Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nearly time for ACFW by Terry Burns

It's nearly time for the ACFW Annual Conference. That is the American Christian Fiction Writers if you are somehow unaware of them.

This is a very large writing conference and will have hundreds of attendees. This large attendance makes for very strong programming and allows for an opportunity to do a substantial amount of networking. It is the strongest and most impressive conference that I go to, and I do on average a couple of conferences a month.

It is for fiction writers, but I know quite a number of people who write only non-fiction yet say they learn a great deal at the conference and that the contacts they make there work just as well for them.

But the size of the conference also presents some challenges that people need to be aware of. First, there will be so much content available that choosing what you want to go to and thus NOT go to is a definite challenge. Some people solve this by ordering recordings of the sessions they couldn't make. Also, some people who can't afford to go to the conference have found that they CAN order the conference recordings and that helps some for not being able to attend.

Another challenge presented by the size is the number of attendees makes individual contact with agents and editors very difficult. It holds the number of appointments an attendee can schedule to a bare minimum and puts a strong emphasis on casual contacts an attendee might have during the event. There will be hundreds of these casual contacts taking place and rising above the din takes skill and planning.

The primary tool for taking advantage of a contact at a meal, or a casual contact in the hall or an elevator (certainly not at their room or some place like a restroom) is your elevator pitch. You should have a short, interest garnering one sentence pitch prepared on your project that is polished and can be drawn like a gun to deliver at any opportunity. This may be invited by a comment like "What do you write?" or you may have to initiate it yourself by asking "May I give you my elevator pitch?"

Hopefully it will interest them and result in a proposal being invited. If not immediately forthcoming, ask "May I send you my proposal on it?"

The editor or agent is generally not going to want to take anything more than a business card with them. If you have a physical appointment with them, maybe a one sheet, but most don't even want that. They will want it sent to them. I very often don't make it home with things I have pressed on me at a conference.

Editors and agents are attending to learn of good projects, but the magnitude of this even makes brevity and conciseness a virtue. Launch into a long synopsis of your project and you'll see their eyes glaze over and see them edging away talking about how late they are to be somewhere. The process is simple, elevator pitch, ask for the sale (can I send a proposal?) and ask for their card to send it. I promise they will appreciate this solid, business-like approach.

I hope you are going to be at the conference and I hope with a little forethought that you will be able to make it work very well for you and know that you will be able to do a huge amount of networking.


Anonymous said...

I'm so looking forward to the networking and getting to meet online friends! Thanks for the tips. You've encouraged me to go back and readdress my pitch. Hoping to have it polished and shining by the time things start hopping!

Laura McClellan said...

Thank you for these helpful tips. It's good to get different people's perspectives on how to prepare for, and take advantage of, the opportunities that a conference like this offers. I'm a new-this-year member of ACFW; this will be my first-ever ACFW conference (or national writing conference of any kind). It's a bit overwhelming!


Carole Lehr Johnson said...

Mr. Burns, thank you for your valuable input. While I am not able to go to the ACFW, I will be at the ETBU CWC in October. I am looking forward to networking with fellow writers, and meeting you again.

Terry Burns said...

Looking forward to it, ladies

Johnnie Alexander Donley said...

Laura, you're absolutely right. The ACFW is a bit overwhelming. I attended for the first time two years ago, and I'm sure I walked around the whole time with that deer in the headlights stare. BUT it's also exciting and fun to be with so many wonderful Christian writers. I'm excited to be going again this year. And I pray you have a great experience.

Laura McClellan said...

Thank you! I appreciate the encouragement -- and the prayers!


Rick Barry said...

Looking forward to ACFW in Dallas. I'll add that an editor who declines a particular pitch can still become part of a writer's network. One editor turned down a proposal of mine, yet months later emailed a compliment about a magazine article I wrote elsewhere. We've become professional friends. Stay upbeat and positive no matter what.

Cindy Pye said...

Thank you, Mr. Burns, for the in depth information you have available. It has made the whole process seem less overwhelming. My daughter, Elizabeth, and I will be attending the CWC at ETBU in October. I look forward to meeting you and networking with other writers.