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The Conference Portfolio, Part 1

By Lynne Pleau

Are the days of the hardbound portfolio gone? Cool on-line portfolios make a lot of sense, but are they the only option for face-to-face meetings with editors during a conference?

Carrying a portfolio is a great way to promote yourself, not just as a writer, but as a professional. A few years ago, during a last-minute conference meeting, a mentor asked me for a writing sample. I stuttered, fishing around in my briefcase for something, anything to hand over. I finally produced a very rough draft of a story I’d been working on. Ugh. That day, I vowed I would never again attend a conference without a professional sample. I borrowed a trick from my art school days and created a hardbound writing portfolio.

Why a hardbound portfolio? Technology is dependent upon a charged battery and a WIFI connection. And we all know those fail unexpectedly. When you’re sitting across from your dream editor, you don’t want to be dependent upon a device that isn’t working. In addition, it can take time to connect to your website, time wasted when you have only fifteen minutes with an editor. And if you don’t have a strong web presence, a physical portfolio is a great option.

Putting your writing in a portfolio is like putting artwork in a gilded frame. It suddenly looks impressive. When you see your writing in a clean, sleek portfolio, in poly-glass pages, with a thin black border around each page, your writing takes on a new professionalism. You’ll experience a confidence boost—a good thing to have when you’re nervous about pitching.

A clean, professional-looking portfolio speaks well of you. The moment you hand it to someone, you’ve told them a lot about your knowledge of the industry, your respect for your craft, and your organizational skills. Within a well-organized portfolio, an editor has instant access to everything he or she needs to know about you: your bio, your resume, your list of published writing, your references, the types of writing you’re pitching with a few samples of each—all within the covers of one book. You don’t have to sort through papers or folders in your hands, or worse, within your briefcase.

An editor meeting may pop-up unexpectedly, and with it the chance to pitch something you’re interested in but hadn’t planned for. No problem, if you have a wide range of recent samples in your portfolio. Those samples can include everything from novel excerpts to articles and poetry.

In addition, organizing your work in a portfolio and creating a list of published writing give you a new perspective about your work. Your list can help you track and capitalize on trends in your writing you may not have noticed otherwise—revealing strengths and areas of experience you can maximize, making it easier to pitch to new markets. It can also inspire you to write more, to fill in where you see gaps, or update old samples.

The job of a hardbound portfolio is to grab and hold an editor’s attention. To do that, it needs to be clean, sleek, well-organized, and professional. In my next post (tomorrow), I’ll talk about ways to create a portfolio that helps you sell yourself and your writing.

Lynne Pleau has published articles, reviews, poetry, and flash fiction in publications like Marriage Partnership Magazine, War Cry, Christian Communicator, and in Havok, Splickety, and Spark Magazines. She has won multiple awards for her flash fiction.

 

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3 Responses to The Conference Portfolio, Part 1

  1. I became a techie under duress
    but remain a Luddite to the core
    and believe the height of progress
    happens to be the revolving door.
    I don’t hold with tablets or phones,
    and flicking left or right.
    That’s all best left to drones
    whose hats are on too tight.
    Give me paper, butter-smooth,
    delicious to the touch,
    with embossed leather set to prove
    my writer chops, thanks very much.
    When WiFi fades, let others pout
    while you read my…hey, the lights went out!

  2. Ane Mulligan says:

    While I’ve never carried a portfolio with me (and I love the idea), I have taken synopses and first chapters, since I’ve been asked for them. I believe in being prepared. But a portfolio? GREAT idea! I could put my book flats in it and a sheet with sales numbers. You have my creative juices flowing.

  3. Robin Mason says:

    BONUS: Just carrying a portfolio with you is an advertisement and conversation starter.
    DOUBLE BONUS: I just like the look and feel of the thing!

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