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Ten Ways to Prepare for Writing Conferences by Agent Chip MacGregor

Today, we are pleased to welcome literary agent and OCW Summer Conference faculty member Chip MacGregor, who will remind us of ways to prepare for the summer conference. Thank you, Chip! As you begin preparing for this year’s OCW conference, I’d like to suggest you keep 10 words in mind . . .

  1. READ. Don’t just show up and wonder who the speakers are. Read the blog of keynoter Liz Curtis Higgs. Read the books of teachers such as James L. Rubart and Susan May Warren. That way, when you get to hear them, you’ll already have a context for their information. Note: All three of these authors have been nominated for the 2013 Christy Awards honoring Christian fiction. (Chip will be the keynoter for the Christy Awards this year!)
  2. RESEARCH. If you’ve signed up to meet with an agent or editor, check out their bio, see what they’ve acquired, and get a feel for the sort of books they like. By doing that, you’ll be much more apt to talk with someone who is a fit for you and your work.
  3. ORGANIZE. Before you show up at the conference, look at the schedule and figure out what sessions you’ll attend, which ones you’ll miss (so that you can share notes later), and when you can take a break to see friends.
  4. PRACTICE. When you sit down across from me in order to tell me about your book, it shouldn’t be an off-the-cuff conversation. Practice what you want to say, how you want to describe your work, and what your hook is so that you’ll grab me.
  5. GOALS. Ask yourself what your goals are for this year’s conference. Don’t just go with bland hopes. Plan to attend with some specific, measurable goals in mind. Write them down beforehand so you can evaluate yourself and your experience after you’re back home.
  6. PROJECT. Come to the conference with a book you’re writing firmly in your mind. That way, when you’re listening to a speaker, you can apply the information to the project you’re writing. Even if you later decide to write something else, the fact that you’ve put the techniques into practice will help you improve.
  7. NOTE. Don’t just sit in workshops and nod at the things you agree with. Take notes. Write down action items. Keep track of the ideas you like, along with thoughts for using them on your next project. If you make a note, you are six times more likely to follow up with the information you’ve heard.
  8. NETWORK. Every experienced conferee will tell you that the opportunity to connect with other writers is one of the best aspects of a writing conference. So don’t sit in your room by yourself—join in! Eat with others. Introduce yourself. Smile a lot. Chat up people in line. Tell people about your writing, then listen to what they are working on. Talk with others in the coffee shop or in the lobby. Publishing is a small industry, and this conference will have a bunch of people who work in it.
  9. LEARN. To learn is to change, so expect the conference to change you. Walk into every session expecting to learn something new. You don’t know everything, so go expecting to gain new knowledge and skills. With that attitude, you won’t walk out the hotel doors the same writer who walked in.
  10. INVEST. You’re going to buy a bunch of books. (You may not think so, but you will.) So make that part of your budget now. They’ll serve as a fresh motivator a few days after you’re home from the conference and caught up on your sleep. (“Oh, look! A bunch of books written by my new friends! I loved hearing this author talk at the OCW conference.”)

chipmacgregorChip MacGregor is the president of MacGregor Literary, Inc., a full-service literary agency that works in both CBA as well as the general market. Chip has been working in the publishing industry for three decades and before that made his living as a freelance writer and editor for several years. Formerly a publisher with Time Warner, he began working as an agent 16 years ago and has represented hundreds of titles, including numerous award winners and bestsellers, and one that hit #1 on the New York Times best-seller list. Seven years ago he began his own literary agency, and over the past few years he has been one of the busiest literary agents in the United States. His popular blog, www.chipmacgregor.com, has been named one of the best websites for writers by Writers Digest. A well-known speaker at writing conferences, he lives on the Oregon coast. Chip will teach the coaching class “Proposals: How to Write One that Gets You to YES!” and a workshop with Susan May Warren entitled “What’s the Story? The Four Pillars of a Best-Selling Novel.”

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