Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I'm already looking forward to my NEXT conference, Spring Fling! Perhaps you noticed that cute little pink button on the right, over there? The one that says Visit Spring Fling 2010? Yes, that one! You should go! You know why?
Spring Fling was the very first conference I went to, the very first "professional author" thing I attempted. I signed up to pitch agents and editors, printed up business cards, and made my stylists (aka my sisters) come up and style me. (I would like to point out that I still wear those clothes, too. They are excellent stylists. I might even consider possibly paying them at some point in the undetermined future.)
I did just about everything wrong (except for the clothes). My business cards were glossy on both sides, rendering them useless to take notes. I pitched a book I just knew was the next Great American Novel, only to be shot down by the agents and ignored by the editor. My elevator pitch was almost three minutes long. I scared another agent by telling her I loved her dress, and I frightened a Major Author in the bathroom while trying to network. (Tip: Do not network in bathrooms.) I added anyone who gave me a business card to my email list.
Do not do any of these things. Especially the bathroom thing.
But I did a few things very, very right. I attended presentations by Blythe Gifford and Beverly Long (among others), and then personally thanked both ladies for the incredibly useful information they passed on. Ms. Gifford was especially kind to me in all my cluelessness, and has turned into a mentor for me (which is fun, being that she writes historically accurate medieval romance, and I write about hunky Lakota Indians on horseback). I made the acquaintance of a few other unpublished authors, like Andrea Dickinson and Courtney Milan, women I still keep in contact with today.
And more than anything, I learned from my mistakes. I took what I learned and figured out why the agents shot me down and the editor ignored me. I learned not to frighten Major Authors in the bathroom. I learned what the hell a good elevator pitch sounds like.
If I hadn't gone to this conference, I would still be flailing around, thinking I was awesome (because my mommy told me so) and not getting anywhere. Now, two years later, I've joined the Chicago-North RWA chapter, had a book final in the Fire and Ice Contest, been signed by an agent (but you knew that, right?), and actually *become* a professional author (in every aspect but the paycheck).
So if you're sitting on some uncomfortable fence about whether or not to plunk down the money for conference fees and hotel rooms, I say this to you: If you are a professional author, you will go to a conference. If not this one (but you should!), then another one, romance-based or otherwise. You will not be afraid to make mistakes, nor will you be afraid to learn from them. Plus, you will not be afraid to itemize business deductions on your taxes next year, hint, hint.
Get the heck off that fence and sign up for Spring Fling! And come find me at the conference, okay? I'll be the one in cowboy boots.