Getting the Most From YOUR Conference Season

Today’s post looks forward to the summer conference season (which will be upon us before we know it!) with some advice for getting the most from your conference experience.

15C18 networking

Today, we’re looking at ways unpublished authors can “get in the game” – and tomorrow’s post at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ blog will take a look at conferences from the published author’s point of view. 

Unpublished authors can benefit from conferences in several ways (all of which actually benefit published authors too!):

1. Developing writing skills by attending workshops and round table sessions. This benefit applies to all authors, especially where the conference offers workshops in “tracks” for authors at different stages of their careers. 

15C18 Panelists

2. Meeting with editors and agents in a relaxed but professional atmosphere. Many authors meet their agents for the first time at a conference, and many agents look for clients in the conference setting. Conference organizers invite legitimate, professional agents, so you can generally trust the agents you meet there. In addition, many conferences feature panels of agents sharing wisdom about the publishing industry and the agent’s personal wish lists.

As a personal aside, I first met (and pitched) my agent at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Conference, so I’m not just advocating this benefit from theory–it worked for me.

3. Networking (aka “making friends”) with other authors – published and unpublished. Never underestimate the value of personal contacts, many of which are made at conferences. Unpublished authors may not need blurbs or help with marketing efforts now, but friends you make at a conference may prove valuable allies later on. Conferences also offer a great opportunity to connect with potential critique and marketing partners.

15C18 Spann and Brackmann

4. Learning how the publishing business actually works. My Wednesday publishing posts exist to help authors understand their legal rights and the publishing business. A solid understanding of the publishing business is an instrumental part of an author’s career. Without an understanding of the business (as well as the legal issues) authors are far more likely to make costly mistakes. Many conferences include workshops and talks on the business side of the industry – and authors should take advantage of this critical information.

5. Gaining experience speaking to people in public about the author’s work. At conferences, everyone asks what you’re writing. Talking with other attendees is a great way to get comfortable explaining your work in a short, professional manner. Many unpublished authors get nervous when talking with strangers – conferences are a safe place to come out of that shell.

6. Learning from other authors’ experiences (through panels and personal contacts). It’s often difficult for writers to gather information. Workshops and other attendees can offer a wealth of experience and information about the publishing world. Particularly valuable are the moments when published authors share their experiences about what works and what doesn’t. Also, many attendees are open to questions about their publishing experiences in ways that might not happen as easily in the “real world.”

Most of all, conferences are a fun and exciting way to put your writing career in motion. Making the commitment to attend–and to develop yourself as a professional writer–is a critical step toward success in your writing dream.

Not all conferences are created equal, of course, and it pays to know that the one you choose is a good one. Next week’s Wednesday post will take a look at how to choose the best options for those valuable conference dollars.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll join me tomorrow at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog, for some tips tailored to help published authors (traditional, hybrid, or self-published) get the most from the conference experience, too!

If you have questions about this or any other publishing legal or business topic, feel free to ask in the comments, email me through my website, or catch me on Twitter (@SusanSpann) – and if you have tips or stories about your conference experiences, please share those in the comments too!

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