Most writers attend Industry conferences at some point in their careers. Whether you are a newbie, or a seasoned veteran, or somewhere in between, there are definite benefits to attending. I recently went to the annual conference of my local Romance Writers of America chapter, the Georgia Romance Writers. Held in Atlanta, the “Moonlight and Magnolias” Conference called to mind the other Cons I have attended the past few years, and made me question what I was truly getting for the time and money I have spent. So here is what I think are the basic benefits one can obtain from a Writer’s Con, which I call “The Four F’s”:
If you are not enjoying yourself at some point during the experience, you are doing it wrong. Whether you go with other writer friends, or by yourself, there are so many people to meet. There is usually good food, entertainment, awards ceremonies, speeches, and some even have games (like BDSM bingo, which we played at Authors After Dark). Some have costume contests, theme parties, and dancing. You can sight-see if you are from out of town, as some cons organize tours or other outside excursions.
At the Romance-genre Cons I have attended, the atmosphere is very nurturing and friendly. It is really good for us to get out of our chairs, out of our heads, out of our solitary writer habits. Networking with other writers can be inspiring, even comforting. It’s nice to be among people who “get” you, and what you are working to accomplish.
One of the main reasons to attend Writer’s Cons are the classes and panels. So much information is freely shared by other authors on diverse subjects such as Craft, Marketing, Industry Trends, and even the Business side of writing (such as copyright, contracts, estate planning, LLC’s, etc). Successful authors speak at luncheons, dinners, and awards ceremonies, sharing their stories of struggling to finally make that first sale. Panels of authors patiently answer question after question. Indies, Self-Published, or Traditionally Published- all authors are more than willing to share their knowledge and aspiring authors can benefit from their experiences. All this knowledge can serve to help new or seasoned writers to explore their career options in this ever-changing industry.
The inevitable result of going to a conference (besides the desperately needed nap when I get home) is the way it sharpens my focus. It is easy to get scattered, or bogged down with writing projects, and sometimes it seems to be an endless exercise in futility (will I ever get published?). But meeting other writers, learning about my craft, and hearing success stories gives me the positive encouragement that is hard to find (in such a large dose) anywhere else. I come home exhausted yet fired up, ready to write those outlines, write those chapters, and edit my little heart out. Because once again, I have hope. From the Bestselling Keynote speaker that quit her day job and now employs her family to help run her writing empire, to the self-published author at my dinner table, who did everything herself and is doing quite nicely in her niche (and has quit her day job, too)….hearing it personally as opposed to online, really meeting these authors and seeing first hand that it can be done, is priceless. And all you have to do is…..KEEP WRITING!
And that is the number one FOCUS point I heard from everyone that has been successful- none of the other stuff matters if you don’t write the books! So tackle that first and foremost.
Which brings me to the final “F”- FANGIRLING!
There is another benefit to attending a Con, and that is getting to meet the authors you have read and loved from afar for years. Most Cons have a book signing event, but you may also run into authors in the elevator, or at a panel. Adding to a collection of author-signed books can be exciting for some, but don’t forget to pick up the swag. I have seen some really interesting and even useful items in the Goody Rooms! And of course- free books! It’s a great way to get to know authors you may not have read.
Have you attended a Writer’s Con this year? What was your favorite aspect?