5 Tips for Preparing for Writers’ Conferences

You’re going to a writer’s conference! You’ve got a dream in your back pocket, and you’re ready to make it happen. Soon you will step inside a crowded room full of other writers, editors, agents, and publishers, and you’re going to take the next step toward your publishing dream.

It may sound intimidating (okay, well, it sort of is, the first time) but there’s plenty you can do to prepare for your first conference. Besides the basic stuff, like, wear deodorant and check your teeth after eating salad, keep in mind the “5 Ps” to ensure you make the most of your conference experience.

  • Plan. Conferences can be pricey—between registration fees, accommodations, and travel—so be sure to maximize your investment by planning ahead. Is this conference at a fancy urban hotel or rustic retreat center? How will you get there from the airport? Will you be schlepping your own bags, or will there be bell service available? What will the other conference attendees be wearing? What time will your body think it is when you get up the first morning? Spend time looking over the schedule, plan what you want or need in terms of clothing (and can carry), arrange for ground transportation, and be aware of (and plan for) adjusting to time changes.
  • Most conferences offer many classes and sessions concurrently. Some even offer schedules, or tracks, especially designed for new writers, fiction or nonfiction writers, etc. Take time to review the course schedule and decide in advance where your time will best be spent. Review the faculty list and decide with whom to set appointments or meetings, and do so ahead of time, if possible.
  • You’re at the conference to get noticed, so prepare to be scrutinized! Make sure you have plenty of business cards and multiple copies of other documents you may be presenting, such as your manuscript, one-sheets, etc. Practice your elevator speech and your pitch in advance; better yet, do it with a friend. Ask (and accept) feedback, and practice, practice, practice!
  • Professional. While this may seem like a vacation or weekend escape, remember, this is a business trip. You may or may not get that meeting with the editor or agent you’re dying to meet, but you never know who else you’ll cross paths with at this event. Be professional at all times! I can’t stress this enough—even after hours, because you never know who might be rooming next door. Be courteous and outgoing when meeting others. Use every opportunity to network with fellow conferees; be courteous and interested in them and not only yourself. Most importantly, don’t be annoying! You may have a hard time getting in front of that agent or editor, but you’re not doing yourself any favors if you stalk them all weekend or follow someone into the bathroom (yes, this has actually been done before).
  • Pace. You might be the most outgoing extrovert on the planet, but meeting so many people and engaging constantly is emotionally and physically exhausting. Don’t pack your schedule so tightly that you are constantly on the go. Pace yourself, drink lots of water, fuel your body with wise eating choices, get plenty of rest (even when you want to stay up late and chat with friends), and schedule downtime for yourself. Ensure that you’ll have the physical and emotional energy to finish strong and that you’ve maximized every encounter and opportunity available.

Finally, plan to have fun—this may be your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or it may just be the next step in your writing journey. Take advantage of all your conference has to offer, but also know you’ve done your best and what happens is meant to happen. Enjoy the experience, glean everything you possibly can from the people you meet and the classes and workshops you attend, and keep moving toward that publishing dream.

Join me at the Florida Christian Writers Conference, Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, or PENCON!



Featured Editor

The thing I love best about working in the Christian publishing industry is the camaraderie among colleagues. Technically, we are all competitors, fighting for the same clients, the same jobs. But it is a cooperative competition—we all help one another out. Because, in the end, we all have the same boss—God. So when a colleague succeeds, we all cheer (even if that means we missed out on an editing gig). So because of this cooperative competition, we boost one another and encourage each other. Many thanks to Karin Berry of Write Now Editing for featuring me on her blog.

Enjoy some tips and inside scope of my interview here.

My Agent Loved My Proposal. Why Is He Making Me Redo It?

Congrats! You’ve jumped through the major hurdles of querying agents, submitting your book proposal, and fielding offers. You are now represented by Mr. Awesome Agent. If your book idea, your platform, and your proposal were so rockin’, why is your agent asking you to redo it?

book proposals

Don’t worry. This is often a standard practice. Your book proposal did catch the eye of an agent. But most every agency has their own format, their own proposal template. This way, when Mr. Agent shops your proposal to the publishers, the publishers realize, “Oh! I can tell this is from Mr. Awesome Agent! We always likes the book and the authors he brings us. Let’s definitely take a look at this!”

Every agent’s (or agency’s) book template is like their trademark. It is easily recognizable to the publishers they regularly sends clients’ proposals to. They’ve built their reputation around their work and their ability to bring stellar authors to the publishers.

Every proposal has the same info: overview, author’s bio, comparative analysis, marketing plans, future books, chapter outline, and sample chapters. But each agent/agency may have their own style or format for the headings. One major literary agency likes to insert the “Biblical Foundation,” meaning the one Scripture that is the basis of the book. Another major agent deems this as unnecessary. “You’re a Christian author writing a Christian book. I can assume you’ve based your book on Scripture, or I wouldn’t be considering you,” he says.

So although all proposal are very similar in content and format, each agent or agency may have their own style. Although it may be a little more work for you, the writer, it’s worth it. You are now attached to Mr. Awesome Agent and his worthy reputation. In the end, it’ll likely get you noticed and bring you a contract!

If you are a writer needing help with your book proposal, check out my Services page or Contact me. If you are an editor wanting to learn how to format and edit authors’ proposals, I have an online class for you! Check it out here.

Inspiring Kids to Write!

One of my favorite things to do is talk to elementary classes about being an editor and writer.

Mrs. Wampole invited me to come speak to her second-grade class last year, and now I think we’ve created a tradition. I’m glad because I love it!

I’ve found that second-graders are at a good age to talk about writing and editing. They are now readers and writers themselves and are excited to learn new things. Their enthusiasm is pretty contagious!

This year when talking with students, my goal was to share my enthusiasm for what I do and encourage them to think about what they like to do and what they are good at. I told them, “When you think about what you want to be when you grow up, think about what you like to do, what you can do to help others, and what you can do to make money (since we all like to eat and live in houses!).” This led us into a discussion about how different talents, skills, and jobs can actually help people. It also helped them think about creative ways to make a living.

I love letting the kids get a sneak peak of a writer’s life to show that it is so much more than the five-sentence paragraph and the five-paragraph essay that they are drilled on because of standardized testing. We talked about all the different types of writing. I had them look around the room and think about the least obvious things they see that someone had to write—posters, textbooks, flyers, Scholastic newspapers, menus, etc. Even greeting cards! The kids were in awe of everything they could write.

Second-grade writers!

Second-grade writers!

I then began talking with the second-graders about the two main jobs I do: magazine writing and nonfiction book editing.

First, I introduced them to the world of magazine writing. They told me all types of ways magazines are different than books. I described the process I go through when writing for ParentLife and showed them a “spec sheet,” a contract, my Word document, and then the final designed magazine pages. It’s a pretty neat process from beginning to end!

Then we talked about what an editor does. I like to say I make the author’s book SHINE. Whether that is helping with the story or putting the commas in the correct places, my job is to make the manuscript the best it can be.

I explained the types of editing: developmental/substantive, copyediting, and proofreading. Then we edited a few sentences together using the proofreading marks. They thought the proofreading marks were funny!

I showed them my resource manuals—The Associated Press Stylebook for magazine writing/editing and The Chicago Manual of Style for book publishing. After seeing the CMOS, which is about three inches thick and full of “rules,” they decide they would not want to be editors!

Lastly, we talked about the process of editing a book and getting it published. And how sometimes an author gets to make input on his or her book cover. We looked at several books from authors I have edited and discussed who the kids thought the readers were—men, women, parents, moms, young, old, etc. They had some interesting ideas on what makes a cover interesting to men vs. women!

Then was Q&A time! They had LOTS of great questions and wanted to be sure I answered every single one. Others may have the same questions the kiddos did, so here are my answers.

Q: How do you get the magazine to look like that?

A: Graphic designers take the Word documents and design the pages of the magazine on their computers. They style the text, make the fonts look pretty and eye-catching, put in art, make bullets, and create the final layout of the magazine that you see.

Q: How do you get the pictures in the magazine?

A: The graphic designers uses “stock” photos. They work with companies who sell lots and lots of different photos that professional photographers have taken. Graphic designers have to read the articles and think about what photos would go with each article. Sometimes they use real photographs, and sometimes they work with illustrators and use illustrations. All the art work and design work is done on the computer.

Q: Have you ever written comics before?

A: Nope, but I have written games and puzzles for children.

Q: Have you ever been fired before?

A: No, but I’ve fired writers before! (The kids usually laugh!) Okay, not really. I’ve just been honest with potential clients and said that perhaps I’m not the perfect editor for them. Perhaps it’s because I don’t specialize in what they need edited. For instance, I don’t edit fiction, so I would suggest a fiction author to find a better editor. And sometimes it’s not a good partnership. An author and editor have to work so closely together, like a team. So our relationship has to be good, even if we disagree about the edits!

Q: Do you have a boss?

A: Yep—me! As a freelance editor/writer, I get to work for myself. So I choose when to work and who to work with.

Q: Have you ever missed a deadline?

A: Oh yes! But usually the writers are so understanding and just want the editing to be the best it can be . . . even if that means it has to take longer.

Q: What do you do if one of your kids is sick?

A: The glory of being a freelancer is that I get to work at home, so my schedule is flexible for when my kids get sick or we go on vacation.

Q: Do you have to read and memorize the entire CMOS book?

A: No, definitely not! But I have to know how to find the info I’m looking for, so it’s important to know how to use a resource book.

Q: How long does it take to edit a book?

A: It really depends on what stage we are in the process of editing and how well the author writes. If an author writes well, I can edit 10–20 pages an hour. If an author is not so good and takes a lot more editing, it can take me an entire hour just to work through 2 pages. But typically, it takes me about 2-4 weeks to edit an entire book manuscript.

Q: How long does it take to write a book?

A: It takes most authors several months to write a book. Even up to a year or more!

Q: How does writing and editing help people?

A: My writing that is published in parenting magazines helps parents learn about developmental stages of childhood so they know how to best parent their children. Sometimes it encourages them in what they are doing well or it helps them realize what they could be doing better. My editing helps authors achieve their dreams of being published, and it helps make their manuscripts the best they can be for all their readers.

Thank You, Mrs. Wampole’s Second-Grade Class!

Sneak Peek: AP vs. CMOS

pen icon
PENCON 2015 starts tomorrow! I am so excited about this convention! It is the second annual freelance editorial convention of The Christian PEN—and the only conference of its kind in Christian publishing.

The speaker line-up is amazing; experts in the publishing industry from all over the US are convening in Austin, Texas, to teach, encourage, inspire, and collaborate with one another. I am teaching two workshops: “AP vs. CMOS: When Style Guides Conflict,” which I am co-teaching with the wonderful Kathy Ide, and “Building Client Relationships.”

Here’s a sneak peek of a few key points from the “AP vs. CMOS” workshop:


CMOSIn a series of three or more elements, separate the elements with commas. When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series, use a comma before the conjunction.

For example: I love apples, bananas, and grapes.

AP: Leave out the comma before and (or another conjunction) in a series unless doing so would cause confusion or ambiguity.

For example: I love apples, bananas and grapes.


CMOSNo space before or after em dash (—) or en dash (–).

(Note: the em dash is made by pressing shift+option+hypen; the en dash is made by pressing option+hypen.)

For example: No matter what—she always got her way.

AP: Space before and after dash (—). AP does not use the en dash. (Use a hyphen instead.)

For example: No matter what — she always got her way.


CMOSSpell out whole numbers one through one hundred, and spell out round numbers (hundreds, thousands, millions). Spell out times of day in even, half, and quarter hours.

For example: There are ninety-nine reasons I love you!

AP: Spell out whole numbers below 10; use numerals for 10 and above. Use numerals for measurements and spell out the words inches, feet, yards, etc. Use numerals for time of day except for noon and midnight (10:30 a.m., 5 o’clock).

For example: There are 99 reasons I love you!

Stay tuned for more info, news, and reviews of PENCON 2015.

I hope to see you there!


Sing Your Song

birds sing

I’m sitting here editing … another book proposal, one of my favorite things to do … and I hear a song. The song of a bird, high atop one of the massive pine trees that congregate in our back acreage.

Out the window, I can see the lone bird, nestled and content. It’s so loud, so strong, I think to myself. Surely there is another bird joining in.

Nope. Just one bird. Singing for anyone—or no one—to hear. Singing because it can. Because that’s how God created it.

“The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.”
(Psalm 104:12 NIV)

This bird has a beautiful song, and I sit and listen, enraptured by its melody. One bird. One song. One moment that brings so much joy and peace, even if it’s only for me.

No matter what the weather, no matter what the other birds and animals are doing, no matter that no other creature joins in … this bird sings its song.

Do you sing your song? Do you do what God created you to do?

Regardless of the weather, your emotions, what others are doing, what social media posts, whether others join in or understand or appreciate?

Whether a writer, editor, carpenter, stay-at-home mom, sales manager, or waitress … whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you are … sing your song.

“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.” (Psalm 96:1 NIV)

Through Whose Point of View Are You Seeing Life?


One of the most common issues I encounter in editing fiction is maintaining a consistent point of view. It is tempting for authors to want to include readers in every interesting thought and perspective that is happening with each character.

The author may want the reader to know the angst that is gripping Julie while at the same time feeling the fury of Julie’s boss. The problem is, although authors have an image in their head and carry the emotions that all the characters feel, authors cannot magically transmit every detail of the scene into their readers’ minds. Instead, the author must use words to communicate ideas, feelings, and actions. Readers then have to receive those words, interpret them, and form their own image.

This is a process. And unfortunately, processes take time. If authors try to take their readers inside the head of every character, they will never leave enough time for this process to mature. Readers will not form any deep connections with the characters, and this will ultimately lose any grip the story had on them.

It’s one thing for readers to know that Jane is grieving, that Bob is angry, or that Sally is confused, but a completely different thing for readers to be overcome with Jane’s grief, to burn with Bob’s rage, or to experience the anxiousness of Sally’s confusion. If you successfully connect with your reader’s emotions, when they put the book down, they will carry that emotion with them. This experience is what makes a reader say, “I couldn’t put it down!”

In much the same way, point of view affects the way we experience life. You may turn on the news in the morning and see the world as a sensational and tragic place to exist. At work, you may percieve the world as a task driven arena where success depends upon whether your lazy co-workers decide to “show-up” that day, and blame depends on who happens to be where at the wrong time. Evenings might consist of television shows where the norm is broken families, jokes at others’ expense, rebellion glorified, and scandal glamorized. Perhaps you will wrap up your day with a chapter from the Bible or a favorite devotional book to help keep your life on the track you know you should be taking. And you might even end your night with another desperate prayer for forgiveness and a begging cry for help.

Trying to see your life clearly while wading through so much chaos can leave a person drained, confused, and powerless. It is no wonder that so many people wonder if there even is a God. This kind of living is similar to the experience of reading a book full of head-hopping. Just like being told Sally is confused doesn’t make you feel confused, being told God loves you and has a plan for your life doesn’t make you feel God’s love or destiny.

So what is the solution? Choose one point of view. Through whose eyes will your story be told? The more time you spend with God, the more you get away from your traditions and into the truth of His Word, the more you will experience life through His point of view. Soon you will be seeing every moment of your life through His eyes.

What does that look like? What does God see when He sees you? Forgiven. Beloved. Holy. Possessing His inheritance. Full of power. Righteous. Accepted. Bold. Courageous. Fearless. This is your life through His eyes. Is it hard to believe? Is it hard to feel? Then let me suggest you let go of the head hopping. Eliminate those views that conflict with His, and spend your time in His head. Receive of His free gifts through grace, and then share what you see with the world.

Pleasant penning,

Rachel Newman

Rachel-Newman-headshotRachel E. Newman is a freelance editor and indexer, and a certified paralegal.

Join me May 1–2, 2015 in Austin, Texas at PENCON 2015, the only convention for Christian editors. Learn how to enter the editing field or enhance an already established business. Network with other editors, and meet with the speakers one-on-one. Visit: http://thechristianpen.com/convention-2/. For a 10% discount, use code MCGUIRE10.

What Authors Need in Today’s Publishing World

More Than an Editor

Today I’m starting a new series, “More Than an Editor.”
If you are an editor (or an author), follow this series based on classes I have developed and teach for freelance editors. 

The publishing world has vastly changed in the last decade. Authors no longer get to just write. They have to develop, plan, and grow a platform. They have to be social media experts. They are like business people executing business plans. They must be knowledge in how to promote, market, and sell their books. They are required to develop their “brand” and make their name recognizable. They must know well-known endorsers, connect with bloggers, and develop reader newsletters, Facebook groups, and fan forums.

To say authors are overwhelmed at the publishing process would be an understatement, I believe.

As the publishing industry changes how authors write, it is also changing how editors edit. Since authors must be more than authors—they must be social media experts, business people, marketers, promoters, brand developers—editors have to be more than editors. We have to develop skills that are beyond those of developmental editing, substantive editing, and copyediting. We must know everything that an author must know in order to best serve our author clients. That means we have to know all about publishing—both the writing side and the editing side.

As I work with book authors, I discover that the entire scope of what an author is expected to know and do is overwhelming for them. All of my clients have sought not only feedback on how to make their manuscripts better but also advice on how to navigate through the publishing process.

When do I send a query letter?

How do I write a proposal?

What does “competitive analysis” mean?

How is a proposal formatted? 

These are all questions and concerns that authors have. Yes, they can find blogs and websites and resources to answer all of these questions. They can study and learn how to do it all themselves. But if you have the answers, if you can format their queries and proposals, if you can consult them through the publishing process, then you have not only extended the paid gig with a client, but you also have likely secured a life-long relationship with this author. One that will keep the client coming back to you for her second book proposal, third book proposal, etc.

I have found that the most satisfying thing for me as an editor is developing relationships with authors and journeying with them through the entire publishing process. It is priceless to know you did such a good job consulting them that they can’t wait for you to help edit and format their next book proposal and give your expert advice on how to navigate the next journey of their career. Even after landing contracts with publishing houses and working with the in-house publishing editors, I’ve had clients come back to ask me my advice about book cover design or social media blasts. It’s not only been an honor for me to do so, but it is also amazing to see the entire life of a book, from manuscript to publication and beyond, not just the edits on a page.

Bottom line: I truly think editors need to develop skills that extend beyond editing in order to service the whole scope of an author’s publishing journey.

Stay tuned for next week’s article: “How to be Coach and Cheerleader as an Editor.”

10 Tips to Survive Writers Conferences

‘Tis the Season!

Nope, not Christmas. It’s the season of writers’ conferences! Some conferences have already finished, but there are still several yet to come.

These are just a few! What conferences have you already attended or are planning to attend? I attended the Orange County Christian Writers’ Conference two weeks ago. I’ll be posting more information from that conference in upcoming weeks.

Getting ready to attend writers conferences is a lot of work. Friend and fellow editor Kathy Ide has written about the 10 survival tips you must have before attending writers’ conferences. Here is an excerpt from Kathy’s blog:

survival tips

1. Choose the right conference for you. If you’re a new writer, the best choice might be one that focuses more on honing the craft than on meeting agents and publishers. If you’ve never attended a writers’ conference, you may want to start small … especially if you’re shy. Conferences are held all over the country. Consider attending one that’s close to home so you can save on the cost of travel and lodging.

But if you can afford it—and if you can talk yourself into actually approaching and talking to industry professionals—spring for one of the bigger conferences, like Mount Hermon. It will be worth every single penny and then some!

If you have a strong desire to attend a conference you can’t afford, pray about it. If God wants you there, He’ll find a way. Many conferences offer scholarships (partial if not full). For the past two years, I’ve run a contest I call Promising Beginnings, and the grand prize is a full scholarship to Mount Hermon (registration, economy lodging, and meals.) If you’re interested in that, check my blog and social media venues in the fall.

2. Study the details. Read every word on the conference’s website or promotional literature to learn about the opportunities you’ll have there. Do some research on the faculty members and staff to get a feel for which ones you most want to try to connect with. Read the descriptions of the workshops to see which ones you think would most benefit you at this stage in your journey.

3. Prepare. If the conference allows attendees to submit a few pages in advance, go for it! Send in the most polished writing you can, proofreading carefully for typos, inconsistencies, and errors in punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. (Not sure how best to do that? Get a copy of my book Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors!) If you have something to offer to a magazine or book publisher, practice your “pitch” (brief verbal description of your project). Create some “one-sheets” to hand to publishers that creatively describe your project—and you.

4. Rest up. You will be tempted to stay up till all hours of the night during the last few days before the conference, preparing for the event and getting as much done before you leave as possible. But be sure you get a good night’s sleep (or two or three) before the conference, because you probably won’t sleep much while you’re there! There will be too many fun things to do and interesting people to hang out with. And you’ll want to be alert so you can learn everything you can … and make a good presentation when you meet with influential people.

5. Pack in advance. I start packing for a writers’ conference several days before my scheduled departure date. That way, if I think of something later, there’s still time to add it. Also, that leaves my last night with my husband free for a “date night” instead of spending our final moments together before the trip running around like a frantic chicken.

6. Try to anticipate what you might need. Take a few items from your medicine cabinet: Tylenol, tissues, cough drops, Band-Aids, echinacea, cold medicine, Tums or Pepto Bismol. You don’t want some minor aches and pains to distract you from what you could be getting out of this valuable opportunity to learn and connect. And even if you don’t need any of those things, someone else at the conference might … and you could be the hero!

I almost always come home with a scratchy throat after a multiple-day conference. Since I spend most of my days sitting in front of a computer, my voice box just isn’t used to being used for talking so much! Many veteran conference speakers have learned to put a Halls cough drop into a bottle of water. As it dissolves, it permeates the water with soothing comfort … and you don’t have to worry about trying to speak clearly around a lozenge in your mouth.

7. Relax! Don’t get so worked up over making sure you connect with the “right” people that you miss out on the fun. If you get to a group event early so you can snag a seat at the table where your first-choice faculty member is going to sit, and the table still fills up before you get there, don’t panic. Wherever you end up sitting will be right where God wants you, and you’ll get the blessings He has chosen for you—which is better than anything you could have chosen for yourself.

8. Evaluate the conference. Many conference packets include forms for attendees to fill out, encouraging their helpful comments: what worked well for you as well as suggestions for improvement. Don’t think that your opinion is unimportant. Conference directors do read those forms, and they rely on attendees’ input in their planning for future events. If a faculty member was a blessing to you, write about it so the directors know who to invite back. If something negative happened, don’t hesitate to report it. Directors need to know what not to do next time too.

9. Take the conference home with you. If the conference offers recordings of workshops, get as many as you can and listen to them after you get home. You’ll get a lot of instruction that you otherwise would have missed, and those recordings will keep the “conference vibe” going long after the event is over.

10. Write about the experience. If you had a good time at the conference, post a blog about it. Get the word out on your social media venues. Let other writers know what’s out there that can benefit them. The Christian publishing industry is all about helping one another achieve whatever God has in store for all of us.

These are great tips! What other tips would you add that are important to know when attending writers’ conferences?


Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

*  *  *  *  *

Like my Facebook page for more grammar tips, writing tips, trivia facts,
and current news in the publishing industry!