Preparing Your Dossier

Mary AndonianWriting Conference Success
By Mary Andonian

I met the president of our local writers association at my first writer’s conference. We were on an afternoon break between workshops, and I made conversation by offering her some of my SOUR PATCH KIDS candy. She declined the candy but accepted my business card at the end of our brief encounter. A few months later, she contacted me about joining the conference committee. You, too, will be prepared for your first conference if you bring the following:

Business Cards
Go to to create simple, inexpensive cards for under $20.00. Your cards should contain the obvious: name, address, phone, and e-mail. Do not use business cards from your current employment if your work has nothing to do with writing. Do purchase business cards if you’re a stay-at-home mom who has yet to write anything for revenue. You want to be seen as a professional writer, not as someone who is “looking to change careers” or “who writes as a hobby.”

Proposal Package(s)
These are inexpensive folders that contain all of the pertinent info you would want to share with an agent or editor during your pitch session. On the cover, middle-centered, attach a label printed with your project’s name on it. Inside, affix your business card to the provided tabs. On the left hand side, insert your “bio” page. This is a single sheet of paper that lists your writing credits. On the right hand side, insert what you predict she’ll want to see as a next step: first forty pages for fiction, or a table of contents and brief chapter summary paragraphs for non-fiction. Paperclip these pages together. (Stapled pages are a no-no.) Insert on top of these pages a query/proposal letter addressed specifically to the agent or editor to whom you’ll pitch.

Package Style
Your bios page can be made up in any number of ways. You can use a more traditional resume approach, listing all of your writing credits in chronological order, along with relevant educational background, and so on. Or you may opt for the author’s book flap approach, where you write your bio the way you would like it to be seen on the back cover of your book.

One author I know lists her writing credits, but lists next to each credit a full color photo representing each credit. I used her approach for my last proposal package, and ended up using visual icons representing the Contra Costa Times Newspapers (two of my essays were printed in this newspaper), a Writers Digest magazine cover (one of my essays took honorable mention in a WD recent contest), and both an Institute of Children’s Literature logo and a Willamette Writers logo (for my education and involvement in these institutions, respectively).

Last, But Not Least
Don’t forget the candy. It’s a great conversation-starter.

Mary Andonian is the agents and editors coordinator for the Willamette Writers Conference—one of the largest writers’ conferences in the United States. In past years, she was Co-chair and Program Coordinator. She just completed her second book, Bitsy’s Labyrinth. You can reach her at (

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