5 Tips for Making the Most of a Convention

I know some of you are at NCTE as I’m writing this. I was at AASL last week.

When your publisher sends you to a convention, you’ll likely be on a panel, sign some books in the convention hall and maybe go to a nice publisher-sponsored dinner with teachers, librarians and/or booksellers. The first time I went to one of these conventions, I did what I was there to do, then basically hung out in my room the rest of the time. I didn’t know there was more to do. Now I understand that conventions are an opportunity for personal and professional networking. Here are some tips for making the most of the convention experience:

  1. Business cards. Of course you’ll bring some to hand out. And if you have school visit brochures, bookmarks and any other swag, you’ll bring that, too. But you’ll also collect business cards. You think you’ll remember why each person gave you their business card, but trust me. You won’t. That’s why it’s a good idea to write a little note to yourself on the back of a card when you receive one. Then don’t forget to follow up when you get home.

  • Meet your fellow panelists ahead of time, if you can. Most of the time I meet my fellow panelists when we sit down at the microphones. But our moderator last week asked that we all meet an hour before the presentation, so we could “get to know each other a bit.” This was really nice! Not only did conversation flow more naturally during the panel, I struck up a conversation with one of my fellow panelists that has continued via e-mail since we’ve gone home.


  • Visit publisher booths. All those lovely galleys they’re handing out? You can take them, too! Even if you’re not a teacher or librarian. But don’t just take the galley and walk away. Pay attention to which books each publisher is featuring. Talk to the people in the booths. Ask them which books they like and why. Listening to a marketing person give an elevator pitch is a good way to learn how to craft your own as a writer.

  • Talk to convention attendees. You know you have something in common: children’s books. If you’re in line to get a book signed, talk to the people in line with you. Ask what their favorite books are. If they’re teachers or librarians, ask how they use books in the classroom.

  • Have fun! If someone gives you a ticket to the rodeo, go to the rodeo! It’s another opportunity to connect with convention attendees.
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Dori Butler
Dori Hillestad Butler is an award-winning author of more than 50 books for young readers, including the Haunted Library series, the Buddy Files series, and the King & Kayla series. Her Buddy Files #1: Case of the Lost Boy won a 2011 Edgar Award and her books have appeared on numerous children’s choice and teen award lists. Dori grew up in southern Minnesota, spent 19 years in Iowa, and now lives in the Seattle area. She enjoys visiting schools and libraries all over the country and dreams of doing an author visit in all 50 states.
  1. Great idea! Also really study what you are seeing on the floor. Ask the folks working the books what their personal favorite is beyond front list titles. Talk to them about what you see in the classrooms you visit. For example, every time I visit a 6th grade classroom the place is always a buzz with who has passed their hunter safety course and gotten a REAL hunting licenses. It’s as big a deal as getting that drivers license in high school. And yet I hardly ever see a book about hunting. They have little contact with readers so it’s worth having a conversation about what you are noticing in the field.

  2. That’s a good idea about the panel participants! I always send questions out ahead of time, but it would be nice to have people get to know each other so the talk is more organic.