Summer is the season for writer’s conferences and if you weren’t planning on attending one this year, don’t ignore all the hype. In fact, you should be watching it all very closely. All serious writers should consider attending conferences, but they can be expensive so you need to choose wisely. Now is the time to decide which conference will be right for you next year.
There are a lot of factors that go into making a decision on which one to attend, but first and foremost you have to ask yourself, “What am I hoping to get out of the conference?” Are you planning on pitching your work? Do you want to meet other writers in the community? Are you interested in learning the craft? Do you want to meet cool new authors?
Once you prioritize your goals, your choices narrow. What about your budget? Most conference websites continue running, even after they are over, so you can get an idea how much they cost to attend. Of course, this number may change next year but you can get a ballpark figure. Will you need to travel? How far are you willing to go and how many days will you want to attend? Can you use miles or travel points to get there? Knowing this a year in advance will give you time set aside the needed funds with the least amount of impact on your finances.
Did you find the one that’s right for you? Good. Now to start
preparing. I know, it’s not until next year, but you need to start now. Are you planning to pitch? Do you have a manuscript ready? If you answered yes to this, then get working on a second manuscript. Working on another project will not only give you more options for pitching, it may help you realize what needs attention in your first manuscript. Or, you may find you are even more passionate about your second project. Either way, keep writing. You will always be better off with more choices.
Even if you answered no and weren’t planning to pitch, you still need to write. If your focus is learning the craft, then you need to know what in your writing you hope to improve in order to get the most out of the classes you choose to attend. Who knows, maybe you will surprise yourself and end up with a project to try and sell.
Does the conference you chose have a contest? Plan on entering. Check the closing dates for this year so you have an idea of when to have something ready for the following year. It could turn into your first publishing credit and open a lot of doors for you.
As the year progresses, keep an eye on the conference website for updates. As soon as they start adding content, begin researching the classes, agents, editors, contests etc. Don’t wait until the last minute. You want to take the time to really make sure you are putting yourself in front of the people who will be most interested in your work. I keep hearing how rejection is part of the process, and unfortunately, it’s the truth. And yes, it hurts every time. But when you sit down in front of someone who was NEVER going to say yes because they don’t represent the type of project you are pitching, you are opening yourself up to unnecessary disappointment.
Here are the basic items you want to have ready before attending:
1. Project. If you think it is done and polished, look at it again. Your project is never really done until it is published.
2. Pitch. Start this when you are writing your project. It will help you identify your protagonist, antagonist, conflict, etc. If you these aren’t clear to you, then look back at your manuscript. Give yourself two months prior to the conference to practice. Yes, two months. Say it out loud in front of a mirror, while you are in your car, and finally, to every person who will listen. The goal is to become comfortable talking about your book and it takes longer than you think.
3. Synopsis. I’ve seen conflicting recommendations for a one-page synopsis or four to five-page synopsis. Have both ready. As difficult as it is to write, it is a good tool that will help narrow the focus of your project. You will need it when querying anyway so it’s worth the effort.
4. Goals. Have more than one. You want to try and enjoy as many aspects of the conference as possible. You’ve gotten away from your computer, make the most of it.
5. Business Cards. These are for you to share with other writers you wish to network with. They are not to be shoved into agent’s hands unless specifically requested.
6. Clothes. Yes, you need to wear clothes. More importantly, you need to look professional. Casual business attire is generally recommended. I know some people really want to stand out and be memorable, but you want to stand out because your pitch is great and you presented as a someone who takes the business seriously.
Finally, remember to have fun. Organizers put in a lot of work to try and make the experience an enjoyable one. Where else are you going to find hundreds of people who like to talk about writing? Now, you have people around who understand all of your frustrations and excitement. Make the most of it and be sure you have a good time.