Q&A: 3 Reasons to Attend Writers Conferences

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Q: I’m working on a book, but it’s not finished yet. Should I attend a writers conference anyway, or should I wait until my book is finished and I’m ready to pitch agents and editors?

A: Don’t wait. There are many benefits to attending writers conferences beyond pitching.

Classes

Writing conferences offer great teaching on a variety of writing techniques, as well as about the business aspects of a writing career. So yes, you should absolutely attend a writers conference while your manuscript is still in progress, because you will learn things you can immediately apply to your work.

Platform

Part of embarking on a writing career is building a platform, which is industry jargon for making a name for yourself. When we talk about networking, we often focus on getting to know people in your niche, but being known is just as important. Your platform encompasses your reputation and the number of people you’re connected to. Even as a newbie, you can start forming relationships with industry professionals. If you don’t have a manuscript to pitch, you can still sit with an agent or editor at dinner and ask about their work. Connect with them online. Then when you are ready to pitch, they may remember you. One of the best ways to become known in your niche is to volunteer at a conference.

Friendships

My single favorite thing about attending conferences is the friendships I’ve developed with other writers and freelancers. Many of my closest friends and most trusted colleagues are people I first met at a conference. Those relationships alone are worth the price of admission and then some. Just to give one example, I got to know Ben Wolf, editor-in-chief of Splickety Publishing Group, through the Florida Christian Writers Conference and the Realm Makers speculative fiction conference. Because of our friendship and the platform I had built, Ben recruited me to copyedit Havok magazine, which has become one of my favorite roles.

writers conference

Meeting other writers is the best reason for attending a conference. Realm Makers 2017. Photo by Kristen Stieffel

Find Conferences Near You

I consider traveling to conferences to be an investment in my business, but for a writer just starting out, the expense may be hard to justify. So do as I did and start locally. Here in Central Florida I attended the Florida Writers Association conference (which is coming up in October) and the Florida Christian Writers Conference (February) several times each before I started traveling to national conferences like American Christian Fiction Writers.

Search the writers conference category at Shaw Guides to find a conference in your region, or try searching the internet for the name of your state or province and the words “writers conference” or “writers association.”

If it still seems hard to justify the expense of a conference, consider that conference fees are tuition in your continuing education as a writer. It’s an investment that pays off.

The Three Best Things You Can Do for Your Writing Career

You know I’m not usually one for these “Number of Things” articles, but this is something I repeat so often—because I really believe it—that I figured it was an appropriate follow-up to the Elements of Fiction series.

You’ll find plenty of advice about how to improve your writing craft. Read widely, write a lot…that sort of thing. All true, of course.

But this list is about how you can develop your writing career. Continue reading

Upcoming writers conferences

I am a big believer in writers attending conferences. Next to belonging to a great critique group, it’s the best thing you can do for your writing career. You’ll build relationships with writers and others in the business that will help you pursue your career. You’ll take classes to improve your art. And you’ll have the joy of being around people who understand what you mean when you say, “My hero went a completely different direction than I expected. He really surprised me.”

I’ll be on faculty for two Florida conferences that are coming up. Continue reading

What is Speculative Fiction, anyway?

Realm Makers

One of the great things about attending the Realm Makers conference is that when you say you write fantasy, people grin and say “cool, what kind of fantasy?” and then let you go on about whether you have dragons and magic or not. Because unlike other Christian writers conferences, this one is just for those of us who write speculative fiction.

In the real world, often as not, “I write fantasy” draws blank stares and comments like “what does that mean, exactly?” Continue reading

How to pitch a book

When attending writers conferences, many people get extremely nervous about meeting with editors and agents. I know I certainly have. It’s understandable. The key to remaining calm when you pitch a book is realizing, first, that agents and editors are just regular folks doing their jobs, and second, that you will get many, many rejections before you get an acceptance. When you start understanding “no” as just another tick on your list of things to do, it gets much easier to move on. Continue reading

How to Design a One-Sheet

Also called a pitch sheet, a one-sheet is basically an advertising flyer for your book. Many writers use them at conferences to help break the ice with agents and editors, as I mentioned in my post about what to bring to a writers conference.

Designing a one-sheet is relatively easy. I’ve heard tell of writers paying graphic designers to do this work. At the risk of angering my graphic designer friends, that is overkill. You don’t need to be a designer to put one of these together. You also don’t need a full-on design program like InDesign. Microsoft Word will work well enough, but Apple Pages is better if you have a Mac. Continue reading