Blogger: Mary Keeley
Having returned from Writing for the Soul, my first writers conference of 2013, a few observations are fresh on my mind. They might be helpful to you as you debate whether to attend one this year.
I’ve proclaimed the benefits of writers conferences from time to time. Here is a quick recap of the obvious reasons to attend:
- The opportunity to meet editors face-to-face. Some editors won’t consider a proposal from a writer unless they first met at a writers conference. Initially, that sounds unfair, doesn’t it? But look at it from an editor’s perspective. In today’s economically-strained publishing environment, the editor needs all the information he or she can accumulate to make a wise acquisition. And due to staff reductions, time is precious. Conferences are time-efficient for everyone. Your face-to-face interaction creates a three-dimensional first impression, way more information than your name, photo, and bio alone. NOTE: To ensure your first impression is optimum, be prepared to present yourself as a professional. I wrote a blog on this topic here.
- The opportunity to introduce yourself and meet with agents. If an editor with whom you met has requested your proposal, chances increase that an agent will be interested in talking to you.
- Educate yourself about the publishing industry and learn about trends and important things that are happening, including new technologies and how you can use them.
- The potential for joining or forming a critique group with attendees who write in your genre and with whom you connect.
- The inspiration from the main speakers and workshop leaders to persevere.
- Learning more about the craft of writing and how to approach an agent or an editor via a query and proposal.
But beyond these are the intangible takeaways, nuanced at first, which I could see in attendees’ eyes as they participated in the conference process.
- The energy that pervades the atmosphere when so many writers gather to talk all things publishing is palpable. Whether you are a new writer attending for the first time or an industry veteran who came to speak or lead a workshop, a conference is a time of refreshment and renewed commitment. It might be just the thing you need if your writing is bogged down or stuck. Most conferences offer attendees the opportunity to receive a critique of their manuscript by a professional editor. For a fraction of the fee you would pay to hire an editor on your own, you can gain valuable insight from a publishing veteran. That is reason enough to attend a conference.
- The camaraderie among attendees and faculty, all of whom understand each other’s passion for writing, common struggles in the journey to publication, and the stresses of fitting writing into real-life responsibilities. New writers commented to me how encouraged they were by the support and kindness they received from agents, editors, and veteran authors. What’s not to love about that?
- A first-hand glimpse of how the industry works from a business perspective. I believe this is one of the most important benefits of attending a conference. We spend a lot of time concentrating on craft, plot, message, and platform–the basic essentials of a publishable book. But equally important is gaining understanding of business realities. For instance, why is the marketing plan so important in your proposal, and what do agents and editors expect to see in yours? After listening to the speakers tell their stories and learn from workshop leaders, I observed a-ha moments in my 15-minute meetings with attendees as those pieces were fitting together for them.
Next week I’ll give you a list of writers conferences taking place this year.
Which of the above are the most important reasons for you to attend a conference this year? What did you appreciate most about previous conference experiences? Have you kept in touch with attendees you met at previous conferences?