - RWA provides lovely bags for us to carry around the conference. They put all kinds of helpful goodies in there as well. There are a few things I like to add to my bag, though. Chapstick, breathmints, medications, a bottle of water, a few of your favorite pens for taking notes, something to write on, your schedule (we'll go over that below), and tons of business cards. Anything you might need at your fingertips that you don't want to have to return to your room to get. 

Keep your business cards on you constantly. You'll pass them around the breakfast table, hand them out in workshops, heck I met a group of fans in the elevator when I first got to the hotel last year that I totally wasn't expecting. I'm pretty sure I even exchanged a few at the bathroom sinks. Keep them within reach all the times. 

An Empty Bag or Two - You'll likely be bringing home lots and lots of paperbacks. You'll need some way to get them all back to your lovely lair.

What To Do:

Before you arrive - Go through the schedule thoroughly. I highly recommend making use of the conference app to map out the workshops you want to attend, meals, meetings, and appointments. But...

Also make a paper copy. Occasionally, apps fail. (Never tell my darling hubby, the computer programmer, I said that.) It's nice to have to paper copy to fall back on in case the wi-fi gods don't smile on you. 

Side note on workshops - When you're going through the schedule deciding which workshops to attend think outside the box. There will be dozens upon dozens upon dozens of people lining up to hear about "What's hot in romance writing in 2016." But there might be other things going on during that time slot that would be more helpful. 

I always try to diversify my workshops. Career, craft, chats, research, and self-publishing. Take a few from each category to get the most out of a conference. 

Also, before you arrive, do your research. Are there restaurants near the hotel where you'd like to have lunch? Is there something outside of the conference you want to do while you're in town. Research before so if you find time you'll already know where you're heading.

Check the overall schedule thoroughly. There are provided breakfasts somedays and lunches others. See when you'll need to forage for food on your own. 

Once you arrive - Go by the registration tables and pick up your name tag and bag. Put your name tag around your neck and leave it there! It helps break the ice a little. You'll be meeting lots of new people. 

If it is your first conference, attend the First Timers session. It's fun and helpful. 

While you're there - Have a goal. I like to have one overarching goal for each conference. It can be as simple as making new friends, making a few contacts, or working up the courage to speak to your favorite author at a signing. 

Talk to people. We're all in this together. Authors that have been at this for years remember awaiting their first sale. Be friendly and smile. Writing conferences are the only places where we're surrounded by people who understand the way our bizarre brains work. Enjoy your trip to the pod mother who loves us all. Too much? Okay, forget that part about the pod mother. Just promise me if you see me you'll say "Hi!" and chat me up. I don't mind! I'd love to meet you, and I know most other authors feel the same way. 

Don't hide out in your room. Go to the bar in the evening. That's where we all are. But DON'T drink too much!!

Keep your goals in mind. Is your goal to get lots of free signed books, or is it to improve your craft? Let your goal be your guide throughout the weekend so to speak. 

And most importantly - Enjoy yourself! Take it all in stride. It's going to be fun. 

And maybe remember to leave yourself a few days to recover after you get home. 

I can't wait to see you there!








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