What Should I Bring to a Conference?

woman with luggageHi Rachelle, I have a question about attending a fiction conference. Lots of posts are flying around the Internet about bringing one sheets and the first 1-2 chapters of each novel to give to editors when meeting with them. I’m going to design a really nice one-sheet with 1-paragraph synopses of my two novels. Should I also attach the first chapter of each to my one-sheet? Or should I just have the chapters ready to give only if they ask for them? Signed,  New Novelist

Dear New Novelist,

You should have a separate one-sheet for each novel. Don’t attach anything to it. Make sure your one-sheet includes:

  •  Your book title (obviously)
  •  A brief pitch for the novel similar to flap copy or back cover copy
  •  An image that somehow captures the novel
  •  Your contact information
  •  Your agent’s contact information
  •  A small headshot of yourself
  •  A pleasing design that is clear and easy to read

Bring along the first one or two chapters of whichever novel is complete, and have them available in case anyone asks to see them. (Make sure they include your contact info, too.) You may or may not be asked for them, but you’ll want to be prepared just in case.

I don’t think you need to bring sample chapters of the second novel unless it’s also complete. Keep in mind you need to be trying to sell one novel first, but they might ask if you have anything else, so again, be as prepared as possible.

One sheets, sample chapters, and business cards should be all you need (in addition to your prepared verbal pitch. And maybe some breath mints.)

Have fun!

* * *

Want to know what a one-sheet looks like? They can be anything you want… here are some examples of past one-sheets from my clients.

Catherine West one sheet

Anne Bundy one sheet

Dineen Miller one sheet

Richard Mabry one sheet

 

 

 

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  • http://bethvogt.com Beth K. Vogt

    Great information, Rachelle! One other thing to bring? Confidence. If you can’t muster up confidence in yourself, surround yourself with some friends who believe in you, who will cheer you on, whisper, “You can do it!” before you go pitch to an editor, and then help you debrief after your appointment. (I’m a strong advocate in prayer too!)
    Doing all the things Rachelle suggests are sure confidence builders.

    • http://www.camilleeide.blogspot.com Camille Eide

      Good call, Beth. I find sadly I lack confidence without reminders from friends. Last year at a conference I was hyperventilating before an editor appointment. I saw one of my critique group partners in the lobby and asked him to remind me I’m a writer, which he obediently did. That should have helped, since it was Randy Ingermanson, but I was getting dizzier. Then I went to the prayer room (love that about Christian conferences) and got to pray with a sweet lady whom I don’t recall (sorry!). By the time I met the editor, my heart was only mildly palpatating and after getting through the intro, my nerves smoothed out. I think my friends and I will plan for pre-pumping and post-debriefing next conference.

  • http://peacefulldawn.com/2011/01/25/wanted-rejection/ Peacefulldawn

    One way to maintain confidence is to frame each pitch as a game. Currently I am trying to rack up 100 rejection letters by putting myself and my writing in as many contests, queries, grants and other activities AS POSSIBLE. By making each rejection a private win in my own made up game – i get to celebrate each one as a mini-win.

    YES I got a rejection! Now onto the next! Or shoot for a weekend goal: I will tell X number of people about my book. I will hand out X number of business cards. I will get X number of business cards. By making it into a game, it takes some of the pressure off and puts some of the fun back in.

    If you are going with other literary friends you can also make it a game between you to spice things up.

    The first person to get X business cards receives dinner from the other person.

    Be prepared and BE fun.
    Good Luck!

  • http://www.camilleeide.blogspot.com Camille Eide

    Thank you for the specific details and the great examples, Rachelle. That helps, especially with all the info flying around out there.

    What would you advise a person to include in their pitch or one sheet if the novel has been submitted to other publishers and/or is being considered but is not yet contracted?

  • Taz

    Thanks Rachelle.
    I never even knew what a one sheet was but think I’m going to have way too much fun preparing one. Having said that, designing what essentially looks like the back of the actual book (in many respects) makes me wonder how much more the publishers are going to handball to the writer and/or agent in future, and when people start to realise the work that is required, if maybe there won’t be a greater shift toward self-publishing.
    In the meantime… Feeling ill-equipped to handle a situtaion you NEED to walk into (literally) is one of the worst things in the world. Reading these posts makes me feel like I’m on track, and it’s such an encouraging place to be. Writer’s Conferences are a scaryish thought for me when it comes to the pitch. I want to be as prepared as prepared can be when it’s my day to walk into one.
    Thanks so much!

  • http://doubtingwriter.blogspot.com/ Jeffo

    I had no idea authors made such fancy-schmancy sheets for their books. I figured they were just typewritten plain things. Thanks!

    • Jackie Ley

      I’m longing to get to the ‘fancy-schmancy sheet’ stage!

      Really enjoyed looking at these samples and also the blog picture. I’ve yet to master the art of travelling light.

  • http://www.katieganshert.blogspot.com Katie Ganshert

    I LOVE making one-sheets! Does this make me weird? In fact, I’m a teensy bit sad that I won’t need to make any this year.

    • http://www.catherinejwest.com Cathy West

      I have two editor appointments, Katie – you are more than welcome to stand in for me – I’ll tell you all about my book and you can pitch it to them – I’m sure you’ll do a much better job!!

  • http://thoughtsthatmove.blogspot.com/ Wendy

    No, not weird, Katie. I also like it. Beth, support rocks. And Camille, that prayer room is a wonderful inclusion.

    Love the examples you provided, Rachelle.

    (And fun picture, though I’d be super uncomfortable in that outfit.)
    ~ Wendy

  • http://www.chattykelly.com Kelly Combs

    I loved the one sheet examples, and I cannot wait to read Dineen Miller’s book! It looks amazing.

    Great info.

  • http://spbowers.blogspot.com/ s.p.bowers

    Thanks for the links to those one-sheets. I’d never seen one before so it was very helpful.

  • http://amysorrells.wordpress.com Amy K. Sorrells

    What awesome and timely information for me! Any reason to hone in on my closet graphic design skills makes me excited. Thanks so much for posting! :)

  • http://rmabry.com Richard Mabry

    Rachelle, Thanks for this and so much other good advice. I appreciate your including my one-sheet in the examples. Comparing it with the others, I can only come to one conclusion: even a plain one-sheet, if it contains the needed information and pitches a well-written work, can get you a contract.
    I know that going to ACFW can strain a budget and put one’s self-confidence to the test, but it remains one of the best ways to connect with fellow writers as well as editors and agents in the field of Christian fiction. Hope to see lots of your readers “under the Arch” in St. Louis.

  • http://www.catherinejwest.com Cathy West

    I was really excited about the conference until I read this and was reminded that I actually have to pitch this year.
    Noooooo…… I’m going on the theory that practice makes perfect. Maybe this year I won’t freak out. :)

  • http://heathersunseri.blogspot.com Heather Sunseri

    Thanks for posting the samples of one-sheets. And the awesome advice.

  • http://www.kathleenbittnerroth.com kbr

    I love reading your blog every day, Rachelle. You have such on spot information to offer. However, until now, I have never heard of the “One Sheet”. I belong to RWA and various RWA chapters and we are told to bring nothing to an editor/agent pitch. This blog started out with someone saying “One Sheets” were all over the internet. Are these for published authors as your sample one sheets imply or for unpubbed writers trying to get an editor. Also, if you are their agent, why are they pitching and not you (This is not a criticism, rather a question from someone completely ignorant of the One Sheet). Thanks for any feedback that will clear the fog.

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Yep, you’re going to be told different things by different people. Much of this is tradition. So at certain conferences you’ll be told “Bring nothing!” and at other conferences you’ll be told, “Bring everything!” I don’t think there’s any harm in being prepared for whatever the editor might want.

      At some of the Christian conferences, we have a tradition of using one-sheets, and certainly not just for published authors but for anyone pitching a book. They’re nice leave-behinds that can help the editor remember later what you pitched. You can offer it and if they say no, that’s fine, just put it back in your bag.

      You asked, “if you are their agent, why are they pitching and not you?” Well, I AM pitching. But the writers are also pitching because, as we stress over and over again, this is a relationship business. Writers go to conferences to network, get to know people including editors, and create relationships that can lead to book deals. You can stay home and let your agent do it all, or you can get out there and help your own cause by making real and positive connections with editors who might want to work with you someday.

      • http://www.kathleenbittnerroth.com kbr

        Thanks, Rachelle for taking time to answer my question. I was familiar with One Sheets in the music and film industry but not in what I write…hence the RWA affiliate. Personally, I really like the One Sheet idea. The ones you posted as examples are really nicely done and impressive. Thanks again. :-)

  • Loree Huebner

    Great post. I needed this one.

    Thanks to all for sharing your one-sheet samples.

  • http://crowproductions.com joan Cimyotte

    Conferences sound like a way to go. It seems just so out of reach because of cost and time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Soul-Shifters-YA-Novel-By-Hazel-Keats/171766409540865 Hazel Keats

    All the rules have changed from last year. I feel like I was just let in on a trade secret. Thanks! This post was really helpful. : )

  • http://www.awomansview.typepad.com Lenore Buth

    I agree with Jeffo. I, too, saw one-sheets as simply text, nothing more. “Fancy schmancy” describes these perfectly. (That includes yours, Richard.)

    Rachelle, will your next post be on how to summon up unrecognized technical expertise from somewhere within ourselves?

    Next to stunning examples like these, would any agent or publisher pay attention to a page of plain text?

    • http://www.catherinejwest.com Cathy West

      Lenore, they will pay attention to plain text if the text can hook them – and this is also where your ‘pitch’ comes in. I have always used the ‘fancy schmancy’ one-sheets because I’m a horrible pitcher, I figure at least they have something nice to look at – haha. But really, it’s about the story – make sure your ”blurb” has the right information about your story and enough to make them ask questions. Then once they start talking, you can take it from there. In my experience, being kind of shy and put on the spot is one of my worst nightmares, but once the door is opened and the first couple of questions asked, I tend to get over it because I enjoy talking about my books. I don’t think you need to have dazzling one-sheets to garner interest – I’m not an agent or editor so I don’t know how they would answer this though.

      • Jodi

        Can I ask what program you used to create your one sheet?

        • http://rmabry.com Richard Mabry

          Jodi, you asked what program we used. As the least “fancy-schmancy” of the group, I confessed that I used plain old Microsoft Word.
          Each section started out as a Text Box (from pull-down menu “insert,” choose “text box.”) For the graphics, I created a text box and then from the “insert” pull-down menu chose “picture.” It’s fairly intuitive to resize the boxes. Trial and error, a little mild swearing, and eventually I had something I thought was passable.

          • Jodi

            Thanks Richard, that is just fancy enough for me. These are kinda fun to work on when you need a break from revising. I actually found Microsoft Publisher which keeps it simple but has basic layout options set up for use. Very easy.

        • http://building-his-body.blogspot.com/ Anne Lang Bundy

          Jodi, Microsoft Word and I do NOT get along when it comes to graphic layout. I love WordPerfect for it’s flexibility and publish-directly-to-PDF option. (I’m not familiar with Microsoft Publisher.

          Rachelle, thanks for the mention. : ) I’ll have to do an update which reflects the trimmed word count.

  • http://addisonmoorewrites.blogspot.com/ Addison Moore

    Loved the one sheet samples!

  • http://rachelwilder.net Rachel Wilder

    I love creating one-sheets, and I’ve got a new one to make this year. I also love seeing what others come up with.

    I don’t do a lot of graphics or anything because that doesn’t reflect me. Since I write historical, I like to print them on paper that looks old.

  • http://MarjiLaine.blogspot.com Marji Laine

    I’ve been wanting to learn about one-sheets for a while. Thanks so much for including examples of them as well. I’m tempted by the stories, too. They sound wonderful!

  • http://www.leighkramer.com HopefulLeigh

    Thank you for including examples of one sheets. I enjoy seeing how others do it.

  • Neil Larkins

    Wow…one sheets. I had no idea. About a hunnerd light years from where I’m at…unless I go the “plain text” route. (Richard: Where’d you get a photo of a fictional character..? Just kiddin.) Great stuff. Something I never thought I’d see.

  • http://bethvogt.com Beth K. Vogt

    Jumping in at the end here about one sheets or pitch sheets or fancy-schmancy sheets.
    I had a friend who is a graphics designer put my pitch sheet together for me last year. I provided the copy, of course,the bio, the pro photo. I even gave him some links to suggested art work and he took it from there. He rocked my pitch sheets. I had editors take them to have on file and other writers ask to keep them as a reference. I’m not bragging on me–I’m saying getting someone else’s eyes on your pitch sheet can really help you develop an attention-grabbing end result!

  • http://crankyashley.com Ashley

    Probably a silly question, but is that multiple copies of your first 1 or 2 chapters?

  • Nancy

    I only looked at the one sheet for Catherine West, but it has a serious problem. Someone has used an iStockPhoto comping image in a product for public distribution. That is a violation of copyright. Those comping images are for internal review and presentation purposes to pitch a project for client approval, not for final use. Either buy the rights to use the image or don’t use it. Read the terms of service at the stock photo website.

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Nancy, nobody has violated anything. It was my mistake in that I inadvertently uploaded the comp version of the one-sheet, not the final. I’ve uploaded the proper version and all is well.

      • Nancy

        Rachelle, that’s great. Sorry to go all copyright police, but I am a designer as well as a writer and can’t begin to tell you how many people expect me to “share” stock imagery and font software for which I’ve paid good money. They’d be the first to scream bloody murder if someone infringed on _their_ IP rights, of course, but they’re perfectly willing to excoriate me for upholding the law.

  • http://booksbybarnes.blogspot.com Crystal L Barnes

    Thanks for the advice Rachel. I can’t wait to make use of my one sheet. (My inner marketing and design talent loved creating this).
    How many copies of one-sheets, business cards, and sample chapters would you suggest bringing to say… the ACFW conference in Sept?

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Just a few. You won’t be meeting with too many agents & editors, I imagine.

    • http://building-his-body.blogspot.com/ Anne Lang Bundy

      Crystal, although I often place a one-sheet on the table during an appointment, they’re just a visual while I chat with an editor or mentor. (Even if they’re interested, they generally don’t want ANY extra paper.) The people who may take my one-sheet, and DEFINITELY ask for business cards, are other conference attendees. I might suggest a half dozen one-sheets and no less than a couple dozen business cards.

  • http://rickbarry.blogspot.com/ Rick Barry

    Your final line is as important as all the rest: “Have fun!” No matter what the results of an interview, authors should have fun chatting, connecting, and learning. Even if the appointment ends in a decline, enjoy the moment and be remembered as a pleasant person to know–not as the frustrated wannabe that no one wants to see next year!

  • http://www.nataliesharpston.com Natalie Sharpston

    Rachelle, I’m excited to see the beautiful one-sheet examples you’ve provided, along with the list of critical elements. This information is so empowering for us writers! I truly hope you don’t mind this shameless sales pitch… here goes…

    Dear fellow writers,

    I will design one-sheets for the first 5 writers who contact me at NatalieSharpston@gmail.com.

    Graphic design services: Free

    Author to cover photography costs (approx $1-$20 on iStockphoto.com or Dreamstime.com)

    Beth K. Vogt outlined the process perfectly in her comment. Please provide everything on Rachelle’s list except the last bullet item—that’s where I come in. You may need help with finding an image that captures the novel.

    Why would I want to do this? It’s FUN, for starters. And I’ve been a graphic designer for fourteen years. I have a portfolio I’d be happy to show you, but I don’t have any one-sheets or book covers among my samples.

    The caveat: You allow me to include your final one-sheets in my portfolio.

    P.S. I use the Adobe Creative Suite: InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator. Note, I am not an illustrator or painter. : )

    • http://nataliesharpston.com/ Natalie Sharpston

      Quick update: A few samples of my graphic design work are now up on my blog… My apologies to those of you who visited and I wasn’t ready for you.

  • http://building-his-body.blogspot.com/ Anne Lang Bundy

    Conference planners always say to wear comfy shoes for all the walking. (And Festival of Faith and Writing will have you covering an entire college campus!) But for what it’s worth, Gwen Stewart and I like the confidence we feel in our nicest shoes. If your feet can stand heels all day, go for it!

  • http://jongibbs.livejournal.com JonGibbs

    Another great post. I do like those one-sheets examples.

    Thanks for sharing :)

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  • Mimi Conteur

    This is a GREAT blog! I have been given some rather bad advice to not prepare ANYTHING for the RWA conference next month. I’m so glad I stumbled across this information. I’ll be working on my one sheet pronto!

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