Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Value Of Conferences


The months of spring are what I like to call "RWA conference season" because many regional chapters of Romance Writers of America hold local writers conferences. These small to mid-sized conferences are a gold mine of opportunities for writers at all levels of experience and publishing.
First, these local conferences offer a variety of workshops for writers from beginner to advanced. Workshops cover topics including basic craft, state of the publishing industry, and promotion. Some conferences even offer workshops by experts in fields of interest to writers, such as law enforcement, history, or computer technology.
Most RWA chapter conferences bring in acquiring editors and top agents to not only share their experience and knowledge of the publishing industry, but also to take book pitches from attendees. The chance to meet and talk with an acquiring editor or agent is invaluable to an unpublished writer. Even if you don't think you have anything to sell to a particular editor attending the conference, meeting as many professionals in the publishing industry as you can is always a good thing. Editors will leave one publisher and go to another or change departments within a publishing house all the time. You never know when the editor you had a chance to talk to at a conference is suddenly in a position to buy what you have to sell.
I met two of my current editors for the first time at small chapter conferences. Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks was one of the visiting editors at the Silken Sands conference in Pensacola Beach, Florida, last April. Having heard good things about Sourcebooks, I decided to pitch a project to her that I thought might fit Casablanca. And what do you know? She liked the idea, I sent her the book, and within a couple of months, I was a Casablanca author!
Another reason to attend local writers conferences is the opportunity to meet other writers. Not only might you find a critique partner, but you might also find a good friend. Many of the people that I see each year at conferences are writers that have become dear friends over the years.
If you are a published author, it's important not to forget that writers are also readers, and a conference is good chance to promote your latest book, maybe even sign your book at the conference book signing. The more copies of your book you get into the hands of romance enthusiasts, the more you can build your name recognition.
So anyway you slice it, whether you're going for education, for socializing, for networking, for promotion, or just to have a weekend away from the kids, regional RWA conferences are an opportunity not to be missed.

13 comments:

  1. I hear you, Beth! It was because of a chance introduction last year at RT that I ended up selling to Sourcebooks - and the intro wasn't to Deb (we'd already met at National the year before). I always encourage people to attend whatever conferences they can, even small local ones (like the one we're having tomorrow that Deb's coming to)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, that Deb is a busy lady! She was just at my chapter's conference last weekend and I know she'll be in Dallas at the end of the month. Can you say Frequent Flier miles? :-)
    Have a great time at your conference!!
    Beth

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm just psyched to be attending National this year...hoping for lots of good information and good company!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Beth-
    Thanks for a great post! I think something I will start highly suggesting to every author I work with is to get involved with your local RWA chapter! And there are so many more writing organizations that offer similar conferences and, ulitmately, support groups that are invaluable to you as authors. I'm glad to hear you are so involved :)

    Danielle

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have never attended a conference, but I wish I had. I could have learned so much more ahead of time that I've had to pick up along the way. Being basically shy, I think not knowing anyone was part of what stopped me, but I'm certainly looking forward to meeting the Casa Babes in person in DC this summer! We are gonna have a blast!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Kendra- Sadly I'm not going to make it to DC this summer. frown.
    Danielle- RWA has been invaluable for me, if for the friendships alone. But I owe landing my agent and two editor directly to mmeting them at local conferences. Big reward in that!
    Cheryl- At the first RWA National conference I attended in 2000, the luncheon speaker said, "I love RWA National! Where else will you find 2000 introverts pretending to be extroverts for a week?"
    How true! But worth the effort. Buddy up with a Casa Babe and hit the conference in full networking mode! You'll find romance writers are very friendly and eager to talk shop.
    Beth

    ReplyDelete
  7. My RWA chapter meeting is this weekend. Even though I travel an hour and a half to get there, it's always the high point of my month.

    My chance to be with others of my kind. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Conferences are great for meeting other writers and readers and making friends. So many of my friends that I consider family I've met at conferences.

    And you never know what contacts you'll make too.

    Linda

    ReplyDelete
  9. I've never been to a conference, and don't belong to any organizations, 'writerly' or 'otherly'! I'm just not a joiner, I guess, tho' I'm really very nice when you get to know me! LOL. Just a little reserved, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Beth ~

    Great post! I'm a total conference slut. I admit it, I usually go to Nationals, and three or four regional conferences a year.

    I've made the most amazing friends, learned so much--I figured out a lot of what I was doing wrong, but also what I was doing right. It is invaluable. I also buy the conference CD's and download them on my iPod. Now, on the drives I don't have my kids with me, I listen to the speakers and learn while I drive. Whenever I do that, I always hear something that I can use either in the business or my WIP and I don't feel as if I'm wasting precious time.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I can totally see the value of local chapters and conferences. I have writing friends that live on the East Coast and I envy them so very much. Unfortunately, all the RWA chapters are too far away. But I do hope to be at Nationals this year.

    Renee

    ReplyDelete
  12. Robin- I had forgotten about conference CDs! I drive almost two hours each way to my RWA chapter meetings and they are a great extra bit of learning (or refreshing my knowledge) when I'd otherwise be trying to find a good radio station in the boonies!
    Beth

    ReplyDelete