by Patricia Fry
You hear more and more about writers’ conferences these days. They’re advertised at the websites you visit and in the newsletters you read. Members of your writers’ group talk about those they’ve attended. But you’ve never quite talked yourself into signing up. Or maybe you have attended a conference and came away less than satisfied.
What’s the point of a writers’ conference, anyway? How can you benefit from enrolling in a weekend event? The fact is, it depends. It depends on the type of conference you choose to attend, your needs and expectation and your level of participation.
There are basically two types of writers’ conferences.
1. There’s the author-friendly conference with seminars and workshops designed to teach hopeful and newbie authors how to find and work with a publisher or agent and how to market their books. This conference might also have sessions for freelance writers. And many of them feature face-to-face meetings with publishers and/or agents.
2. There are writers’ conferences and retreats focusing mainly on the craft of writing. Some of them last for a week or more and provide writers some quiet time in which to write. These programs often feature workshops and other presentations by well-known authors.
Some conferences specialize by offering workshops only within the fiction realm or non-fiction, children’s, spiritual/inspirational, science fiction or romance, for example.
Conferences and retreats cost anywhere from $50 (for a local evening event) on up to a few thousand dollars for a week-long retreat at a resort. Most typically, a two to seven-day conference (not including travel or hotel expenses), will cost between $150 and $850.
How to Get the Most for Your Conference Buck
Another major aspect of most writers’ conferences is the opportunity to sit in on numerous workshops presented by experts and other professionals within the industry. I frequently travel to writers’ conferences and speak or teach on topics such as how to write a more successful book proposal, self-publishing, how to become a freelance article-writer, how to prepare yourself to become a published author, book promotion and so forth. Some conferences provide courses on fleshing out your characters, writing effectively in first-person, how to organize the how-to book and memoir-writing, for example.
What makes for a successful writers’ conference? YOU!! Here are my tips for conference success:
• Choose the right conference for your particular needs.
• Select the workshops you will likely benefit from most.
• Participate fully with an open mind.
• Show up to all workshops and other presentations alert and on time.
• Open your mind even to concepts that might seem a little uncomfortable at first.
• Take notes.
• Follow up with questions during networking sessions and/or contact presenters via email, if they invite you to do so. (I always issue this invitation. I want to make sure that my students have all of their questions satisfied.)
Whether you’re about to enroll in your first writers’ conference or your 101st, use this guide and your conference experience will be successful.
Patricia Fry is the Executive Director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) www.spawn.org and the author of 35 books. See her most recent books in the left column of this page.