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Conference Dos and Don’ts

By Patricia Bradley

With ACFW Conference coming up, I’m sure you’ve seen all the blogs about what you should do and not do at the conference. You know, things like take a one-sheet for your work, not the whole manuscript, pitch a finished story, not an unfinished one, make new friends and connect with old ones, and don’t stay up until the wee hours of the morning catching up, instead get lots of rest, and last but not least, don’t follow an agent or editor into the restroom and shove your one-sheet under the stall door…you want them to remember you, but trust me, you don’t want them to remember you for that.

Let me see if I can think of any other dumb things I did at my first conference. Not that I did that last one, but I did take my whole manuscript with me, thinking someone would want it. They didn’t, not in this age of emails.

Appointments. I can remember hanging around the appointment desk, hounding the person making the appointments waiting for my favorite editor to have a cancellation. Not that trying to get an appointment is a bad thing, but make sure you’re ready if you get that appointment. Is your manuscript finished? Polished? Or are you thinking if the editor or agent asks for a full, that request will be the incentive to finish your story? Don’t do it. You’re wasting your time and theirs. And if you get a request for the full manuscript, be sure to send it. Do you know how many editors and agents I’ve talked with who have said they only get about twenty-five percent of the submissions they request.

Do you hate to sit down and pitch your story? Does your mouth go dry and your heart beat a tattoo that resembles the flight of the bumblebee? While that never happened to me, (grin here) I don’t like pitching verbally—I tend to chase rabbits, talk too fast (for a Southern girl that is amazing), and any pitch I memorize sounds like I memorized it.

I’m a writer, so when it is time to sit down at my appointment, I walk in, introduce myself and handed the editor my one-sheet. Maybe that’s not the conventional way to do it, but for me it’s an icebreaker and it keeps me on task. Once the editor reads the one-sheet, I can easily answer questions about the story or expound on my characters without sounding like an idiot.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t have an elevator pitch—you know for those times we bump into someone and they ask what your story is about. Tell them in thirty-five or so words. For my first Cold Case Book, when someone asks me what it’s about, I say, “It about a man sitting on death row four days from execution. He receives a letter saying he didn’t do the crime, then the letter goes missing and the letter writer is murdered.” That’s usually enough to get them interested.

I hope this has helped as you prepare for conference. Hope to see you there!

A few things you might want to consider if you’re going to the ACFW Conference! @ptbradley1 #ACFWBlogs #ACFW2018 Click To Tweet


A 2018 Carol finalist and winner of an Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award in Suspense Patricia Bradley lives in North Mississippi with her rescue kitty, Suzy. Her romantic suspense books include the Logan Point series and the Memphis Cold Case Novels. When she has time she likes to throw mud on a wheel and see what happens.



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2 Responses to Conference Dos and Don’ts

  1. Emily Conrad says:

    I love the idea of simply handing over the one sheet! I think I’ve done okay with talking through the story (or at least editors have been kind in their reception of it 🙂 ), but it’s been one of the major stresses for me as I prepare for conferences. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences!

  2. Patricia, I was green as grass when I attended my first writing conference–was about to leave before my wife talked me out of it–and by the time I went to my first ACFW conference I was scared stiff. Using a one-sheet as an ice-breaker is a good idea. My own suggestion is don’t go there with high expectations. Let God and the flow of the conference give you the gifts that are just right for you. Thanks for sharing.