I was honored to teach at the NECRWA Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference over the last weekend of April.
I’m in the process of follow up from the conference. I usually try to get it done in the first two business days after I return. I was so wiped out from the month of April that I crashed and burned last week, and I’m still working on my usual post-conference protocols.
I’ve written about this before, last year, in the Authors Publish newsletter. I haven’t referred to that copy for this post — I’m simply sharing what I do. Returning from a conference can be overwhelming, when you unpack and look at all you’ve brought back.
Thank the Conference Organizers
I believe this is the most important piece of follow-up. It takes an enormous amount of time, energy, and emotional stamina as well as physical stamina to put on a conference. The organizers deserve a little thanks.
I thanked them in person on the final night, and I’ve thanked them across several social media platforms.
I’m behind in the written thank you, but that went out at the beginning of the week.
All of that matters.
Send out Promised Materials
Did you meet with any agents or editors? Did they ask for something specific? Get it out, as soon as possible. Some of them will ask you to wait a week or two after the conference, because they have a lot to catch up on. Make a note on your calendar, and send it when requested.
Make sure to send the materials while it’s still fresh for them.
This is also true if it was a trade show style conference and you spoke with vendors about possible freelance jobs.
If you talked to agents, editors, or publishers who didn’t ask for anything specific, just send them a quick note or email saying you enjoyed the conversation. Not every interaction has to be an immediate submission. There are plenty of agents and editors I love talking to at conferences. But I don’t write what they represent or publish, so I don’t submit or query what they don’t want. I do, however, keep in touch. If I ever do write something in their wheelhouse, I’ve laid the basis for a relationship.
If you met a potential critique partner and talked about exchanging manuscripts, or a fellow writer, where you did a book exchange, send the materials or say thanks. If it was a book exchange in the moment, make the time to sit down and read the book within the next two weeks. Tossing it on the TBR pile and not getting to it for a year isn’t helpful. Be the partner that you seek.
Did you attend presentations you particularly enjoyed? Most presenters include their website or social media information in their presentation or handouts. Send them a quick e-mail and thank them on social media.
Even if we intellectually know our presentations went well, it’s a big emotional boost when a participant takes the time to say “thank you.”
Follow up with fellow conference goers
I collect cards, flyers, bookmarks, postcards from everyone. If we’ve had a conversation, I follow up as soon as possible, either to say I enjoyed the conversation, or to continue it.
Sort the Swag
In addition to picking up material from those I meet, I also accumulate plenty of material from those I didn’t.
When I get home, I sort it.
Agents, Editors, Publishers go in one pile. This is AFTER I follow up with promised materials, as stated above.
Authors I met go in another pile.
Authors I didn’t meet, but picked up material go in a third pile.
I follow up with authors I met first. That includes buying at least one of their books, if I didn’t do so at the conference. And reading that book in a timely manner. And then, LET THEM KNOW YOU READ IT — especially if you liked it. Leaving a review is also helpful.
I research the agents, editors, and publishers, especially if I didn’t get a chance to meet or cross paths with them at the conference. Do I have anything I think will suit? Does what I have meet their guidelines? Are they open for queries?
There have been times when I’ve been signed with an agent, and I run into an editor or publisher at a conference with whom I click. I then discuss it with my agent, and together we decide if there’s anything to query, or if we save it for another time.
If I have good conversations with an agent or agents while l’m under representation, I let them know. I don’t want my agent to feel I’m doing anything behind their back; I don’t want the agent I talk with to think I’m behaving that way either.
I go through the pile of authors I didn’t meet last, and check out their books and websites. Conferences are one of my favorite ways to find new-to-me authors.
I have files of conference programs, handouts, and promotional materials. I often remember a particular author or business by which conference I “discovered” them, so that’s how I file. I file the information AFTER I’ve done all of the above, because if I put away a file, my subconscious believes I’ve finished the project. I need unfinished files in front of me.
I keep files for far too long. Basically, I have an Archive. But that’s my choice. Do what suits you.
Normally, I’d have my initial contacts done early in the first week I was back, and be working my way through the Authors-I-Didn’t-Meet pile. But I’m behind, so I’m still working on thanking presenters and following up with other authors I met.
If the above sounds like a lot of work — hey, it is! But it pays off in connections and building friendships and finding great new reading material.
It’s all worth it.