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This is a video a #1 NY Times bestselling author recently uploaded.  While it’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s not that far off from reality at times.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

First, let me say that I like teaching at conferences.  It’s a great change of pace from sitting here and writing 14 hours a day.  They are also necessary for networking.  Plus you get to travel and compare what the inside of a hotel looks like in Cleveland versus Fargo (they speak differently at the desk and there’s usually a “little fellow” in Fargo).

Here are some notes I made while watching the video.

Keynotes:  They’re fun to give, but doing the after-dinner keynote, I make it a rule to limit it to 20 minutes. People are tired and some have to drive home.  In fact, I often give a keynote that involves the jump commands I used as a Jumpmaster in Special Forces and the first is a time warning:  “20 Minutes!”  I end the keynote 20 minutes later, with the jump command:  “Go!”  And I mean it.

Authors, please spare us reading from your latest work.  Give us something that we can use.

Conference directors: don’t schedule keynotes to close out the conference on Sunday at noon.  Everyone has to go.  You can feel the crowd twitching for the door.  Let your people go.

Workshops:  Unlike the writer in the video, I prefer constantly teaching.  I’m there anyway.  At San Diego State University Writers’ Conference I did do 8 back-to-back hour-long workshops on one day.  However, I couldn’t speak that night.  I figure, if I’m here and we took all the trouble to get me there (which for me means, Jeep ride, shuttle, ferry, train, plane, then someone picking me up getting me to venue, etc. etc.) then I might as well be useful.  I’m here to expose myself to as many people as possible, although that could get me arrested.

Conference directors:  Avoid asking presenters to go out to dinner with everyone after they’ve presented all day.  They’re fried.  They want to go hide in their room and either veg, or, shocking, write.  I usually get my writing in before teaching, which means getting up at some un-Godly hour before the conference kicks into gear.  I know you’re doing it to be sociable, but remember, writers are introverts.  Teaching sucks us dry.  Unlike rockstars who can go for months.  But they also have drugs and groupies.  Perhaps if you—well, we’ll let that thought die.

Travel arrangements:  I know you’ve been burned by the author/agent/editor who booked their own flight and did it first class, passing through Maui on the way from Detroit to Baltimore, but just lay out guidelines and let us book our own flight.  I have to take a ferry to get to America.  That limits my options on flights.  Plus, if the airline let’s me, I like picking my seats.  And I know how fast I can run from terminal to terminal in Atlanta to switch flights.

Incidentals:  While you might pay for the flight, remember traveling often costs much more than that.  For example, just parking my Jeep for the shuttle now costs $5 a day; the shuttle costs $68 round-trip (assuming you want me to make it back home, unlike in Special Forces where they were never that confident about getting us back out of the Area of Operations, but very concerned about getting us in); boarding the beasts(aren’t they precious) cost $30 a day; yada, yada, did I mention the bisque?

Writers:  Don’t overdo conference and cons.  Especially you scifi types.  There’s a science fiction convention every weekend somewhere. Don’t go to all of them.  You have to write some time.  And you only have so many alien costumes you can put on.

Conference directors:  When I give you a list of 14 possible 50-60 minute workshops; and 5 longer length workshops; and several keynotes, use it.  Don’t invent a workshop for me.  Trust me, I did spend some time preparing those workshops and I kind of know what works and what doesn’t.  I have my Powerpoint presentation ready.  Don’t make me invent a new workshop.

One-on-ones:  Agents and editors have to suffer through this, but I’ve done a bunch too, in the spirit of the blue-line edit that some places like the great Surrey Writers’ Conference.  I think having authors do this is a good idea because we can be honest and unlike agents say:  “Why that’s the suckiest idea I’ve ever heard!”  But then you must give us body armor to prevent the knife attack, which is why agents tell everyone with a forced smile to send their material to them after the conference.

By the way, wanna-be authors.  Here’s another reason besides the knife attack agents tell you that:  90% of you will never follow up.  I was stunned when I heard that, but then reflected on my own anecdata (I love that term).  At my Writers Workshop I tell participants to feel free to send me a cover letter/synopsis any time in the future and I’d be happy to take a look at it and give feedback.  I’ve taught hundreds at this intimate workshop (max of 10) over the years and I can count on one hand the number who followed up.  So, writers, why do a one-on-one when you’re going to reject yourself anyway?

This is a topic that troubled me so much, we wrote a book about it and much else regarding conferences:  The Writer’s Conference Guide.

A conference is a huge investment for the attendee, it’s worth $2.99 for a guide on how to maximize your time and your money.

See you all at Thrillerfest in two weeks!  With my body armor.

Time Patrol: Ides of March

15 March 2016

Bob Mayer Appearance Discovery Channel

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