Special Free Workshop: How to Write a Winning Conference Proposal

Susan BrooksSpecial Workshop: How to Write a Winning Conference Proposal
Presented by Susie Brooks and Pam Nowak
Saturday, February 13, 2016 from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Sam Gary Branch Library
2961 Roslyn St. Denver (Stapleton) 80238

MEMBERS & NON-MEMBERS WELCOME
No RSVP Required

2015_Nowak_candidLearn how to create a conference proposal that will WOW the selection committee. Pam and Susie will provide information on what the committee looks for and offer best practices for creating spectacular proposals.

Bring your workshop ideas with you, and walk away with a stronger understanding of the entire process.

Susie Brooks is the Editor on Chief at Literary Wanderlust and has served on the board of directors for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers since 2009. After several years as conference chair, Susie currently acts as the retreat chair. She holds a master’s degree in publishing from George Washington University and has over 20 years of editorial experience.

Pam Nowak writes historical romance set in the American West. In addition to widespread critical acclaim, her books have won multiple national awards. In love with history and rich characters for most of her life, Pam has a B.A. in history, has taught prison inmates, managed the Fort Yuma National Historic Site and run a homeless shelter. She was named the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Writer of the Year in 2010, chaired three conferences, served as president, and is now RMFW's volunteer coordinator.

What Makes a Winning Conference Proposal?

Conference Prep Chalkboard

During preparations for Colorado Gold last year, I had the opportunity to sit on the committee that selected which workshop and discussion panel proposals would be chosen for conference.

This was my first time taking part in the selection process, and I came away with several tidbits that I thought would be useful for would-be presenters who are thinking about submitting a proposal for future conferences.

First off, a tiny bit of conference workshop trivia from 2015:

  • We had nearly 200 proposals submitted for workshops and panels.
  • 79 workshops and panels were ultimately scheduled, with a handful of these being reserved for Agent and Editor Workshops, Special Guest Classes, and Classes by our Keynote Speakers.

A lot of consideration and planning goes into the selection process on the part of the committee and then by the conference chair(s). Our goal is to ensure we are providing the widest range of classes to suit writers at every level of their career from beginning writers to published authors. As publishing continues to evolve, so will the types of workshops and panels at conference.

During the proposal selection process, the committee focused on the proposed topic as well as the proposal itself. Knowing that your proposal will be one among many, it's worth your time to make sure it showcases your workshop in the best possible way. When putting your proposal together for submission, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your topic specific, fresh, and unique? Conference will always seek proposals on writing craft basics, best practices, how to, and industry standards, but if your proposal comes off as run-of-the-mill during the proposal process, what does that say about your class? There are many ways to talk about outlining, character development, queries, marketing, and publishing as a whole, but if your topic feels stale, it simply won't stand out.
  • Is your topic relevant to the industry's current climate? Publishing is changing at a rapid pace, and authors are savvy to what's going on. If you've presented on this topic before, how have you updated your class to keep it fresh?
  • Is your topic positive in nature? One of the goals of Colorado Gold is to pump up our attendees and fill them with the knowledge and information they need to face their writing with a fresh attitude and renewed excitement. A workshop or class that is geared toward the negative or focuses solely on what not-to-do will have the opposite effect.
  • Have you taught before? It's perfectly fine if this is your first proposal and your first time teaching. We welcome fresh talent! But make sure you share your credentials so the committee can see that you're the perfect person to teach a class on your proposed topic. Also, be sure to include enough content in your description and outline so it's clear you know your subject and are prepared to teach the material. This goes for experienced presenters who are teaching a new course for the first time.
  • Are you submitting a proposal for a discussion panel? How do you plan to engage the audience? How do you plan to moderate the discussion? Have you listed all of the speakers? What topics will you discuss that will provide insights to attendees they can use? Is your topic so broad it lacks clarity? So narrow as to limit its appeal? Is your panel audience-focused? A panel heavy with self-promotion won't appeal to attendees who are looking for usable knowledge to apply to their own writing careers.
  • Does your proposal indicate concrete knowledge or skills?  What do you plan to share with your audience that they can take away and apply to their writing? Be detailed so that the committee can understand what attendees will learn in your workshop or panel.
  • Does your proposal clearly state your audience?  Is it for Beginner, Intermediate, Professional level writers? For everyone? Is it for published or pre-published writers? If it's geared toward already-published writers, does the content pertain to traditionally published, indie, or both? Does the content of your outline match the expected track level?
  • Is your outline detailed enough without being too detailed? If you submit an outline for your two-hour workshop that contains a handful of five bullet points and no supporting detail, it will seem as though you don't have enough content to fill your time slot. Conversely, if your outline for your one-hour workshop is fifteen pages single-spaced, it will seem as though you might not have a firm grasp on your subject matter or enough time to present all the material. Find a balance that allows you to show what you'll cover, how it will flow, how long it will take, and what attendees will take away.
  • Is your outline well organized?  A well-planned outline is easy to spot. It shows the main topic, the sub-topics in the order you plan to present them, and shares a bit of the direction your class will take. An organized outline indicates a solid grasp of subject knowledge and information flow, which results in a class attendees will be glad they attended.
  • Have you proofread your proposal and provided all the information requested? This might seem like a no-brainer, but think about it. Just like a resume, your proposal represents you during this process. Typos and errors reflect poorly on your proposal. You want to give the selection committee every reason to choose yours over another proposal. Do yourself a favor and submit your best possible proposal.

What are we looking for? If you have something that you think will be of interest to the attendees at RMFW Colorado Gold, we invite you to submit your proposals regardless of topic. Based on feedback from our conference attendee surveys, attendees have requested workshops and panels on the following subjects:

Writing Craft

  • Character Development, Character Arcs
  • How to Write a Beginning
  • Plotting Stories and Series
  • Genre-specific Tropes: Dos and Don'ts
  • Pacing
  • Writing Diversity: Other Cultures, Other Abilities, LGBTQ

Author Business & Professional Level

  • Marketing & PR
  • Networking: How-to, Strategies, New Avenues, What's Coming
  • Managing Financials, Taxes, Accounting, Best Practices
  • Contracts for Traditional and Indie Published Authors, Dos and Don'ts
  • Author Events, Public Speaking, Book Signings, Best Practices
  • Industry Insights for Traditional and Indie Publishing
  • Indie Publishing, What it Entails, How to Manage, DIY versus Hiring a Team
  • Social Media Management for Authors
  • Book Formatting
  • Book Reviews, How to Get Them
  • Audiobook Production, Options, How To
  • Cover Design
  • Discoverability
  • Author Platform, Building an Audience, How Tos, Options
  • Author Websites, DIY, How To, Options
  • Readers: Where to Find Them
  • Writing as a Career

This list is by no means complete, but hopefully it triggers ideas and provides some insights about the kinds of things we're hearing from our conference goers about what they want to see. 2016 Proposal Submissions will open January 1, 2016 and close at midnight on April 1, 2016. Keep an eye on the conference page, your email, and the RMFW home page for details.

We look forward to receiving your proposals and building another fabulous conference for 2016!

Publishing, The Avenue of Broken Dreams: Getting Back to the Basics

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

Being an author is awesome.

That being said, it can also be humbling as hell. I learned this very lesson this past week. I was wearing a smile from ear to ear after receiving a royalty check for The Assassin’s Heart. Then WHAM! I taught a class at the Thornton Recreation Center on Saturday, and once again realized the truth.

Being an author is hard. (Yes, please cue the world’s tiniest violin music).

The people in the class were great. Don’t get me wrong. I love writers in all shapes, sizes, ages, genres and point in their journey. Teaching workshops is one of the things I like best other than the actual writing part of being an author (okay, I hate the writing part but I love, love, love the have written part). These students were interested and excited to learn about publishing…

Then I started speaking…

And their excitement started to wane. Their eyes grew watery with unshed dreams of author riches. And I knew I’d just destroy a roomful of peoples’ publishing dreams.

Crap.

Had I been in the business too long to remember what it was like to dream of cross the country (paid for by your publisher) book tours like those Richard Castle has? Had the glow of seeing my first book in a bookstore dimmed? Had I lost my innocent edge (For those of you who know me, no commentary on my innocence or lack thereof)?

I’d broken hearts. And I had no way to mend them.

Because, as anyone reading this blog knows, publishing is hard. Really hard. There is no easy answers. No right way. No magic beans. Hell, writing your first book is the easy part. It’s what happens in the trenches after typing the final word that makes or breaks a writer.

So yes, I crushed many dreams this weekend, and I feel bad for doing so.
I can only offer this to those hearts I’d broken.

Writing is worth it. Telling your unique story is inherently valuable (just maybe not in tons of cash money and world renowned fame or maybe it is? Who am I to say?).

I think everyone should write, whether they should publish is a different question. One you must answer for yourself after you receive your first, tenth, fifth, hundredth, and in my case thousandth rejection.

It’s not about how you start your publishing journey, but in how you live it daily.

And for me, right now, I’m going back to basics. To being excited when I type the end. To feeling the terror of a new release. To sharing with my readers my excitement for storytelling. And seeing the writerly possibilities in each day.

How about you? What does back to basics mean for you as a writer? How’s your publishing view?

www.jakazimer.com
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