ATTENDING A CONFERENCE – WHAT TO DO?
There’s a lot more to do than just pitch to agents and publishers at writer’s conferences. Though that may be the primary goal for most, especially after forking out some big bucks, one would expect something substantial in return, like a contract, or at least a foot in the door. However, being published from the get-go isn’t necessarily the goal of everyone attending, nor should it have to be for you, especially if it’s your first one.
From the economic side, with what a conference costs nowadays, what is the payoff. Besides the obvious, what about learning more about the craft? Expanding your horizons? Networking? Let’s not forget that the majority of these conferences are dedicated to these other aspects. After all, they’re called conferences, not pitch sessions. With that in mind, many attendees approach a conference as a learning tool.
Since I already had manuscripts ready, my focus was on agents. I paid little heed to the good stuff so I could get face time with so and so. That lasted about thirty minutes into the first conference in 2005. I not only found great pleasure in helping as a member of the staff, but I had some serious quality time with author James Rollins, one of my favorite writers. Then, when I had free time, I attended a class here and there and discovered I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. Turns out there were some pretty knowledgeable people there and many of the sessions helped me become a better writer.
At each and every conference I’ve attended, even though I’ve been part of the staff, I’ve always found time to attend classes, chat with all of the agents, publishers or authors and had a great time. You, as an attendee, should be able to study the agenda and will likely have a difficult time juggling the classes to be able to attend everything you want so you don’t miss everything.
One year, a friend and I wrote a screenplay. Two screenplay experts came that year and I attended two very different classes on screenplays. I learned some valuable info on how to improve our draft. Another year, after I’d become the local expert on point of view (which I’ve talked about here), we had an author talk about that (James Rollins). I learned his side of things and we agreed on our approaches.
Last year was the web site year. I knew my first book was coming at the end of this year, so I needed to start a web site. However, I didn’t have a clue how to do it. There were several classes on web sites and I attended them all. Because of those classes, I finally got off my butt and now you are reading this.
When I attend the meals, I like to sit at a different table each time. It’s really great to talk to a variety of people and hear what they are up to. I’ve learned so much from other aspiring writers. We’re not alone in this passion! It is always interesting to have a heart-to-heart with agents and publishers and get the latest juicy gossip and snide innuendo (sorry, my language for gossip and trends) from the world of publishing. I’ve learned so much about the inner workings of the publishing industry from just listening to them.
Attending a writer’s conference is not just about getting a book deal. It’s about learning the craft of writing. It’s clearly a tough investment. I think it’s a lot better than spending a fortune on a garage full of poorly done books that nobody will read. Learn to do things right before you ever attempt to invest in something like that. Do it right the first time!