Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! A writing career consists of much more than writing stories. Be prepared. Be educated. Make well-informed decisions. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book or print.
Ideally, as a writer’s career develops, her skills improve and her knowledge about writing and publishing grows. Attending Conferences offers a hands-on approach to learning, with information on a wide variety of topics, and the opportunity to network with publisher industry professionals, editors, agents, and other authors.
Many conferences are sponsored by writing organizations and have presentations/workshops covering topics considered most beneficial to its members—the more diverse the membership, the more diverse the workshops. For example: RWA’s membership includes all levels of writers, from beginners to multi-published bestselling romance authors. Their national conference reflects that diversity, with tracks on writing craft, self-publishing, research, publishing industry, career, etc.—topics designed to meet the needs of all attendees. Organizations who cater to only published authors focus on areas of interest to their members, such as the publishing industry and networking. To find out which organizations hold conferences, see the post on Writing Organizations for links to their websites.
Local or regional chapters may host smaller scale conferences. Some are one-day events with a single theme and one or more speakers. Others last two or three days and offer multiple topics and speakers. Agent and editor pitches are common at longer full-weekend conferences, and some have award ceremonies for their chapter contests as part of their festivities.
Cost can be a major factor in deciding which conferences to attend. National conference registration fees are typically at least double, and usually triple or quadruple, the cost of regional or local chapter conference fees. A conference with many workshops, speakers, and events will demand a higher fee. Add in the cost of hotel, meals, travel, baggage fees, parking (airport or hotel), and any extras to formulate a budget. Plan on book costs and shipping expense when a signing is part of the event. Sharing a room and travel expenses with a friend (whether driving to the conference or hiring a car service for hotel/airport transportation) are effective ways to cut costs. Check out local restaurants’ online menus prior to the trip for pricing and food options if meals aren’t part of the registration fee. Save receipts and record these expenses for tax purposes!
While wardrobe purchases aren’t tax-deductible, they can put a dent in the budget. A conference is a professional function and authors should dress with that in mind. Business professional to business casual makes the best impression. Plan on lots of walking and standing, so comfortable shoes are a must. Dress up a casual outfit with a scarf or jewelry. Awards ceremonies are often dress-up occasions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean buying a full-length gown. Do a little research to find out what appropriate dress is for the event. A simple little black dress may work well, without breaking the bank. Also, plan to be “on” at all times. Industry professionals will be in the restaurants and bars and at parties and other functions in the hotel. Sweats and ratty jeans are not a good choice if you’re in the conference area.
Safety is the usually most overlooked aspect of attending conferences. Although the event hotel may seem filled with only attendees, other non-conference guests could be staying there as well. Avoid announcing room numbers in crowded areas. Discard the key card envelope in the room in case keys are lost. Use the safety latch when in the room to prevent hotel employees or other hotel guests from entering the room without knocking. Locate the nearest emergency exit. Remove nametags when leaving the conference hotel. Use the designated driver rule to ensure everyone in the group arrives back at the hotel or their rooms safely. Only accept drinks from the bartender and never leave drinks unattended. Most of all, use common sense.
Conferences are a great way for authors to improve their writing skills, learn about the publishing industry, and network with others in their field. They can also be overwhelming for a first-timer, so take a deep breath and focus on achieving a well-rounded career!
Romance...With A Kick!