When writer's conferences first began eons ago, their original intent was education. The writer or the writer-to-be would attend workshops with hopes of learning about the publishing world from other authors, agents, editors and publishers. This still holds true, but today there is so much more available to the attendee.
Taking part in a conference is your shot at marketing exactly how you want to be represented. What do I mean? You have the opportunity to market:
Let's begin by discussing how to market yourself. When an agent or publisher makes the ever-important decision to represent your work, they're making this decision based on more than just words on paper. They're representing a human being. If you're someone who they feel will be difficult to work with, or who doesn't want to jump into the back-end of their writing project, you'll probably go nowhere. With this in mind, there are three main rules you should adhere to when attending a conference:
You MUST realize that your attitude, personality and opinions are your sales tools. To draw a crude comparison, when we find ourselves in the process of purchasing a new vehicle (not unlike getting a root canal), we're not only looking for a particular make and model (the product), but we're also looking for someone (the human aspect) who will make the whole experience a little easier to deal with. The same holds true in the publishing world.
When attending a writer's conference, you must mingle, meet people, and make friends and acquaintances. The publishing world, just like other "communities" such as dog training, or the disabled community, is fairly small. In one way or another, everybody knows everybody else. People carry a reputation with them. Create a bad reputation for yourself, and eventually everyone will know. Once this happens, it's almost impossible to change it. You need to relay the fact that as a writer, you're looking for a long-term relationship, not just a one-time business deal. If you are looking for the latter, maybe writing isn't right for you.
Let's now discuss the balance of what you need to market:
If you think about it, all three of these items can be considered as one.
If you're working on your initial proposal, or if you have two paragraphs left to complete your manuscript, you are NOT selling the artwork on the front or back cover, fancy graphs, or illustrations. You ARE selling a concept, solution or entertainment.
As a conference attendee, we will meander through multiple workshops, critique sessions, dinners, etc. The one main question that always surfaces as people get to know one another is, "What's you genre," or "What type of project are you working on?" Realize immediately that if you don't know the person your talking with, you don't know if that individual is another writer, an agent or an editor. Don't bore them with, "Well, in chapter one... and in chapter two..." Your goal is to be able to describe your entire project in no more than two sentences. This is by far the most difficult task we as writers have to perform. How can we put years of work and research into two sentences? If you want to correctly represent your work, you'd better start learning now how to do this. While at conferences, I don't know how many times halfway through the event an editor would find me and say, "I heard from someone that you're working on 'abc' project."
Remember-we are representing a package. That package is our final deliverable product, and ourselves. One will not sell without the other.
Before attending your next conference, I recommend you sit down and make a list. This list should represent what you have to offer to the world. This should include items that list the positives, entertainment, self-help, etc. that your book offers-and you. Then, start editing. Delete adjectives, be-verb, adverbs, etc. Whittle your description down to the two sentences I described earlier. Just as the first paragraph of a book or article should be written and used as your "hook," so too must this short description. Once you complete your first draft, have it critiqued by your friends, and relatives. Get their honest opinion, and their first response. Use this data to go back to your drawing board (or computer) to polish what you've worked so hard to develop. THEN send it to a professional editor, word mangler, book doctor (whatever name you want to use) to give your work the finesse it deserves. Finally, memorize your two sentence description word-for-word.
Best of luck, and enjoy the conference!