One question I encounter somewhat regularly from authors is: “Should I attend a writers conference?”
Before I actually attended a writers conference myself, I would have likely responded with questions about what the author hoped to accomplish by attending, if it would be a financial burden for them, etc. Now, having attended some conferences myself (both as an author and as faculty), I don’t even waste time with such replies, but instead just say, “Yes, go!”
So why should you spend your time, money, and energy on attending a writers conference? I can think of a number of good reasons, and perhaps I’ll blog again to cover all of them, but for now I want to focus on two.
First, if you’re a writer who really wants to give traditional publishing the old college try, then a writers conference is one of the best ways to get quality face time with an agent or an acquisitions editor. Sure, it might only be five minutes of pitch time, but if you can passionately and succinctly share with an agent or editor why he or she should snatch up your book, then you’ll skip the dreaded slush pile that might mean months of waiting, possibly without any response at all.
With an in-person pitch opportunity, you also (usually) get some immediate feedback, something you may never receive if your proposal does make into someone’s hands after sitting in the slush pile. Whether positive or negative, at least you’re getting some honest feedback from an industry professional.
Even better, if you go to a larger conference, you may have the chance to do multiple pitch sessions and talk personally with several agents and editors. By the time you go home, you will have plenty to think and strategize about, no matter what kind of feedback you receive-because you should leave encouraged either way, which leads us to the second reason I want to cover here:
A writers conference allows you the priceless opportunity to be around other people who understand, appreciate, and take seriously the life of a writer. These aren’t family, friends, or coworkers who might ask about your book but really have no idea why it’s taking you so long. These are folks like you: they feel the fire within to create worlds with words and to paint pictures with paragraphs. It’s a motley crew of diverse personalities, sure, but you’ll feel the sisterhood and brotherhood when you talk to other writers, no matter how different they may seem than you.
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, a conference lets you rub shoulders with others who are right where you are-as well as with those who have already traveled the long and winding road of publication and are doing it again, maybe for the fifth or sixth time. Sure, you’ll learn from such experts and that’s great, but the inspiration you’ll feel within is likely going to be worth more than the nuts-and-bolts insights you’ll get.
So if you have the chance to go to a writers conference-whether it’s for a day or a week-make every effort to be there. You’ll be glad you did, and so will all the other writers you connect with.