There was a conference this past weekend not terribly far from me and it was reasonably priced. But, looking over the session line up (the classes offered), I just wasn’t that excited about going. And there weren’t going to be any agents there to practice pitching to. I went back and forth about going. I ended up deciding to attend mostly because I didn’t have a good reason not to (it was so well-priced, I didn’t have anything else taking up my weekend, and it was within driving distance). And am I ever glad I went! I am ever the one to encourage writers of all levels to attend conferences and I’m glad I took my own advice. What can you get out of a conference? Especially if you are not looking forward to any of the classes?
Networking. This is probably the number one thing. You meet other authors who are at various stages in their careers. Some one you meet over lunch may just be a connection that can help you along the way at some point. Even if not, it’s a chance to meet a critique partner, a beta reader, or someone in your genre who understands your craziness. Which leads me to my next point…
Being among the like-minded. Let’s face it…all writers have some amount of crazy. We make up people and then have them talk to each other. That’s not entirely sane. And yet it is…such an enigma. The fellowship of the not-quite-sane-and-yet-not-crazy is precious. To be around others that understand what you mean and can relate to the fact that your browser history would definitely raise a few eyebrows of the local homicide detectives.
Mentoring. I have yet to be to a conference big or small that didn’t offer agent appointments and/or mentoring appointments. That 15 minutes to pick a mentor’s brain can be so valuable. You can focus that time on your weakest area. This past weekend, I zeroed in on my synopsis writing. And the mentor gave me more help than I dared hope for. Now I have more confidence in my ability in an area that needed a LOT of work.
Being present. I’m talking about marketing…getting YOUR name out there. If you don’t attend the conference, that’s a whole bunch of people who might could have heard about your books that didn’t. You are one who champions your cause the best. You are the one who cares the most about getting your name out there. And you have to be present to do so.
Learning. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the learning. And even though none of the sessions looked like they would really help me, I went in with a different attitude once I was there. What can I glean from these authors who are further along than I? Who know more about craft than I? And, you know what? I did learn. Not all of it was new information, but there were more take-aways than I expected.
All in all, I would say that attending ANY conference is a good idea. No matter how small. There is always something to learn, always new writers to network with, and, if your attitude is right, always more to be gleaned than you can imagine.