How to Make the Most of a Writers Conference
The Internet contains a plethora of valuable information about writing and publishing. Still, there is much to be gained from meeting other writers at a professional writers conference or convention. Think of attending conferences as an investment in your career, not a writing expense. In some cases, a conference admission price can be written off your taxes as a business expense. An author who has attended a conference before will likely tell you how much there is to learn and experience.
Regardless of your writing experience, conferences and conventions offer a great deal of knowledge about the industry and involve people who are eager to help new authors and share their expertise. So what do you do first?
Create a plan of attack:
- Memorise a short pitch. Before you attend any conference, know what you're going to talk about when you run into an agent, publisher, or curious reader. Think of something brief that explains your work and the direction you'd like to take it. Most importantly, stay professional. Don't let your excitement get the better of you.
- Bring a giveaway. Leaving fans with something physical to remember you by can greatly help your marketing effort. It can be as simple as fliers or bookmarks. Many authors hold drawings or raffles to give away a free copy of their book. Whatever you choose, find a way to stand out in a competitive marketplace.
- Talk with conference organisers. Some conferences allow authors to rent an area to sell and sign books. If you can do this, you'll have a big advantage and a great opportunity to put a face to your name and work. These areas provide an easy way to meet and connect with fans (and maybe sell a few books, too). Registering for writer panels before the event is another great way to get your name out there and invite people to talk with you about your work or your field of expertise.
You've prepared your plan and the day is upon you. What do you do first when arriving at the actual conference?
Execute your plan:
- Get your manuscript critiqued by other writers. It may seem scary to allow others to critique your work but the professionals who attend these conferences are just that, professionals. Having your work combed through by someone who understands the in's and out's of the book industry will improve the way your book reads.
- Participate in writer panels. If you've never been on a panel before, attend a few and take notes. See what types of questions are asked and note how authors respond to fans (even to those with negative comments). Panels are a way for authors to learn from one another and share valuable experience. This is also a great way to learn about a new genre or style of writing.
- Network. Most importantly, expand your network. You will be surrounded by people in the publishing industry. The opportunity to gain new readers and create word-of-mouth marketing depends entirely on your ability to leave a favourable impression on the people you meet. Being social at these events can have a big impact.
Writers conferences and conventions can be invaluable to any author. The chance to meet someone who will help you along your journey is worth the price of admission. If you plan your time at a writers conference wisely, it might be just what you need to boost your writing career to the next level.