by Lee Warren, freelance editor and eMoon team member
I attended my first writers’ conference in 1998. Being exposed to people who understood me, as a writer, without needing to explain myself, made me feel like I had found a new home. In a way, I had.
Since then, I have attended at least one writers’ conference every year in various parts of the country. If you haven’t made the time to attend one, here’s how one can benefit your writing career:
1. You’ll learn how to improve your craft. Conferences offer classes that are taught by industry experts who teach you how to write compelling copy. Without compelling copy, you’ll find it difficult to find a publisher, or an audience.
2. You’ll learn what not to write. Poetry is difficult to sell. You probably knew that. But did you know that memoirs are difficult to sell to a traditional Christian publisher unless you have a huge platform? Sports books are also hard to sell. Wondering what else? Attend a conference and find out.
3. You’ll learn industry terms and concepts. If an editor asked you to write a round-up article on spec, would you know what he or she was talking about? If you plan to go the indie author route, do you understand how sales funnels work, or what it means to “go wide”?
4. You’ll learn industry expectations. Editors expect you to know how to format a manuscript. They also expect you to know how to access their writers’ guidelines for other pertinent information.
5. You’ll learn the publishing process. Editors rarely look at manuscripts first. Some want to see a query letter first. Others want to see a book proposal. Others only want to see a synopsis. You’ll learn about all of these at a conference.
6. You’ll learn industry norms. Do you have any idea how long the lead times are for most book publishers, or why this is important? How about magazines? How long should you wait to check the status of a submission? A conference will help you answer these questions.
7. You’ll learn how to be published in specific markets. Editors often teach classes at conferences about how to write for their publication. Some even offer insider tips.
8. You’ll be exposed to new markets. I never even considered becoming a sportswriter until I had a conversation with the editor of a sports magazine at a conference in 2000. I’ve gone on to write hundreds of sports articles for Yahoo! Sports, the U.S. Olympic Committee website, Baptist Press Sports, SB Nation and many other publications.
9. You’ll be exposed to new ideas. You might be chasing a book deal, but someone with more experience might pull you aside at a conference and advise you to start with articles. Putting yourself around experienced professionals will open doors you never imagined.
10. You’ll build new relationships. Conferences will not only provide face time with editors, but if things work out, you’ll get their email addresses and an invitation to begin sending your work their way. You’ll also make lasting friendships with other writers while you are there.