Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Invest In Your Writing: Conferences

10 years ago, when I was new to the writing world, I wanted to soak in all I could about the publishing industry and the craft of writing. The one thing that catapulted me in to this world at light speed, were writing conferences.

I remember the first one I attended. I felt like Captain Kirk landing the Spaceship Enterprise on some alien planet. I felt out of place, I didn't speak the language and at times I wanted Scotty to beam me up. BUT, once I made it through, I realized all my doubts and apprehensions about whether or not I belonged were self-inflicted. No one cared that I hadn't published anything yet. It was clear we were all there for the same reasons; because we were passionate about writing and because we wanted to continue to hone our craft. Over the years, I have attended many other conferences and found them to be a valuable investment of my time and money.

Now, 10 years later, I am the director of the Northern Colorado Writers Conference; an event in its 4th year. From my early beginnings as a conference attendee, to where I am at now as a conference organizer, I have picked up a few pointers along the way on how to get the most out of a writers conference that I wanted to share with you.

Be Professional
Writing is a business and I believe all writers need to treat it as such.Therefore, at a conference you should be professional. Have business cards made and ready to hand out. Be respectful of the agents and editors. Put some thought into what you should wear. Last year at my conference, one agent told me that she wished writers would dress more professionally. She didn't want to see business suits, but she wanted to see clean cut, professional attire. For her, that set the tone--it let her know that you understand that this is a business and that your are serious about being a professional writer.

Before the conference you should look through the conference programs and pinpoint some editors, agents, presenters, that you want to introduce yourself to. A conference is not the time to be a wall-flower and hide in the corner or in your hotel room. It doesn't matter if you are a self-proclaimed introvert, you need to dig deep inside you and unearth any extrovert skills you may have. Introduce yourself to other writers at meals, hand out business cards, ask questions during sessions and talk to the agents and editors, you never know what may come from this meeting.

Be Prepared
If you are pitching to an agent/editor at a conference, you need to do your homework. Find out the types of books they each represent and don't waste their time pitching to them if you know your project isn't a good fit. Just like you are hoping to find an agent or editor, they are their to get clients. If you are pitching a non-fiction book, you should have the book proposal and at 3 chapters complete so if they ask you to send it, you are ready to go. If you are pitching fiction, your book needs to be complete before you pitch. To quote literary agent Kristin Nelson, "Writers with “ideas” for a great novel are a dime a dozen. It’s that one in a hundred writer who actually has the perseverance and stamina to sit down and write the entire thing (which is a huge achievement all in itself since the majority of aspiring writers never even make it that far)."

Stay Until The End
Stay for the whole event, even if you are tired. You paid for it all why not get all you can out of it. Plus, a lot of time goes in to planning every aspect of the conference. If you leave too soon, you might miss out on that one piece of information that you have been looking for, you might miss out on the chance to be inspired and motivated and you might miss out on meeting someone who would be an asset to your contact list.

I hope you will consider investing in your writing this year by attending a writers conference. To find a conference near you, visit the Shaw Guides.

Happy Writing!


Meg said...

Thanks! I've been waffling about attending this very conference. It'll be my first, so this helps encourage me to take the leap! Maybe I'll get to say hello while I'm there.

Deb said...

Thanks, Kerrie! I am leaving today for the SCBWI conference in NYC and almost forgot to make up some business cards!

Lisa Katzenberger said...

Thanks for the advice. The reminder to hit all the events, no matter how tired you may be, is a good one.

Eden Sharpe said...

I'm headed to the SCBWI tomorrow, too (my 2nd multi-day writing conference). Maybe I'll get to see you there, Deb.
Thanks for the advice--it was a nice refresher course.

Victoria said...

Thank you Kerrie! I very much enjoyed reading your blog post and the advice is very motivating and true. I'm planning to attend my first writing conference this year in New York. The big city and attending a conference will begin my debut into the literary world. I wish you much luck as you continue your journey toward getting published!

Kerrie said...

I am so glad you were all able to gain some valuable information from this post. The reason I started this blog is to provide other writers with information or inspiration about writing. Enjoy your conferences and maybe our paths will cross in the future.

Rita's Write said...

These are some great suggestions. Conferences are a great place to network. Telling us not to hide in our hotel rooms is good advice, since so much networking goes on during breaks from the event. I have been to three conferences, one of which I helped organize and the energy level that flows from all the writers is amazing.

Anonymous said...

Good points. I remember my first one too. Overwhelmed yet wanting to talk to everyone. hah
Thank you for the points.
Jo Ann Hernandez

WriteBlack said...

In this economic environment, it's easy to pull back and think of writing conferences as nonessential.

Thanks for this reminder about how important they can be.

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