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Mar 14

Conference Success Basics – Action Step 1

“The agent wants to see my first forty pages.”

“The editor wants to publish my ‘How-To’ book.”

“The Hollywood producer wants the rights to my YA series.”

You hear these things all the time at a writers’ conference. So what’s holding YOU back?  If you’ve ever considered going to a conference, this is your year! I’ll get you ready so you can put your best foot forward, regardless of where you are in your writing career.

Why a conference?

You could spend time and money on any number of things: writing courses (both in person and on-line), writing critique groups, an M.F.A. degree, editing services, and instructional books, to name a few.  Each contributes to your writing in special ways.  But it’s only at a writers’ conference where you’ll come face-to-face with the very people who BUY what you write.   If you want to start selling your product—your words—then it’s time to find out what those agents and editors are saying about your merchandise.  You can only do that at a conference. (A good conference, anyway.)

What’s a good conference?

They’re the ones that have a little bit of everything: good agents and editors who actually buy the types of things you’re writing, workshops that will help you improve your writing, business strategies to help you market your writing business, and networking opportunities with other writers. If they offer a writing critique service, then you’ve hit the mother lode.

Some conferences are strictly educational. That’s okay if you want to learn as much as possible in the shortest amount of time. If you have the money and inclination, attend these conferences too. But don’t substitute these types of conferences for the ones where you’ll pitch your heart out to an agent or editor. The pitch is what’s going to sell your work. (More on pitching later.) So find a conference where pitching is one of the main events.

If you write for a trade publication or parents’ magazines, I recommend you not attend a conference for, say, Mystery Writers of America. In other words, find the correct conference genre to suit your needs. My favorite conferences are the ones that have a blend of both fiction and non-fiction workshops, and a good representation of both agents and editors.  If you write for a very specific target audience, however, then by all means seek out the conference that meets your demographic. For example, you might be more comfortable attending a Christian Writers conference if you write for Christian publications.

Life Rewards Actions, not Intentions

Action steps this month:  Find the conference you want to attend this year, and when you find it, mark those conference dates on your calendar using a big, fat, permanent red marker.  You’ll find your conference by Googling the words “writers’ conference,” along with your city and state (or province or country, etc.).  You can also access www.shawguides.com, and search under their “Writers Conference” tab. And don’t forget the two trade publications devoted to writing: Writers Digest and The Writer.  Both magazines offer a “Conference” tab on their websites.

What NOT to Do:

Some conferences look shiny, exotic and expensive because, well, they’re shiny, exotic and expensive! That doesn’t mean they’re the best conference for you. Don’t go for the glitz.  Instead, go for local/accessible, targeted toward your specific needs, and pitch-oriented.

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