Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Choosing a Conference or Workshop

If you’re new to this blog you may not know I do an e-newsletter called Doing It Write! that comes out every week. Been doing it for eight years now. (If you want to sign up, it’s free.) It has consistent sections in it. For example, it always starts off with a Hot Topic Column. Every issue there are new listings of a contest and an event for writers. There are websites for writers, and so on.

For the contests and events, I, of course, try to find legitimate ones, but I can’t guarantee anything. That’s why I look for ones that have websites or addresses so subscribers can check them out themselves and make their own decisions. So far, knock on my wooden noggin, I’ve had no complaints.

I do sometimes get questions about whether someone should enter a particular contest or go to a conference or workshop. They might wonder if they should enter a writing contest that’s in its first year. Or they ask what they should look for in a workshop. The answer is usually, “it depends.” And what it depends on is the person doing the asking, the one thinking of entering the contest or going to the event.

An event that’s perfect for person A may be totally wrong for person B. You have to first of all figure out what you’re looking for, what you want to get out of a workshop or conference. Do you want to learn craft? Are you looking to network? Hoping to find an agent? Want to meet your favorite authors? Looking to get advice while still having time to write and explore? Desperate for quiet time to write on your own? Wanting instruction on marketing your book? Are you looking for a workshop specializing in a particular genre?

You have to figure out what you’re looking for. You may find several that fit your needs. Then you look at who are the instructors, the speakers, the attendees. Maybe you recognize the names, maybe you don’t. If you don’t, then do some research.

For example, a friend of mine just did a workshop out in Alpine, TX, on marketing your book and how to get it into Barnes & Noble. You may have never heard of her – Jo Virgil. If you haven’t, then you might have crossed it off your list. But if you’d done your research, you would have learned that she knows her stuff – she works for Barnes & Noble and she knows marketing because she’s a Community Relations Manager at one of the Austin stores. She is, in fact, a fabulous CRM and probably one of the hardest working CRMs at promoting authors.

Another thing to look for is location. Some people look for conferences in exotic locations like Maui. Some want something close to home. It’s cheaper if it’s in your own city. But some are willing to fly or drive and stay at a hotel in order to get particular classes and teachers.

There are a lot of other factors like whether you’re looking for a half-day workshop or whether you can commit to an eight week class. Who’s running the conference? Have they done it enough times to be organized and have all the kinks worked out? Are they new enough to still be excited and trying new things?

What it all boils down to is you. You know what you want and need.

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