Every year for the last 25+ years, I've been going to writers' conferences. Sometimes I'm teaching at these events and other times I am an attendee. No matter whether you are on the faculty or attending, conferences are key events to grow as a writer and meet new people. Why is this important?
We work with people that we know, like and trust--have a relationship. Relationships are formed and developed at conferences. I've written over 60 books and for more than 50 magazines. The roots of those books and magazines came from meeting an editor or agent at an event. My first book--a children's book with David C. Cook--happened because I met an editor at a conference.
From my perspective, there are several important aspects in going to a writers' conference:
1. Commit to attending a conference (large or small) on a consistent basis. I have had great experiences at small events and also large events. The bigger conferences have more editors and agents and more opportunity but also the competition for these people's attentionis also greater. There are many terrific events and you can follow this link to get more details about specific conferences.
2. Come prepared. You are investing time, energy and money to attend so you can meet an agent or a publisher. You can make it worth that investment if you do some homework ahead of time such as studying the faculty and their photos. Being aware of their photo and background will help you as you interact with them. Also bring lots of business cards to exchange with everyone you meet. Also as you study the faculty, you will be able to create specific pitches with your ideas. Your efforts to prepare will show to the faculty members and help increase your possibilities of getting writing work from the event (a common goal for many writers).
3. Throughout the event, meet as many people as you can. You will be able to meet people at meals, coffee breaks, waiting for a class to begin and any number of other places. Introduce yourself and ask questions about what they write and what they are learning. Make a point to exchange business cards with everyone and offer to help them. You never know who you are going to meet at these events. I encourage you to make the first move and reach out to others around you. Remember, many writers are introverts (and you may be as well). You will have to push yourself but it is worth the effort.
4. After the event, this step is one of the most important: follow-up and follow through on the requests and ideas. If someone asks you for something (magazine or book), get them the material as soon as possible while your meeting is fresh in their minds.
You may wonder how I've written all the material that I've done over the years. It's not any secret. I go to conferences, listen to the editors and agents, then do what they asked me to do. In other words, I send these professionals the requested proposal or article. Also I follow-up these submissions with solid writing. It's not that I'm the best storyteller or the best writer in the room. I am one of the most consistent in my follow-up and determination to meet the needs of the editor.
No matter whether you are writing your first magazine article or book or whether you've written dozens, the teaching, insights and relationships from conferences are critical to propel your writing life forward. Now as an acquisitions editor at a New York publisher, I go to conferences to make new connections and find new authors. If you haven't noticed, Morgan James Publishing had their first fiction book on the New York Times list (#12 right behind The Shack at #11) On The Clock, by Tim Enochs and Bruce Tollner. Be watching for this book and I encourage you to read it.
Plan your action steps today to get to a conference. It can be a life-changing event for your writing life.
Why should writers attend a conference? Get Four Key Actions here. (ClickToTweet)