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Why Bother with Writers’ Conferences

A guest post from Kelly Hollman

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writers conferences

Writers’ Conferences.

Crowded, noisy, expensive.

Why bother?

I can think of three great reasons:

1. Professional development,
2. Networking and,
3. Marketing.

Whether you’re beginning your first novel, or you’re a veteran author with dozens of credits to your name, conferences provide initial and ongoing training.

Maybe you need help understanding the nuances of plotting.

Or, you want to learn how to use social media to promote your books.

Conferences give you the opportunity to garner a lot of information in a very short amount of time from experienced and expert sources.

Writers are often introverted, so walking into a conference with hundreds of strangers is a pretty daunting thought.

Yet, if you’re ready to move your writing into publication, the contacts you make at a writers conference can be invaluable.

From meeting other writers who are working in your genre and can offer advice and support, to agents interested in what you have to offer, to editors that can make your writing dreams come true, everyone at a conference has the same goal. Publication. Your success is their success.

So take a deep breath, brush up on your people skills and get out there.

If you need help, Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People is a classic and a good read.

Be professional, and like mama always said, “Mind your manners.”

When making new friends at a conference, don’t look at people in view of what they can do for you, but rather in light of what you can learn from them.

Keep open to that serendipitous opportunity when it presents itself.

You might find yourself sitting next to that editor that you were hoping to pitch your novel to, or even your favorite award-winning author!

It’s good to keep in mind, that while we writers are artists, we are also in business.

Find the balance between creativity and marketability.

When you are at a conference, you essentially are there, not as a writer, but as a salesman.

You are there to sell yourself and your writing.

So, again, be professional.

Leave the sweats and flip flops at home and dress business casual.

Bring along some business cards so you can share your information with any contacts you make.

Have your 1-2 sentence “elevator pitch” ready to go.

Don’t forget that a warm smile and a firm handshake make a good first impression.

Convinced?

Here are a few tips to get you headed in the “write” direction.

1. Google writers’ conferences in your area.

If you write a specific genre, throw that into the search.

See if you have any local mystery writers’ conferences, for instance.

2. Do your homework.

Check out the speakers and topics.

Look up any agents or editors online to see if your work would be a good fit for those who will be in attendance.

3. Before the conference, see if there are any opportunities to have a critique.

You may have to pay a fee, but the feedback will be valuable.

4. Check out the conference schedule and plan your itinerary.

Watch for intensive tracks that meet your needs, and check to see if that editor you think would be perfect for your novel is doing any workshops.

You can usually get a chance to say hi and thank them for the presentation at the end, giving them a name and a face to connect with your manuscript when you send it in.

Wherever you are in your writing journey, the right writers’ conference can give you just the boost you need to take your career to the next level.

About Kelly Hollman
Kelly HollmanKelly Hollman is an author, freelance writer, writing instructor, and homeschooling mom. A member of SCBWI, she has published short stories in Humpty-Dumpty and Clubhouse magazines. Kelly lives with her family in the San Joaquin Valley of California where she enjoys teaching writing and history. Follow her on Facebook.

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