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February 15, 2012

            I can only speak for my experiences with one named writer’s conference. With that in mind, I’ve attended every Las Vegas Writer’s Conference without fail since 2005.

            When I first joined the Henderson Writer’s Group, I heard about the conference they sponsored, which was still in its fledgling stages. I think their first one was the year I joined, 2004, but it was held just before I joined the group. I’d heard about writer’s conferences before, but what I heard was that they were super expensive and everyone that attended got a book deal. Little did I know. The group straightened me out on that real quick!

            What I’ve learned since has convinced me that not only am I extremely lucky to be part of the Henderson Writer’s Group, but I also feel privileged to be associated with such a fine writer’s conference. The truth of a writer’s conference is that it can be a lot of fun, a great learning experience, and can be a huge payoff. It’s entirely up to you.

            A writer’s conference is a forum for budding writers to meet up with other writers in a format where one is able to rub elbows with their peers, talk shop, and pitch their work face-to-face with potential agents and publishers. During these conferences, there are classes, or sessions where presentations are conducted on different aspects on writing, publishing, marketing, editing, pitching your book, whatever. Some of these sessions are conducted by well-known authors, some by the very agents or publishers you want to pitch to, some by local members of the writers group.

            The classes can be invaluable. Here you get a chance for direct experience and training from people who know what they’re talking about. They’ve been there, done that. They have years backing them up and can save you lots of grief and teach you tricks of the trade. This is stuff you will never learn from a book, and of course, some stuff they encourage you to learn from the book they may very well be pitching at the back of the room! Whatever the case, these sessions alone are worth the price of admission.

            When it comes to pitching your work, it’s a lot better to present it face-to-face with an agent rather than through the mail. Trust me on this! Though it is much like a job interview, it is also a much better way to gauge whether you two could ultimately work together. It becomes obvious real fast if the agent is a cool person or a total jerk. Also, what they say on their web site (or in those books or magazines) can be totally different from what they say in person (as I’ve found out several times). Their word picture can sometimes convey an entirely different meaning than what they tell you face to face. Trust me on this!

            Consider that I sent out 659 letters or e-mails that all came back as rejections, most of them with generic rejection letters. When I talked to these agents face-to-face, I at least got more personal rejections with feedback letters explaining what was wrong or what I needed to do to make my work better. That is what the personal touch does.

            Every day is filled with classes, pitch sessions, and meals. During and between them all you get to rub elbows with fellow writers, agents, publishers, publicists, marketers, screenwriters, editors and just about anyone else that has to do with our craft. There is no better way to network, learn and spread your wings.

            Attending a conference is a commitment. It’s not cheap. This year it is $450. That’s not exactly pocket change. However, there is no better way to get into the game. This is my seventh time attending. It used to be cheaper and I’ve managed to attend once for free when I won a raffle. I’ve pitched to countless agents and have always succeeded in gaining interest. They mostly ended in rejections, but I finally succeeded in gaining a publisher. It took a while but it was worth it.

            If you ever get a chance, even if it’s only one time, you should attend a writer’s conference. Next time, I’ll go into why the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference is one of the better ones in the country. Happy writing.

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