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.

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

What to include in a book proposal

For the last several weeks, we’ve focused on getting ready for a conference. So you go to a conference, pitch your book, and the editor says, “That sounds like it has potential. Send me a proposal with your first 50 pages.”

And your stomach caves in, because you don’t have a proposal.

Agents and editors often say that many of the people they make this kind of offer to don’t respond. I believe that’s because writers are paralyzed by fear and therefore don’t move.

Hear me: It’s better to send a bad proposal than none. Continue reading

Finding the right editors and agents to pitch

One of the most important reasons to attend a writers conference is the opportunity to meet directly with editors and agents to pitch your manuscript. It’s been my experience that pitching in person has a much greater success rate than sending query letters. By “success” I mean getting a request for the proposal.

If you’re dealing with an editor directly, the submission process usually goes something like this: Continue reading

FWA’s Mid-Winter Conference West and Reading Festival

I will be on faculty for Florida Writers’ Association’s Mid-Winter Conference West and Reading Festival in Bradenton January 10-11, 2014. This two-day event features workshops for authors, publishers, and others; author interviews with agents and publishers; and the public reading festival. Writers will pay to register for workshops, but admission will be free for the general public to attend the Reading Festival.

Opportunities for published authors: Continue reading

What to take to a writers conference

Getting ready for a writers conference can be a little nerve-wracking, but it needn’t be. Conferences are important to your professional progress, but no one conference is a make-or-break experience. It’s just one link in the chain of your career.
Still, you want to prepare. There’s a lot to do beforehand, but today I’m only going to focus on what you need to bring. Continue reading