Monday, November 26, 2007

The Benefits of Attending a Writers Conference

Today I'd like to encourage you to attend a writers conference if at all possible. I know these can be expensive, but I feel they are well worth the money and the time.

Given that I live in Northern California, for the last three years I've attended the San Francisco Writers Conference. When I lived in New York, I had the opportunity to attend a variety of different conferences in Manhattan. Each time I've attended a conference I've left with loads of great information on writing, getting published, the publishing industry, publishing trends, and promoting myself and my writing projects.

Conferences are a great place to hobnob with other writers and to learn what they are doing to help themselves obtain an agent or sell their work to publishing houses. As nonfiction writers, networking with other nonfiction writers who are building their platforms can help us find places to speak and think of unique ways to make ourselves known in our own marketplaces.

Conference usually feature expert speakers who offer advice on building platforms, promoting our books, self-publishing, writing query letters and proposals, gaining Internet exposure, building readership, getting an agent, approaching a publishing house, pitching our work, writing for publications, and much more. In addition, many of the sessions are led by agents and editors at publishing houses, so you get to hear from publishing professionals first hand.

In addition, at conferences you get the chance to meet agents and publisher face to face. Many conferences feature sessions during which you can pitch your book idea directly to agents and editors. For instance, at the San Francisco Writers Conference, every year I have participated in their "Speed Dating for Agents" session. I get three minutes to pitch an agent before moving on to another. Some years I've pitched to as many as 10 agents! The interested agents give me their contact information, and I then follow up with a proposal. Also, I can send them the requested information an envelope that indicates that they did, indeed, request it, which means my work doesn't disappear into a slush pile. It may get read sooner; thus, I may get a reply sooner. In addition, the conference normally provides attendees with contact information for all the agents and editors participating in the conference, so you can pitch to them by query letter and at least mention that you were at the conference.

Then, of course, you might have the opportunity to talk to an agent or editor in the bar or in the lobby of the hotel where the conference is being held. Or you might meet another writer who gives you a lead on the perfect publisher for your book.

You just never know what will happen at a writers conference, but I can assure you that whatever happens it will be good and it will further your writing career.

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