PICKING THE CONFERENCE
I’ve been to several writers conferences over the past few years, and have learned several things as I have done so. I’ll be writing a multi-part blog here on advice with regard to conferences from the standpoint of attending the conference.
I have been on a couple of panels at conferences. I won’t be talking about that in this series of blogs.
First of all, figure out what you want to accomplish in going to a conference.
There are lots and lots of choices out there. There are conferences with classes about craft, seminars on genre, or authors talking about their own work. There are conferences with editor and agent pitches. There are conferences that are really workshops, with critique sessions and craft work and revisions. There are conferences that talk about the publishing industry.
Where are you at in your writing career?
If you’re just starting out, you might want to attend a workshop on craft, work on the basics, and see if you need to learn more.
If you’ve been to craft workshops and have some finished material, you might seek out a workshop with critiques, especially if they will be done, or at least directed by, a published author or agent or editor.
Do you have a finished product? Have you gotten critique notes from others? Have you considered those notes and revised and reworked and rewritten your novel until it is the best you can make it? Then maybe you should look for a conference with information about the industry, about publishing and submitting, about writing synopsis and query letters. You want one where you can move to the next stage, and start determining how to submit your work.
Where do I look?
Well, there’s lots of places to start your search. Check out your local library. Ask your local writer’s groups if their members like any particular one. Some writer’s groups actually host their own conferences or workshops. I also check http://www.shawguides.com/ and look under the heading “Writers Conferences and Workshops”. There you can search by state, by topic, or by month to narrow it down.
You can also check agent blogs and websites; they sometimes list which conferences they’ll be attending in the coming year.
What is your budget?
You absolutely do NOT want to max out your credit cards, or spend money you cannot afford to spend to go to a conference.
Yes, the expense of going to a conference, along with mileage, airfare, meals, hotel costs, and the conference is potentially tax deductible, but you would definitely want to talk with an attorney or CPA before deciding whether or not to claim the expense on that year’s taxes. Spending money you do not have to get a tax deduction is ridiculous.
Remember that your cost is not just the conference fee. And it’s not always just meals, gas, plane fare, and a hotel. There may be a bookstore at the conference. If you buy a ton of books, and can’t get them all on the plane, you’ll have to ship them home. There may be a chance to buy an agent or an editor or an author a drink and pick their brain about writing. There may be a cool exhibit hall. Don’t get in over your head.
How long will it take (not just the conference, but sufficient time to travel to and from the conference site)?
This sounds like a no-brainer, but please do not forget that you have to get there and back.
Make sure you can take that much time off work at your day job, arrange for a house-sitter, cat-sitter, dog-sitter, mail-picker-upper, etc.
If you have a six hour drive to get to a conference, remember that you will get nothing out of the conference if you try to drive it overnight before the conference starts the next morning. Budget for the extra day off and the hotel room and meals to drive the day before so you won’t nod off and snore in the back of the room, because otherwise, you’re wasting your time and your money. You won’t get anything out of the conference if you’re too tired to pay attention.
Always keep in mind your day job schedule, your family obligations and realistic goals. I work with FANTASTIC people, who help me schedule my trials without crashing vacation/travel plans. My family helps out when I’m swamped, or when I’m trying to go somewhere. I try not to overburden them if I can help it.
Okay, so have you picked your conferences yet? Got any you’re keeping an eye on?
NEXT TIME: PLANNING FOR THE CONFERENCE…