How to market yourself at writers’ conferences

Marketing yourself 

Stanley_Kelly photoKelly O’Dell Stanley had big plans for her life — study to be an architect, live in a big city, never have children. Now — as a resident of Crawfordsville, Indiana — she just celebrated 21 years in business for herself as a graphic designer. She works from home with her three kids and husband, leaving her desk just long enough to cheer for them from the bleachers with laptop beside her. And you know what? It’s better than anything she once imagined. At some point along the way, she discovered that writing fulfilled her need to create, and now she is waiting for her first book, The Art of Praying Upside Down, to be released by Tyndale Momentum in 2015. Visit or find her on Facebook or Twitter (@kellyostanley).

Marketing is about communicating the value of a product of service. As a writer, you have the job of promoting yourself — and it is never too early to start. With MWW14 only three months away, this is an ideal time to begin.

The first step is thinking about how to position yourself. What do you want people to know about you? What genre(s) do you write? Do you want to promote a specific book or topic or blog or do you want to simply be known as a writer?

I’m going to pause here for a second. If you have trouble calling yourself a writer — something nearly every one of us has struggled with at some point — practice now. A writer is, simply, one who writes. You are not an imposter, even if you’ve never had a word published. Even if you are just starting out. If it makes you feel better, save the term “author” for when your work has been published. But you are on your way to a writing workshop, so you’re investing your time and money, which tells me writing is important to you. Calling yourself a writer is the fastest way to make yourself — and then others — truly believe it.

But don’t stop there. Think of yourself as a brand, like Target or Nike or Starbucks. When I mentioned those names, I bet you pictured their logos. If you see big red dots on a white background, you think Target. See a swoosh on a shoe or t-shirt and you think Nike. See a round green symbol and instantly crave caffeine.

One reason these brands are so recognizable is because they’ve presented themselves in a consistent way. They’ve used colors, icons, fonts, and a certain style of images to show who they are. And we remember. Granted, you and I don’t have the same kind of budgets, and our product may not be as desirable to the general public. But especially when you’re starting to build your own brand, when you’re seeking name recognition, consistency is the key.

A great place to start building your brand is with a business card.

You don’t have to spend big money. You can print cards at home, but usually those aren’t the same quality as the ones printed professionally. I’m a graphic designer, so I design my own cards, but I print them through online printing companies* because they’re fast, high quality, and inexpensive. (Seriously — you can get 250 full color, professionally printed cards for as little as $15.) But even if you aren’t (or don’t know) a designer, you can work with the templates online to put together a professional-looking image. Some offer folded cards, rounded corners, two-sided printing, unusual sizes, multiple images on the backs, or even printing on plastic. Take advantage of whatever size or effect makes sense for what you write. And make sure to include all relevant contact info (phone, email, website, blog, social media handles).

Please plan to bring plenty of cards with you in July. There will be around 235 attendees this year — plus authors, agents, editors, committee members, and interns. That’s a lot of people who care about writing. Make it your goal to hand out 100 cards. (Or 250!) It’s not about finding people who can do something for your career. It’s about building relationships, making friends—and letting the magic inherent in these connections work for you.

I’ve attended MWW six times and met some truly amazing people. I’ve connected with successful writers who have been willing to share their tips with me. Editors who asked me to submit articles. People who have invited me to write guest blogs. But the most valuable thing of all, the reason I recommend this conference far and wide, is this. MWW is where I found a group of close friends who are my biggest cheerleaders, valuable sources of information about this industry, knowledgeable critique partners — and my inspiration. This is where I found community. And it came because I wasn’t afraid to hand out a card, or two, or a hundred — because I genuinely liked the people I met and I wanted to be able to find them again once we left.

MWW will be here before you know it, so give yourself permission to get started. I have a giant stack of business cards sitting here — and I can’t wait to trade for one of yours.


A few of my favorite printing sources:


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