Which writers’ conference is for you?

Every writers’ conference is different. Not just in their theme – writing for children, writing thrillers, getting published – but also in their size and scope. There’s a tendency for writers to think a huge national conference will be better for their career, but you need to ask yourself this question: what does my career need right now? Or even: what do I as  a writer need right now?

empty conference seats

Read for a conference?

The answer to this might be “I need professional/personal access to editors and agents so I can try to get my new novel published”. It might be “I feel pretty despondent about my writing and I want to feel reinspired”. Or perhaps “I’m writing in a new genre and I want to find out as much about it as I can”. This will help you decide which of the following is right for you.

  1. The national conference, with up to 20 editors and agents and a huge range of sessions. Pros: you will have plenty to choose from and if you do your homework about the editors and agents, you will know who to look for in your session choices. You may also pay for a manuscript consultation and get lucky. Cons: these conferences can have over 1000 attendees and it’s really easy to feel overwhelmed or get lost in the crowd. Hint: go with a friend.
  2. The genre conference, where you focus on the particular genre or field you are writing in. Pros: you will learn a lot about current trends and what those agents and editors are looking for right now. Cons: if you’re only dabbling in this field, it may be a waste of your money. Hint: think about what you love to read, too.
  3. The local/regional conference, where there will be fewer agents and editors but a more welcoming, inclusive vibe. Pros: it’ll be a great place to meet up with writers in your area and maybe form new networks. Editors and agents are less bombarded by people and more willing to meet you and “talk turkey”. Cons: you might feel too shy to put yourself forward, and the guest faculty might not be right for what you are writing. Hint: do your research on the faculty.
  4. The librarians’ conference, where there are rarely agents but often lots of editors and marketing people talking up their books. Pros: you’ll get to learn a lot about what readers want and what librarians are looking for, and how they present your books. Cons: this is not a conference for writers, although it could be a good place to meet editors and talk about your mutual love of books! Hint: think about whether you are far enough down the publishing road to take full advantage of this kind of conference.

Coming next: How to behave at a conference!

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