Should Pubbed Authors Go to Conferences?
If you’re an unpubbed/unagented writer, then you probably know that writers’ conferences are a great place to meet agents and editors. But today I want to make clear: There are plenty of other good reasons to attend a conference – even if you already have an agent and/or a publisher.
First, the workshops can be valuable. It’s like doctors and lawyers who are many years into practice but are still required to take a certain number of hours per year of ongoing instruction. You might be brushing up on some skills you already have or you might learn something new; you might get updated information on the latest trends in your industry; you may hear interesting discussions about the future and what to expect. You can gain new insights in your writing, and gather interesting marketing or social networking ideas. At the very least, you can get inspiration and encouragement.
Second, since writing is such a solitary endeavor, I find it helps when authors are reminded that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. It’s not a big scary impersonal thing, it’s a community populated by real people who are passionate about writing and publishing. When you spend most of your time sitting alone at your laptop, it helps to feel like you’re part of this community. Conferences are one of the best ways to become a part of it.
Third, and closely related, conferences are the best place to make real long-lasting friendships with other writers, and when you go back home, you can stay in touch via the Internet. Many writers don’t have anyone in their “real life” who gets it—who understands what it means to be a writer. It’s crucial to make those friends who can be there for you, year round.
Fourth, even if you have a publisher, never underestimate the value of ongoing networking with writers, publishers and editors. If you go to conferences repeatedly, your face and your name may become familiar to people in the business. And you never know what might come of that. One day your publisher might decide they don’t want to publish your genre anymore; being on a first-name basis with a dozen other editors can’t hurt.
Of course, there is some protocol involved. If you have an agent and you’re happily contracted with a publisher, you may socialize with other agents and editors, but you may not want to be seen in those one-on-one appointments with an agent or editor. (Except for your own.) Tongues will wag and your loyalty will be questioned and you may get a negative reputation. (Even if you’re looking for a new agent, this is best done discreetly.)
If you’re an agented author, it’s a good idea to discuss the conference with your agent before you go. She’ll let you know if you should be having meetings with editors, and if so, she can help you determine which ones to target.
One caveat: Authors always ask me if they “should” go to a conference. I say, first and foremost, take care of your family. If it’s a financial hardship, or it’s simply too difficult for you to be away for a few days, then DON’T feel pressured to do it. But if you (and your spouse) have determined that it’s a priority, and you can swing it, I recommend one conference a year for most writers. Some attend two or more. Some go to one every other year. You need to figure out what works for you.
I’ll post a list of some good conferences soon. Other than that… any questions about conferences?
(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent