Wednesday, July 01, 2009

How To Choose a Conference

So far, we've talked about Why Conferences Cost So Much and Learn Without Going. Let's talk about How to Choose a Conference.

If you’re looking to attend one or two conferences this year, 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 your goals are.

If you know you want to stay within driving distance, then google for conferences in your area or search in Shaw Guides. 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 the agents? 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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  1. Thanks for the Shaw Guide link - got it bookmarked and will be using it. I really want to get to at least one conference this year.

    The Old Silly

  2. Good advice, Helen. Conferences are also a great place to form lasting friendships with other writers, especially those who attend genre conventions every year.

  3. Marvin, come back and tell us which one you choose and how it goes.

    That is so true, Jean. When you meet face-to-face, you can make friendships and then maintain them via the Internet and each year when you meet up again.

  4. As someone who's new to this world, which conferences are the most popular/useful? I suppose that's another post in itself...

  5. What works for me is that the local Writer's Alliance (of which I am a member) puts forth information about local and out-of-province conferences and workshops in their newsletter.

  6. Ohhh, it's hard for me to want to go to a conference. Expensive, don't have the time, too crowded. I know I need to, though.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  7. Alexis, you have to decide what you want out of a conference in order to pick the best one for you. A published author looking to promote his books will probably choose a different conference than a beginning writer looking to learn the craft.

    Alan, it's great that you have that source. For anyone else, check Shaw Guides or Google or check my website. I keep an ongoing list of contests and events. It's not comprehensive, but it is updated every week.

    Elizabeth, when you decide to make the move and go, do a lot of planning beforehand so you get the most out of it.

  8. Thanks for these posts on conferences, Helen; they really are helpful. I'm kinda feeling the way Elizabeth does. I know I need to do it and it's just a matter of budget and time. I'll take baby steps, maybe plan one as if I'm not going, just do it for fun, then, the planning takes on a life of it's own, and Bingo...I end up going. That might work.

    Best Regards, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  9. It's also nice if you can find someone who has gone to that conference and is going again. If they'll sort of "mentor" you, it makes a difference in how you experience the conference.

  10. Helen and all, I started with the smaller conferences and conventions that don't cost as much (and they're often located away from the expensive cities). For unpublished writers, a writers' conference is best, and we have at least three good ones in Colorado. For published mystery writers, try one of the small conventions. I loved Magna cum Murder in Muncie, IN; The Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave in Manhattan, Kansas; and Mayhem in the Midlands in Omaha.

  11. You guys are awesome!
    Karen Walker

  12. Yes, know what you want to accomplish before you go!

    L. Diane Wolfe

  13. Thank you for your recommendations, Patricia.

  14. Great tips on the conference experience. Thanks, Helen.

    After I'd been to 101 conferences in Dallas -- not really but it felt like that as our writer's group worked so hard to put the conference on -- people asked why I kept going. There is only so much you can learn was their thinking. But what I always came away with was a real creative surge after hobnobbing with writers all weekend.

    I haven't been to a conference or a convention is several years and really miss having that experience. Will try to go to Mayhem in the Midlands next year when my new book is out. That is a great con.

  15. I agree with you, Maryann. You do come away excited and ready to work. I haven't been to a conference in years, as well. I may pick one and try to go.

  16. I plan on attending the Florida Writer's Conference in October and that will probably be it for this year. I'm going to take your advice and plan in advance and maybe I can work in two next year.


  17. Jane, I'd love to hear about the Florida conference. I hope you'll blog about it.

  18. Good tips, as usual. Don't know why I didn't think of writing down info about the person on the back of the card. Don't know how many times I returned from a con with a fistful of cards and wondered, who the hell are these people. :-)


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