From June through September, writers conferences all across the country draw dedicated writers of all experience levels and genres. If you’re attending your first conference or it’s your first time to a particular conference, you’ll want to arrive prepared to get the most bang for your buck.
Writing Tip for Today: Conferences are usually big, splashy affairs with big name keynoters and plenty of agents and editors trolling for new clients. Here are a few things you’ll want to decide:
- Decide WHY You’re Going. A writers conference can be pretty overwhelming the first time. I often advise writers to attend one just to get the feel of one. If there’s a good conference within two hours’ driving time, even better. That way you can opt for a per diem registration, usually much cheaper if you aren’t going to stay at the hotel or attend the banquets. If you do not have a completed manuscript (for fiction) or a solid proposal, you will be attending for workshops and networking. Don’t shell out the money for a conference thinking you can interest an agent with a half-finished novel. For first-time novelists, your book must be complete. A conference can help you develop skills and help you meet others in the publishing world. Just don’t pitch your WIP if it isn’t complete. You’ll irritate the agent and maybe even get blackballed.
- Decide WHAT: Small, Medium or Large. If you are a fairly new writer, you may need a conference which stresses writing over shopping your idea to an agent. Some regional conferences, while smaller and less splashy than the mega-conferences, offer more intense workshops on the craft, often by master writers. While the emphasis is on craft instead of agent shopping, many of these conferences also sponsor contests. If you win an award, it looks nice on the writing resume. Another plus is getting to network–in a more intimate setting, even introverts can feel comfortable meeting other writers. If you successfully attend a small or medium-sized conference, it can prepare you for the large gatherings where craft workshops can take second place to the hustle of agent pitches.
- Decide WHO You’re Going to See. If you note the keynoter and other authors who’ll be at a conference, you can choose the one(s) which will feature writers you admire. For craft, the best option is the smallest conference with authors you admire. But, if you’re in the market for an agent, you’ll end up in a mega-conference, pitching your book idea or novel in a fifteen-minute session that resembles speed dating. Again, if you aren’t finished with your novel or if you are still deciding on genre, you can get a lot out of the craft workshops. If your big purpose for attending is to gain representation, you have to go where the agents are–usually a big conference.