Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How To Decide Which Conference Is Right For You

Attending a conference in your field and discipline can be one of the most rewarding times for anyone. This is a chance to talk shop, to attend workshops and certainly to network. There is one catch though. Conferences cost money and certainly do take up a lot of time out of our already busy schedules. We simply cannot attend every conference, so it is crucial for us to pick and choose which ones we will attend.

Obviously the first thing to consider is budget. If the cash ain't there, then you have already made your decision. In this case, take into account not just the cost of the registration, but also the other expenses including hotel, travel, dining, shopping, snacks and certainly all of those things you get in the bookstore. This adds up. In all honesty, attending a major 3-4 day conference can easily hit $1000+.

So let, say the budget is not the biggest worry. Now we get to really examine not just the conference but you as a writer. Where you are at in your career will certainly dictate which conference to attend. RWA Nationals, for example, might be a bit too much for someone just starting out. Not only is it a complete sensory over-load, your career might be better suited for something that is almost entirely set up for craft building.

The key is to examine what the focus of the conference really is. Some, like the Romantic Times Conference are focused more on connecting the writer and the reader. Other smaller conferences tend to be more craft focused.

Along the same lines of focus, it is important to understand what the speakers and emphasis will be. This is obviously easy when it comes to the Romance Writers or Mystery Writers Conferences. But what about those standard ones? Some of them tend to focus more on general fiction. The key is to understand who the population is that attends the conference. For myself, there are some conferences that are simply not profitable for me to attend since the number of romance and women's fiction writers will be fairly low. Sure, I can teach sessions, but there won't be much else.

If you are at a point of being ready to pitch to editors and agents, take the time to look at the line-up of who is attending. Let me again remind you - just because there are editors and agents there DOES NOT mean you need to be pitching to these people. Unless you like to get rejections, you need to be certain these people A) acquire what you write; and B) are the right match for you and your career. Hey if Agent X is on the top of your list, find the conference where he or she will be at and make the effort to get there.

I know this sounds like a lot of obvious things, but it is good to be reminded every now and then. Yes, going to conferences is important, and certainly fun, but you need to make it worth your while!

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