If it weren’t for writer’s conferences . . .

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Maureen Lang

I wonder how many authors I know, myself included, would be published today without having been to a writer’s conference?

The publishing industry has always been a competitive field. According to one study I read, approximately 80% of the general public believes they have a book in them. Understandably with the advent of computers, this number is probably higher than it might have been years ago. After all, how many would’ve followed through on a whim to write a book if they had to do it long hand? Or perhaps worse, type it out with carbon paper for copies and white-out for mistakes, through revision after manual revision? I remember those days and frankly they weren’t much fun.

What separates those “with a book inside” from those who go on to be published? What helped me most was attending writer’s conferences. It’s their dedication to craft, both through time and money, that unveil the first inkling of a serious writer. Learning about the industry is invaluable at any level in this field, and conferences offer that. They also offer:

Workshops that teach or hone craft, from the newest level writer to the professional author.

Fellowship and commiseration with others on the path toward publication or already well on their way, a balm to an isolated writer’s soul.

Networking with industry professionals that may lead to unique and real opportunities.

The opportunity to taste the professional publication industry, even as a first time attendee, which can offer insight into whether or not you have the acumen to persevere.

Marketing opportunities through teaching, serving or exposure on “freebie” tables abound for writers on their way up.

I met my first editor at a writer’s conference. Like most of the others who’d attended a conference before, I’d prepared to pitch my strongest proposal. I had a “one-sheet”, a one page description I offered of my project, including a brief bio and headshot so the editors and agents I met with would recall my face if we had future correspondence. Before my meeting I practiced describing the gist of my plot into a sound bite–concise but clear. I prayed before the conference as well as before my ten-minute appointment.

During this particular meeting, I was barely finished with my confidently communicated, concise and clear pitch, before the editor told me his publishing house had just purchased something with a similar theme. What else did I have?

Breathe. Refocus. Be prepared for a bend in the road, which in this case meant being able to pitch more than one project. Although I had only a single one-sheet, I did have other projects to talk about. And that’s what I did. Ultimately this editor ended up purchasing the original idea I presented, as well as another.

All because I attended a conference, not just that conference but conferences before that as well, where I learned everything from how to improve my craft to choosing appropriate dress for an editor interview.

Conferences . . . expensive? Yes. Time consuming? Yes. Stressful? Yes. Worth all that? Yes, and more.

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