Conference Season (Part 1)
Most writers’ conferences are held between spring and autumn, taking a break during the big holiday season. For me, Mount Hermon marks the beginning of my conference season (although I sometimes do a small local conference in February).
If you’ve never attended a writers’ conference, I encourage you to consider doing so. Conferences are a fantastic way to meet authors, editors, publishers, agents, and other important people in the industry. And get some fantastic training that will help you hone your writing craft. And make connections that can be crucial in your writing journey. Many agents and publishers who don’t accept “unsolicited submissions” will consider proposals from authors they’ve met at writers’ conferences!
The Christian Writer’s Market Guide contains an extensive list of writers’ conferences. You can also find them through an online search.
Choosing a Conference
Each conference has a different focus and atmosphere. Some are mostly (if not exclusively) about teaching the craft. So they have authors and freelance editors teaching workshops and mentoring sessions. Those are best if you’re still honing your skills. Other conferences have agents and acquisitions editors from publishing houses. Those are great if you have a well-polished manuscript that’s ready to submit.
Some conferences have agents and book publishers. Others have magazine publishers. Some have a combination of both. So what you write may determine which conference is best for you.
If you tend to be an introvert, and you’ve never attended a writers’ conference before, you might want to start with a small one. If you’re an extrovert and yearn to get out of your writing cocoon to meet lots of people, a larger conference might be right up your alley.
If you’re on a budget, you’ll need to consider cost. Not only the registration fee, but transportation, pricier travel food, and time away from home.
If you write Christian material, you’ll probably want to attend a Christian conference. If you write for a mainstream audience, you may want to consider attending a mainstream conference. But you can still get a lot out of Christian conference. In my experience, people at Christian conferences are more eager to share what they’ve learned because we all have the same goal: God’s will. If God wants your book published, your brothers and sisters in Christ will want to help you make that happen. If God wants my book published, He’ll make it happen—I don’t have to protect my writing secrets for fear that you’ll steal my spot on a publisher’s calendar. That atmosphere is often missing in mainstream conferences.
Preparing for a Conference
Once you’ve chosen a conference, read everything in the brochure or on the website carefully. Understand what you’re getting into and what you’re expected to do and what options are available to you. If there are contests, enter them! If you can submit something in advance to be critiqued, send something! If you’re allowed to make appointments with faculty, make them! Read the bios of the faculty members so you’ll know the best choices for you.
Prepare a one-sheet that tells about your work in progress and your writing bio. Also make business cards with your name, head shot, and contact information. Take those to the conference to hand out to people you connect with there.
Next week I’ll recommend what to do at and after the conference.