Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Writing Conferences: Do Your Prep

Spring and Summer are the seasons for conferences. Winter is pretty much dead time. But this means that right now is the time to start thinking about conferences.

If you want to be a speaker or panelist at a conference, this is the time to start the process of finding out how to apply, how to put your name in the hat to speak.

If you’re looking to attend one or two conferences this year, not as a speaker but as an attendee, then this is the time to start your research. You have to decide how many you hope to attend, how much money is in your budget, how far you’re willing to travel, and, especially, exactly what are your goals.

If you know you want to stay within driving distance, then google for conferences in your area. But maybe the subject matter of the conference is most important to you. Then search using keywords that fit your requirements, like romance or mystery or agents.

Let’s say you want a conference that specializes in the genre sci-fi. So you google that and come up with seven conferences that sound interesting and are within your budget. Now, go deeper. What kind of track record does this conference have? Who is listed as being on the panels or teaching classes? What authors will be there? Do you know anyone who has attended the conference and what do they have to say about their experience? Is the conference all one-way communication or are there opportunities for you to get involved in readings or Q&A or meet-and-greets or hospitality suites? What is the primary focus of the conference – fans getting to meet authors, authors discussing their books, experts teaching about writing?

Or maybe you’re looking for conferences specializing in agents and/or editors. Once again, you find some that you can afford and seem promising. It’s imperative that you know which agents and editors will be coming to the conference. How many of them represent your kind of writing? Will there be opportunities for one-on-one meetings? Do you only get one face-to-face or can you sign up for more? Are their social opportunities to meet? Will the agents and editors be leading workshops or on panels?

Decide now what you want from a conference. That way you have time to do research and find the perfect match. Then you have time to sign up in order to get what you want from the experience. Then you can look around in your circle of friends to see if anyone else is going to the conference, especially someone who has been before and can show you the ropes.

Don’t wait until the last moment to sign up. Be prepared. Do your research. Spend your time and money wisely and you’ll make the most out of attending.

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