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.
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.
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.