How attending conferences helps your career

Attending writers conferences is one of the best things you can do for your writing career. There are many benefits to attending conferences:

Laura Parker Castoro teaching at the Florida Writers Association conference
Laura Parker Castoro teaching at the Florida Writers Association conference. Photo by Karen Lieb.
  • Learning in workshops and seminars
  • Pitching to agents and editors
  • Opportunities to get critiques
  • Discovering new resources
  • Befriending other writers

This last item may be the most important. Writing is a largely solitary craft, and people who don’t write—like our family and friends—may never understand why we do what we do. We sit in rooms, usually alone, writing about things that never happened to people who don’t exist. And when we talk about those people as if they were real, normal people think we’re crazy. Only another writer can understand why a character surprised you with something he said.

When you’re heading to a writers’ conference, have a goal in mind. If you think your manuscript is ready to publish, be prepared to pitch it. If your manuscript isn’t ready, take classes and workshops. If you have some idea of your strengths and weaknesses, focus on seminars that will help you develop your weaknesses.

If you’re not clear on your strengths and weaknesses, many conferences offer critiques. At some conferences this is a service you pay for, at others it’s free. The free critiques are usually only for a few pages, while the paid critiques may cover up to 50 pages. A good paid critique is easily worth a dollar to a dollar and a half per page. The best critiques will come from professional editors and published authors familiar with your genre.

To find a conference in your area, visit Shaw Guides and pick your genre or locale—or the locale you’d like to visit!

Attending conferences becomes harder when you reach the stage in your career Randy Ingermanson calls “Junior.” You’ve been critiqued, you’ve done the conference rounds a few times, you’ve pitched plenty of agents and editors but haven’t yet landed a contract. You’ve probably heard all the seminars about POV and showing vs. telling, and you need to focus on the seminars about marketing and building your platform. And you need to network. At this point your conference goal, in addition to pitching your manuscript, will be getting to know other writers, and talking with editors even if they’re not buying your genre, and asking for referrals to people who are.

The primary reason for attending conferences isn’t selling your book. The primary reason for attending conferences is building relationships. Selling your book will come about as a result of the relationships you build.


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1 Comment

  1. […] The same way you would review resumes if you were hiring, or the way you would investigate companies if you were looking for a job, you must examine agents and publishers to find those that are the best fit for your topic area and personality. That’s one of the reasons conferences are a great way to find an agent. […]

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