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ATTENDING A CONFERENCE – WHAT TO DO?

April 18, 2012

            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!

 

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2012 1:55 am

    Are you attending ASJA2012 or Thrillerfest?

  2. April 18, 2012 2:57 am

    Jordan,

    Sorry, can’t afford to and don’t have any vacation time to leave town. How about you?

    Fred

  3. Ann Marquez permalink
    April 22, 2012 4:31 pm

    You are so right. There are so many opportunities to learn with online classes as well. I always take classes and research things to death before doing anything. I took a WordPress class before creating my blog and completed a publishing class before publishing my book (and by learning I’ve helped so many others with details like how to get their Library of Congress number, etc. I so enjoy helping. 🙂 )
    And you can’t beat networking and listening to what other writers are going thru.
    Another good post. 🙂

    • April 22, 2012 7:26 pm

      Annie,

      Thanks. Last year was the year of learning about web sites. Funny, I came really close to forking out some big bucks to have someome build me a web site. Then one day I just decided to sign up for WordPress, pay the extra money to get my own web domain, and started fooling around. Here I am for $25. It’s nothing fancy, but as I learn more, I’ll tweak it. This year, it was e-pubbing. We’ll see about that! I might be in over my head on that one, but I thought the same with web sites and look where I am now.

      You rock!

      Fred

  4. Ann Marquez permalink
    April 22, 2012 11:33 pm

    Cool 😉 That’s what it cost me to learn WP but it’s combined with any other course you could imagine. I subscribed to Lynda.com for $25 per month. Great place to get Office certificates: Word, Excel, PowerPoint. I love it 🙂 I’m learning photography right now.
    I’ve already taught myself about … and tried the eBook thing. Had my MS converted and uploaed it to Kindle. Just cancelled my Kindle account this week. Made $3.50 off of 5 book sales this year. Not worth the hassle. I’d like to look into Nook but not anytime soon for sure. 🙂 It’s back to Old School for me for now 🙂

    • April 26, 2012 1:30 am

      Annie,

      Too bad you didn’t sell much this year. You never know with e-books. It takes a lot of marketing too! Good luck if you try the Nook version.

      Fred

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