Writing conferences are an essential step on the path to being a published author. But that doesn’t mean you should search for the nearest one and pony up the fee to attend.
But I’m not attending.
Their leadership is encouraging coaches to attend because there will be a special booth for writers to learn about coaching. A special offer will be extended for attendees to get a free 20-minute session with a writing coach.
I could find new clients at this conference. So why have I chosen not to attend?
Because the conference doesn’t offer me the three things I believe a writing conference must before I will invest time, money, and resources into attending.
The main reason a writer attends a writing conference is to find a publisher for their work. At least that has been my driving motivation when I attended six writing conferences.
This means, I searched the list of agents and publishing representatives on the conference website. If my dream agent didn’t make the list, I researched those who would be there.
Did any of them fit the parameters I wanted?
The same is true for editors and independent publishers who are accepting meetings with writers at the conference.
Do the research. Do they publish in your genre? Are they open to submissions?
Most conferences charge an additional fee for pitching appointments, and many limit how many a writer can schedule.
What is a pitching appointment? It is a ten or fifteen-minute time that is scheduled in advance with a particular agent or editor. At the appointment, a writer hands over a one sheet and gives her elevator pitch of her story. Then the agent asks questions about the author and the story premise.
If they are the right fit, most of these appointments result in a request for pages. Meaning, the agent or editor hands over their business card and says, “Send me a synopsis and the first twenty pages. I look forward to reading your story.”
Writing conferences offer a wealth of information to attendees. There will be multiple sessions taught by authors or publishing professionals.
The first two conferences I attended, I chose sessions that taught about the writing craft and the traditional publishing path. I knew I had more to learn about both of those things.
I might take a writing craft class now, but I’m more likely to take classes on marketing my fiction and building a strong author platform.
It’s imperative that the conference offers classes that meet you at your current stage on the writing and publishing path.
The best session I ever attended was taught by Susan May Warren about becoming a professional author. This multiple-session course sparked what became a fruitful mentorship for me.
During the classes, you’ll sit beside writers who are likely at the same place in their journey. Talk to them. Introduce yourself.
“Hi. I’m Sharon Hughson and I write speculative fiction. What about you?”
If you ask a writer about their story, you’ll open the flood gates.
From the sessions, I’ve connected with other writing professionals who have expanded my online network. I’ve gleaned special submission opportunities from a few and free classes from others.
Research the topics and speakers for the conference. Do they coincide with your current writing goals, plans, and level?
The main reason I’ve chosen not to attend hope*writers conference is because it sounds like it’s for beginning writers. And it caters to nonfiction writers over fiction authors.
Everyone needs a professional network. Yes, even independent authors. Forming a wider network is the single reason I even considered attending the hope*writers conference.
But I know myself. I’m an introvert, more likely to hide in a bathroom stall or sit with my nose in a book than interact with other conference attendees.
Since I know this about myself, this reason carries the least weight for me.
If you relate all too well to my scenario, I encourage you to find an extroverted writer to attend the meeting with. You can hang on their arm and let them introduce you to everyone they meet.
Be warned, if they don’t write in your genre, their introductions might not help you create the network you want. Also, you’ll be at their mercy as far as which sessions you’ll attend and who you meet.
For instance, my extroverted writing friend fell over herself to talk to Diana Gabaldon. Not only had I not read a single thing this woman wrote, once I did read one of her books (THE OUTLANDER), I didn’t want to keep reading. It wasn’t a genre that appealed to me since I read clean romances (when I read romances).
Have you attended a writing conference? What would you say is the most important deciding factor for you?