Whether you’re new to the writing industry or have already authored several books, writer’s conferences are a great way to educate yourself on the up and coming trends of the writing industry, craft and technique tips, networking with other writers, meeting with agents, editors, and publishers. The list could go on and on. Attending just one writer’s conference could make the difference between being an unpublished writer and a published writer.
Conferences run anywhere from one to five days. They generally include workshop classes, manuscript make-overs, critiques, agent pitches, and book signings. Register early as classes tend to fill up quickly. Most conferences offer an early bird discount. You’ll also want to schedule appointments for critiques and pitches when you register so you have the best chance at meeting with your top picks. Some conferences will let you sign up for critiques on the opening day, if time and room allows.
Make your hotel arrangements as soon as possible, too. Most conferences will hold a block of rooms for attendees at discounted rates. Big conferences tend to sell out long before the conference begins. Some meals are provided, but sometimes not all. Getting a room with a fridge and a microwave will help you save on extra expenses.
The Craft of Writing
Writing conferences are filled with speakers, published authors, editors, agents, and publishers who want to teach you how to become a better writer. The only way you can learn from their expertise is to be where they are, and that’s at writing conferences. Classes abound from the basics of grammar to creating page-turning plots. All genres are discussed from traditional writing and publishing, to freelance writing for magazines, to screen-writing plays or movies, and of course, online.
Connecting With Other Writers
Writing conferences give you the opportunity to meet other writers. Writers tend to be introverts who love the peace, quiet, and privacy of their own homes where they can lock themselves up in their office and tap out words on a keyboard for hours at a time. Only other writers can understand the writer's mind. Who else can you compare rejection letters with? Only other writers can appreciate how tumultuous the writing process is.
Research, Research, Research
It's all right to be choosy when it comes to picking the best conference for your needs. Know who the speakers are and what they’ll be teaching. Study the genres in which they’ll present. If you write poetry, but the conference faculty doesn't include any poets, that conference won't be beneficial to you. Do you have a manuscript ready to present to an agent? Make sure there's an agent present for you to pitch.
Networking is one of the main reasons to attend writer’s conferences. This is your opportunity to surround yourself with like-minded people. Writers who are informed and educated on how things work in this industry have a better chance at getting published. Peel your introvert-clothing off and open up. Most conferences have a reception or two for participants to mingle and get to know each other.
Pitch Your Book Idea
Editors and literary agents attend conferences looking for their next best-selling author. Check out the websites of the many conferences offered to see which editors and agents will be attending. If you don't live in a metropolis filled with big publishing companies, pitching agents at conferences could put you on the fast-track to getting your work published. Most pitches last 3-10 minutes so make sure you’re prepared. Do not bring your manuscript to the conference. If an agent is interested, they will ask you to send it to them.
A word of advice, never approach an agent or editor in the bathroom in reference to your book. Don’t laugh, it’s happened.
If you’re still having doubts on whether to attend a writers’ conference, know that you can claim your expenses on your taxes. The conference fee, airfare, rental car, hotel, meals not provided by the conference, and even your mileage are deductible.
What to Bring
You’ll want to take lots of notes so bring plenty of pencils, pens, paper, even your laptop. A small tape recorder is recommended as sometimes in taking notes we can miss things. If you’re published, some conferences allow you to bring and sell your books.
Bring comfortable shoes. You’ll do a lot of walking getting from one class to another. But when you meet with an agent or editor make sure you aren't too casual. You only get one chance to make a good impression. Bring your camera—there will be published authors in attendance! Not to mention the new friends you’ll make. Bring business cards. This will help people remember who you are when the conference is over. Make sure it includes your name, email, phone number, and website.
Once you return home from the writer’s conference, send a thank you note to every editor, agent, and publisher you had the opportunity to speak with. Send a thank you to those who provided you with a manuscript evaluation and/or critique.