Running With The Pack
Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to realize that some writers aren’t comfortable around large groups of people. Or even small groups of people. Or other people at all. I’ve even been told by wanna-be-published writers that the idea of even meeting a New York agent or publisher is right up there with root canal in terms of desirability.
While I do understand the fear of the unknown, and the trepidation someone might have about travel or stepping outside of their comfort zone, I also think that if you’re sitting at home all day writing the greatest story ever told about mutant sewer alligators, no one is going to know about it, unless you get yourself out in public.
I saw a posting the other day about attending conferences that surprised me. The poster asserted that (some) conferences were more of a schmoozing thing for social gadflies. While that may be true on a certain level, I think that your expectations would be better served if you look at attending a conference as a business function meant to improve your writing business through networking. Because writing is a business. It’s about writing something the people want to (buy and) read, marketing it, and selling it.
Agents and editors go to these conferences looking for writers and stories that people want to (buy and) read. While it is true that there are authors that have sold their work out of the slush pile, it’s also true that authors and agents (and publishers and editors) connect socially. And I’m not talking about Facebook or blogs or websites. I’m talking about the old-fashioned way; meeting face to face. A conference is a great way to meet other writing professionals; people that you can learn from and who in turn, can learn from you. Staying home in your pajamas all day just can’t do that for you.
What makes a great writer’s conference? In my opinion, it’s got to have speakers that I know (or at least have heard of) and respect as professionals in the publishing world (writers, publishers, editors, and agents). I imagine that if I were already published, my opinion might be swayed to include fans as well, because of course I would want to sell my books to potential readers. But you’ll find that at writer’s conferences too. Many successful authors come to writer’s conferences to speak on different aspects of their craft, share their tips on how they became successful, as well as sell and sign their books. I’d never read any of Steve Barry’s books before I attended one of his sessions at a writer’s conference. His story is inspiring; he wrote for twelve years before he sold his first book; and when he sold, I think he sold four books at once. Talk about perseverance. You can learn a lot that you didn’t even know you didn’t know when you get out of the house and meet other writing professionals.
It also puts you out there in terms of being a writer. If nothing else, attending a conference for writers makes you admit to yourself (and anyone else in the general vicinity) that you are a writer. And you’re not alone. There’s a whole roomful of people trying to do the same thing you are. Someone you don’t know asks you where you’re from and what you write while you’re grabbing a Danish during the break. And you realize you’re not a lone wolf anymore.
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