What to Expect at a Writer’s Conference
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Writing conferences are an AMAZING resource for writers of all skill levels, but you might not know what to expect at a writer’s conference the first time you go. As a seasoned veteran of conferences, I’m here to help prepare you so you don’t look like a newbie. 😀
What to Expect at a Writer’s Conference:
When I went to my first-ever children’s book writing conference, I was like an eager child on the first day of school with shiny new pencils and perfectly, pleated new skirt with cherries on it. I even had business cards made and printed out the first few pages of my story to share with anyone who was prepared to read it.
I was filled with fresh hope and optimism . . . the kind that goes against all unwritten writing conferences. Never self-promote. 🙈
As a new writer, it’s important to know that you aren’t going to a conference to find people to buy your book. Sure, there are editors and agents there to lecture during breakout sessions or teach at intensives or offer critiques, BUT YOU CANNOT approach them with your story. (I want to make sure I yelled that at you.)
Instead, you should use this opportunity to learn and make connections in the writing world.
Here’s what you need to know before you go:
1. What should you bring to a writer’s conference?
Don’t make the same mistake and bring copies of your manuscript. You CAN submit a manuscript for first pages or critiques before the writing conference, but you need to sign-up for those at the time of registration.
Instead, bring something for people to contact you later if you make a connection. I like the business card idea because you’ll be networking with a lot of other writers that you will want to talk to later. However, you can also put their information in your phone or write it down, old-school style.
Other items that you MUST bring are:
- A writing utensil
- A notebook
- A computer
- Ready-to-learn attitude
That’s it. So long as you have something to take notes with and come ready to learn, you’ll be in great shape.
2. What happens at a conference?
There are a couple of things that you can expect at a writer’s conference no matter what genre you write for: breakout sessions and guest speakers. However, some of the longer weekend conferences will also offer intensives and keynote speakers over dinner.
All of these are opportunities to learn from published authors, literary agents, and editors in the publishing industry. They give you tips to help you write a better manuscript and to escape the slush pile.
Some of these can cost extra (Like the intensives), but they’re worth the investment if you can afford them.
“The best investment you can ever make, is in yourself!” – Warren Buffet
3. What do you get out of a conference?
The number one BEST thing about attending a writing conference is the opportunity to submit your manuscript afterward. Especially with people who are normally closed to submissions! (Like an editor at one of the big 5 publishing houses 😲)
Sometimes these submissions come with a deadline, so you will need to be prepared to make adjustments for a critique or to have something ready before the time period closes. Otherwise, you’ll need to wait until the next conference comes around. (Check out this article on writing a strong query letter before you submit!)
Bonus Tips for a Writer’s Conference:
Like I said making an investment is one thing you can expect at a writer’s conference, especially if you’re traveling out of town or spending multiple days at a hotel there.
If you want to save some money, reach out to the organizer of the event or the regional head of the conference. They can connect with roommates to share hotel rooms with and find people to carpool with you.
Also, look into the smaller conferences that are close to you. They might not have some of the big names that the national writing conferences get, however, you’ll get more one on one time with some of the professionals to make a better impression.
I’m a member of SCBWI, which is where I suggest you start to find writing conferences for children’s writers near you.
Have an open mind on what to expect at a writer’s conference and prepare to socialize. You can’t make new writing connections if you hide in your room nor will you get any benefit from the lessons if you think you know everything.
Here are some other articles you should check out before you go to a writer’s conference:
- How to Know if Your Manuscript is Ready to Submit
- Tips to Find a Writer’s Group
- How to Know what Publishing House is Right for You
- The Best Reason to Find a Writing Mentor