Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 2, 2012

Conference Do’s and Don’ts

I spent my whole weekend writing letters to the editors and agents, giving them the information they need for the conference and asking for critique donations for our Scholarship Fund.  I normally do not repost an article, but I thought this one was worth repeating.  Plus, it would help give me a few hours to get some other things on my list done.   I did add a few new things if you read this last year.

At this year’s conference attendees can sign up to attend a Mix and Mingle on Friday night with the faculty. This is a great opportunity for people to meet and network with agents, editors and published authors.

You never know where getting to talk with industry professional in a social setting will lead, so I think it is important to discuss some of the things that will help you put your best foot forward. Remember, you are making an impression when you meet another person and you want that impression to be a good one. Nobody wants to do business with someone they think is rude, so tamp down the aggressive behavior.

Here are some conference etiquette do’s and don’ts:


1. Come with business cards and if you are an illustrator take the time to have some postcards of your art, so you can hand them out to editors, agents and others. All you are trying to do is peak their interest in you and your work. So save the porfolio for your portfolio review and or the portfolio exhibit and contest.

2. Be friendly. Have fun.

3. Take the time to read through all the faculty bios. Write down who you are meeting with and then make some notes about what you would talk about with them. Is there a question that you would like to ask? Is there someone you would love to meet? The photos are on the registration home page. If you know what they look like, you may be able to work your way in their direction. Make a plan.

4. If you have an editor or agent you want to meet and can’t seem to make that happen, ask someone on the conference committee if they will help you. Read books by featured conference authors in advance. It will make their presentation much more meaningful.

5. Do your homework. Look over the names of the authors. Do a Google search on them. Get to know their books. An author will be impressed and probably be more receptive to answering your questions and giving you industry tips.

6. Research the editors and agents. What books they have agented or edited? Look on Google. Read articles. Ask other writers. Look in your favorite books. The author usually will say something to recognize their editor. Finding out this information will give you a clue into their tastes. Plus, it can be a real conversation starter during the conference.

7. Think about your goals for the conference. A conference is a good place to look for critique partners and groups.

8. If you are attending the conference alone, try to make a friend to hang out with or ask someone on the conference committee to introduce you to someone who might take you under their wing. At this conference we go out of our way to put you at tables with not only, a different editor/agent at lunch, but also various authors. If you are attending alone, then think about signing up for the “Peer Group” critique session on Saturday night. You’ll get to work on your manuscript and meet like minded writers. Attend the “First Timers” pre-conference workshop. That will help break the ice and put you with a lot of other people who are looking for answers and people wanting to hook up with someone new to the conference.

9. Be prepared to learn. Take notes. Bring a few pencils, notepad and a highlighter, just in case.

10. Thank people that help you. Send notes to your critiquers after the conference.

11. Come with a list of questions that have been nagging you. This is the place to get answers to all those questions. If you don’t write them down when you are thinking of them, then they will probably fly out of your head when you are in the midst of the conference.

12. Illustrators sign up to exhibit a piece of art and work on your portfolio to display. The editors and agents will be judging them and a winner will be picked and recognized.

13. If you are an illustrator, enter the Logo Contest. Your logo and name could be published on the bags given out.

14. Look over the authors that will be selling their books at the book fair. Can you afford to purchase one of their books? If so, then do it. Someday, you will want someone to support you by buying your book. You could even purchase a book to give as a gift. We need to remember to support each other. What goes around comes around.

14. We have a good number of editors and agents signing their books this year. A smart person might use this as an opportunity to meet them. After you read their book, you could send a quick note letting them know how much you enjoyed it. Most authors like positive feedback on what they have written.

15. Bring your sense of humor with you. Besides being an opportunity and a place to learn, the Mix and Mingle and the whole conference should be enjoyable.

16. Prepare and rehearse a pitch, so you can spout off a few coherent sentences, when you are asked what are you working on.

17. Give other writers and illustrators a chance to talk to the faculty. You will have plenty of time during the weekend to network, so no need to hog the conversation.



1. Don’t become a gosspip story.There are numerous stories about authors who have followed an editor/agent into the bathroom and slipped a manuscript under the door or have snuck it into something they are carrying. Some have followed them to their hotel room, so they could leave something on the handle of their door. In fact don’t whip out your manuscript at the conference, unless the editor or agent asks you to physically hand it over. If an editor/agent is interested, ask them how they would like you to submit it.

2. Don’t cry or get mad if you get a negative critique. Not everyone likes every book they read and even if they truely act like they hate it, so what? That doesn’t mean someone else will feel the same way. Listen, ask questions and get as much out of the critique as you possibly can. They might spark an idea that breathes life into your story. Even if someone says you should give up writing, don’t let it bother you. They are wrong. Editors are wrong all the time. Most famous authors have been rejected over and over again.

3. Don’t bring gifts, booze, or line cards with glittery sprinkles or stars.

4. Don’t brag about your writing. If you are good they will realize it.

5. Don’t argue with the editor /agent if they say something you don’t agree with during your manuscript critique your manuscript.

6. Don’t cry or get mad. Not everyone likes every book they read and even if they truely act like they hate it, so what? That doesn’t mean someone else will feel the same way. Listen, ask questions and get as much out of the critique as you possibly can. They might spark an idea that breathes life into your story. Even if someone says you should give up writing, don’t let it bother you. They are wrong. Please don’t expect that, because it won’t happen and if it does, please let me know. Editors are wrong all the time. Most famous authors have been rejected over and over again.

If you want to register for the New Jersey SCBWI Conference on June 8th, 9th, and 10th.  Here is the link:  Don’t miss the opportunity to meet 30 editors and agents, plus two art directors, Kate DiCamillo and Dan Yaccarino and many other published authors sharing their skills.  You can check out the agenda using this link.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I remember this post from before — some things really stuck with me — but I’m glad you decided to post it again. It bears repeating. Let’s hope those who most need to read this, do! Thanks.


    • Rosi,

      People have to be more aware of hw they are being viewed. It seems every year, I have an editor mention someone who forced themselves on them. Instead of making an ally, all they did was make the editor want to run away. So I hope they do read this and it sinks in.

      Talk soon,



  2. Thank you for reposting this, Kathy. It’s easy to get flustered at such a big event, so keeping these tips in mind is extremely helpful!

    I’ve also discovered that in addition to purchasing signed copies of books from attending authors for myself, they make awesome end-of-school-year thank you gifts for my children’s teachers! They LOVE them!!


    • Eileen,

      Thanks for sharing that idea with us. I never thought about giving them to school teachers. Probably, because my son is grown. We should mention that at the conference – good idea. I’ll be in touch soon.



  3. Thanks for posting this Kathy! I’ve been following your blog for a week or two now and have found it to be so helpful. I’m attending my first writing conference this May. Your posts on pitch and conference etiquette couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.


  4. Hi Kathy, I’m going to LA Writers’ Days this month — my first conference. This post was timely and VERY helpful. Good luck with your conference!


    • Kristen,

      Enjoy your first conference and let me know how you make out. In the future you should think about joining us on the East Coast. We have a lot of people fly in from CA every year to attend out conference in June.

      Good luck,



      • Thanks Kathy! Or maybe I’ll see you at SCWBI in LA?


      • Kirsten,

        I probably will not make it out to LA this year. I love LA, but I attended last year and this year I had my knee replaced. It probably would be okay by the summer, but it isn’t ready for travel yet. Don’t want to put out the money if there is a chance I would not be able to go.



  5. Every word of this rings true 🙂 To me, you SHOULD re-post this (and all the conference reminders) every year. It’s good for the “veterans” to refresh as the time inches closer, and it’s invaluable for all those who are “First Timers!”
    Thanks, Kathy 🙂


  6. Poste super fascinant !!


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