The prospect of attending a Writing Conference might be enticing but the kind of thing that seems frivolous. How do you justify taking the time off work, investing in travel, lodging, and the ticket to the event? The cost can add up fast.
So, what’s the argument for attending these events? How do they continue to draw in hundreds or even thousands of authors?
Let me tell you; there are some very good reasons to invest in author events. That said, you should very carefully consider the expense before investing in attending a Writing Conference.
Why go to a Writing Conference?
If you’re going to shell out the money to attend a conference, it had best be worth it, right?
Meet new writers
I really can’t say enough how important and valuable networking can be. Conferences will attract an array of writers and authors, most of whom are looking for the same things you are! These events are your chance to meet new people and make connections that will help build your network.
Remember that each author will have their own network of followers. One huge boon to an aspiring author is the opportunity to tap into a new market. Collaborate with a fellow author and bam! You’re into their network.
The other side of this is the creative growth from interacting with others on the same path as you. Surrounding yourself with fellow authors is a great way to energize your writing, to invigorate yourself and get really pumped about the laborious work ahead. We know writing and self-publishing are hard. So too do all these other authors at conferences.
This is another form of networking. There is never going to be a point at which you can say “I know it all.” There just isn’t. There will always be more to learn about writing, publishing, and marketing your book.
It’s unreasonable to expect that you’d stay perfectly up to date on everything happening in the publishing industry. Even industry leaders can’t be up on everything happening all the time. But they do have some great insights.
Insights they’ll be at these conferences sharing. A writing conference is a great place to learn about emerging trends and new developments in publishing. The same is true of genre knowledge, buying trends, and general writing advice. Consider this: imagine you have a piece of genre fiction in your back-list. A murder mystery.
Published for years, selling a few copies here and there, but largely stagnate. You go to a conference and industry leaders speak to a growing trend this year. Murder mysteries are big. Really big. Everyone is reading them.
Maybe it’s time to consider promoting that back listed story from years ago? Update it and re-release? Or just give it a little marketing emphasis on your social media or email list? It could lead to an uptick in sales. This is the kind of knowledge you’re after at a writing conference.
Meet publishers, editors, and agents
You need these folks to advance your career as an author. If you’re self-publishing, you still need a platform to publish on. You probably need an editor too. If you hope to land a traditional publishing deal, you absolutely need to interact with agents.
All of these industry regulars are present at conferences, and what’s more, they are actively looking for you. Editors may be offering special rates for employing their service at an event. Agents are there specifically to meet and capture new author leads. Publishers want you to publish your book and will be there offering advice and methods to do so.
Okay, so you shouldn’t go to events for the swag. But it is a nice added bonus. Lots of exhibitors will be giving away materials to help you remember them and consider them for the services you’ll need. On top of that, some exhibitors or the even itself will be doing giveaways for higher ticket items or services. Attending an event is no guarantee that you’ll win anything, but it adds the chance to pay off big if you do happen to win something.
Making the Most of Events
If you’ve decided to make the investment and attend an author event, I suggest starting as close to home as possible. Look for an event in your region, preferably near enough that you can travel there and back without lodging. This will cut out a major expense.
Wherever you do end up going, take some time to look over the event schedule. Any event is going to be overwhelming. Preparation is important. Plan the speakers you want to be there for. Workshops, author talks, sessions with publishers and editors; read up on the hosts and plan your day so that you don’t find yourself wandering the hall without a plan for your day.
I’ve only attended a few events of this sort myself, but the last one I made events in my smartphone calendar for every session and workshop I wanted to attend. Having a clear and defined itinerary will keep you on track.
I can’t say enough how valuable it is to take copious notes during sessions. Chat with the folks around you. Find out what they thought was valuable about the event.
Your ultimate goal is always going to be networking, so keep that in the back of your head the entire time.
Events Worth Considering
I could list event after event, but rather than provide a huge list I’d rather suggest just doing a search for local events. Looking for conferences nearby. Many major US cities have writing conferences annually, including the upcoming San Francisco Writer’s conference, and there’s always the Book Expo and Book Con in New York City in the spring. London and Frankfurt host widely attended events if you’re a European author.
If your budget allows for one of these events they are well worth the experience and opportunity. But don’t let budgeting restrict you from any kind of author networking. Smaller events and conferences can be equally valuable.
What’s really important here is to get out in the world and connect with other authors and publishing industry types. Writing an amazing story is only part of being an author. Sharing it is as important.
And to share your story, you need a network of people interested in what you’ve written.
Paul is the Senior Copywriter at Lulu, writing weekly blog posts and helping guide content for the company’s marketing. When he’s not deeply entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person, but considers himself cat tolerant.