Preparing for a Conference

You’ve registered for a conference. Hopefully its NJRW’s Put Your Heart In A Book Conference. Now what?

If you’re like me, it’s been months since you registered. Life moves on and you forget. Suddenly, you look at the calendar and realize it’s almost here. Here are some tips on how to prepare for a conference.

Finish that manuscript!

Are you 90% done with your book and haven’t found the time to finish or edit it? Maybe your kids were home all summer and you couldn’t find ten minutes, let alone an hour, to put two intelligent sentences together. Sound familiar, anyone? Or maybe your day job was so crazed you fell into bed exhausted each night (this one is really familiar to me). Whatever the reason, now is the time to push to get that manuscript as complete as possible.

This year, NJRW is sponsoring a first ever “Push to Pro” event. Over the course of six-weeks, members will work to achieve a writing goal they’ve established to get that manuscript pitch (and PRO) ready. Kudos to NJRW PRO Liason, Marlo Berliner, for coming up with and running with such a great idea. May all of you who entered meet your goal!

Agent/Editor Appointments

Be sure to look at the chapter’s website and see which agents and editors will be taking pitches. Do your research to know which are most suitable for what you write. SIGN UP! Don’t forget to register for the pitch sessions and provide your list of agents and editors you want to meet. If you haven’t already, read Femme Michele’s post on “Writing the Perfect Pitch” to help you prepare.

Business Cards

Regardless of your publishing status, get business cards. You can print them yourself or get them fairly inexpensively at Vistaprint. If you find it difficult to initiate a conversation with people you don’t know, they’re great ice breakers. People naturally look at your card and will ask questions about what you write, whether or not you’re represented by an agent or are published. It’s a great way to network.

What to include? People have varying opinions on this. I try to keep it simple so I don’t have to keep getting them printed. Here’s what I have on mine: Name, Pseudonym, “Writer” (although some people have Contemporary or Historical Writer, etc), email (please make sure it’s a professional email), website or blog (if you have one). I get cards without the shiny coating so I can write on the back if I want to give out my phone number or share any other information.

What to Bring/Wear?

My favorite topic…clothes! I love clothes and shoes. I love getting dressed up. Not every day, mind you, but I like putting aside my yoga pants to put on something that makes me feel feminine and well…sexy! Why not? We’re writing romance novels, many of which are sexy, so why not feel it? I feel confident when I’m a little more dressed up. I may not be published yet, but I’m going to act and project the image of what I desire to be…PUBLISHED.

That being said, pack practical. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Most conferences are business casual, meaning slacks and a nice shirt or a skirt or a dress. Wear layers in case the workshop rooms are warm or cold. When pitching, you don’t need to wear a suit, but I’d wear something appropriate for a job interview. First impressions are important and do you really want to make your first one while wearing a stained NY Giants sweatshirt and ripped jeans?

Some conferences, like Nationals and NJRW’s Put Your Heart in a Book, have an award ceremony that’s dressier. Personally, I’d go along the lines of fancy party/wedding attire, although I’ve certainly seen people wearing more casual clothes. A dressy pant suit is nice, too. For PYHIAB, prior to the ceremony there’s a cocktail hour where you can and should network. Another great ice-breaker is to compliment someone’s attire.

If you haven’t done so, registration for NJRW’s Put Your Heart in a Book conference has been extended until September 30th. You can register by going to

It will be a great conference. Stop by and say “hi” to the Femmes. We’d love to see you. Be sure to check out the goody area, where we’ll have some special treats for you.

In case you hadn’t noticed, you no longer have to enter ‘wordpress’ as part of the URL. You can reach us directly at As our 1-year anniversary nears, we’ll be sharing some more exciting news and have a special contest. Come to the conference and stay tuned to the website for details!

Hope to see you at the NJRW conference in October!

Leave a comment


  1. Good job, Maria! Covering the “how do I get over my shyness” is a good idea. Even if you’re not shy, walking into a room of 200 people you don’t know can be intimidating. The most important thing about conferences is networking, so attendees need to get over that hump really early on!

    I am so-o-o looking forward to October!


    • Hi Jaye. I get very overwhelmed when I walk into a crowded room. I’ve gotten better networking, but at times still find it a challenge. I say this as I head off to a conference for my day job in San Francisco, where there will be 70,000 people attending. I’m trying not to think about it…too much.

  2. Jenna Blue

     /  September 17, 2012

    All good ideas, Maria! Even those of us who’ve done this lots of times, can use the reminders because there’s so much to think about!

    • Hi Jenna. It’s easy to forget things, especially for those heavily involved with the conference planning. There’s so much to do, that its a relief when its finally here.

  3. hieubietusa

     /  September 17, 2012

    Since, I know and admire everyone on this blog…maybe what I think is the truth I’ll share.
    You have to pitch…even if you are not lucky enough to do it over a drink or lunch or a casual conversation thanks to NJRW…you must keep pitching. It is a lot like going on a job interview…
    Like the aforementioned necessity of the modern working class…many times the interviewer has made their mind up before you open your mouth…they have reached the limit on your genre…or you do not look like an appealing image on the inside of a book jacket…or they already have too many ms. to deal with…
    Still, your post is a good checklist for the “no ducking away from” face to face.
    Thanks…wait till you see my suits for the bash…wooosh!
    FYI: Since we shared the same alma mater, an interviewer confessed that the job was filled, they were continuing just to scout out any potential replacements.
    see yah

    • Hiya, Joe. You’re right in that sometimes you pick bad when it comes to pitching. You thought the agent was looking for contemporary but they’re only looking for YA. Oops. Sometimes there’s one small word in your pitch that they zoomed in on and that completely turns them off from your story. Unfortunately it happens and you have to take a deep breath and move on.

      If you dress as snazzy as you were on Saturday for the conference, look out ladies at PYHIAB!

  4. Great post! This reminded me to dig out extra business cards…if I can figure out where they are. Looking forward to October!

  5. Great post, Maria. Comfortable shoes is a must. And I need to update my business cards, too. Thanks for the info. Michele

    • Hi Michele. I just spent the past work week in San Francisco for a work conference. Me and 90,000 of my closest friends. I needed to take my own advice and wear comfortable shoes. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how much power walking I was going to have to do and was in some serious pain. Need to make sure I don’t repeat this for NJRW conf. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Yikes! Never had a chance to catch this post but thanks for the kudos! You ladies rock!


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