Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Since the RWA National Conference just wrapped up, I thought it might be useful to talk about writers' conferences in general: how to pick them, what to expect, how to make the most of your experience there. I haven't attended a ton of conferences, but I've learned something different at each one. I'm hoping readers today will also leave their personal tips.
Here, then, in no particular order, are my top 5 tips for making the most out of a writing conference:
1. Choose your conference carefully. Match the genre you write with the focus of the conference, if possible. If you're a mystery writer, you'll probably gain more from the "Hardboiled Heroes and Cozy Cats Conference" than the "Put Your Heart in a Book" Conference. Research the agents or editors who will be attending, if you're looking to pitch a story or learn more about a certain publishing house. Register as early as possible to get those agent/editor pitch spots, too - they go fast!
2. Consider the cost-effectiveness of attending. Is it a 1-day conference within an hour's drive? Or is it a 2-3 day conference that will require you to travel a longer distance and pay for hotel accommodations? Consider how much bang you'll get for your buck. I've been to 1-day conferences that were well worth the $80 or so, and larger conferences where I paid $200+ for the conference registration and $100+ for a hotel room and didn't gain as much as I thought I would. If you're traveling to a conference that requires an overnight stay, consider rooming with someone else who's going, or better yet, look for conferences in locations where you have friends or family and can stay for free!
3. Plan your days ahead of time. Usually the list of conference workshops is available before you get to the actual conference. Have a plan for which you really want to see...and have a backup in case those fill up. Get to your top choices early to get a good seat, too!
4. Take advantage of down-time to talk to other attendees. One of the most fun and rewarding parts of attending a writers' conference is meeting all the other people there. Sit with someone new in a workshop or a meal. Introduce yourself while you're standing in line. Writers, speakers, editors, agents...all are pretty friendly people, and all are there because they share the same interest!
5. Step out of your comfort zone. While some (many?) writers are more introverted than extroverted, a writers' conference can be a perfect place to work on those speaking and social interaction skills. Go to the social events. Sign up for an agent/editor pitch. Offer to volunteer, if that's an option. You'll be surprised how fast the time will go once you're involved and meeting all the other attendees.
Bottom line: how fun,gain knowledge, and network. Writing can be a lonely business much of the time, and if nothing else, conferences offer the chance to step out of your living room/office/bedroom/basement and acquaint yourself with the other writers out there!