Okay, so we’ve talked about picking a conference, preparing for a conference, being at a conference.
Now it’s time to talk about AFTER THE CONFERENCE.
I do think that everyone will need some time after getting back to spend time with friends and family and catch up at the day job, catch up with sleep, and probably get over the conference yuck that seems to hit after most cons. Don’t ask me why, but there’s always some cold or flu or something that people go home with. They don’t always get it immediately, but if you get sick within a week of getting home, it’s probably Conference Yuck.
1) Did you learn something that will make your manuscript better?
Implement it! Get out your notes and dig in. It’s why you went in the first place. Use the stuff you learned to fine-tune your work. If it needs more, do it! Don’t give up. Put in the work. If you don’t have it done, and you have ideas to finish it, do it!
Time can be your enemy here. I’m not saying to work through the night. I’m not saying to ignore everything else. I’m saying that the longer you wait after a conference, the more you will lose the finer points of what you were thinking. Save your old stuff in its own document, copy and paste into a new document, and tinker as much as you can! Go for it!
2) Follow up.
If you got great advice from a published author, follow up with a thank you email. It’s good manners.
If someone’s offered to read pages, follow up to give them a general time line as to when to expect it. If you made it clear at the conference that you need some time before sending it, it’s okay to wait, but say thank you when you send it to them. I’m in that position right now. A published author has expressed interest in reading my novel, but doesn’t want it until I’m done with it. I didn’t bother her until it was done, and thanked her in a cover email when I sent it to her.
3) If you pitched your work and got a request for pages, get them out there.
Don’t rush something that’s not ready, but don’t waste the contact you made. Do the work. Follow through with the request. Be professional. The agent who you had a drink with and talked about fairy tales in fiction might be exactly the right person to represent your work, and if you wait a year to submit, they may forget the conversation. You may have spent an hour in the hotel pool talking politics with the editor of your dreams, and they may be looking for exactly what you’ve written.
You made a personal connection with that publishing professional. Maybe there was something about your conversation that has tweaked their interest. Maybe they’ve met someone else that weekend who your work would be perfect for. Maybe they ran into their editor buddy the minute they got back who talked about wanting something very similar to what you talked about. Don’t lose that networking possibility. Publishing runs on lots of networking.
4) Work on networking.
More and more conferences are having discussions about blogging, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, websites, and other ways of social networking. If you attended one of these panels, it might just be the kick in the seat of your pants that you were looking for to get started.
I’m not a social networking expert. I use Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and my blog. And I do try to update them after every conference. I’m trying to update everything more often. Going to one of these panels always inspires me to try to do more.
Always remember, however, that social networking is no substitute for working on your writing. Networking for the sake of networking when you don’t have a product you’re putting out there does nothing to help you. The writing comes first.
5) Research the next conference you’ll go to.
I’m not saying you have to go to one every weekend. I’m not saying you have to go to more. Most people who really enjoy their first conference end up going to another one. And then another one. All told, I’ve been to nine conferences over four years, two of which were repeats (in other words, I’d attended before, and was dying to go back). Those I’ve been to more than once are ones I’d go to again, if they stay in business.
So there you have it. Conferences are exhausting, nerve-wracking, sleep depriving, whirlwinds of writing awesome-sauce. I love going, despite the toll it takes on me for the work, the travel, the cost, and the preparation. I love going to meet up with old friends, make new ones, meet new contacts, and learn more about publishing. I probably look for different things in a conference now than I was looking for in my first conference, but that’s a combination of where I’m at professionally, and what I’ve learned so far. Good luck and safe travels in your own conference experience!