(NOTE: This post originally appeared in SoCal Christian Writer's Conference's newsletter. You can sign up for their mailing list by clicking here.)
I met my first publisher at a writing conference when I was sixteen-years-old. Since then, I’ve attended about sixteen conferences as a writer—both large and small—over the past several years.
Although I could list multiple reasons as to why writers should attend a writing conference, here are the main benefits:
1 - The Connections
Personally, this is my favorite conference perk. The connections I’ve made at conferences have propelled me forward in my writing journey. Not only do you have a chance to make valuable contacts at a conference, you’ll also meet new writing friends—writers who are journeying along the same publishing path as you. Writers who can encourage you when you receive a rejection letter or show support when you sign your first contract.
We’re on this writing journey together. Conferences remind you that you’re not alone in pursuit of your publishing dreams.
There’s also value in investing in the writing journey of other writers you meet at conferences. That’s what I love about this CBA industry: We take pride in helping one another. Whether that help comes in the form of referring a writer friend to your agent, spending time critiquing a friend’s manuscript, or providing an endorsement for an author friend.
If I could use one scripture to summarize the value of making connections at a writing conference, it would be this:
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
2 - The Craft
Where else can you learn about the ins and outs of the writing craft from professionals in the industry? From authors, editors, and agents you admire?
In these workshops, you’ll receive insider secrets. The instructors know you’re paying your hard-earned money to attend a conference; therefore, they’re going to make sure it’s worth your time, money, and effort to be there. They know it’s only those writers who are serious about their writing dream who will invest in developing their craft by attending a conference.
Sure, there are several books on the writing craft. But by attending a live workshop, you have the unique opportunity to experience personal interaction with the instructor, ask questions, and engage in conversation with other attendees in the room.
Trust me: The pages of notes and potential handouts you’ll receive will be well worth your investment! In fact, I still have the notebook I used to take notes from my very first writing conference, and I occasionally use the notes as a reference tool when I need them.
|The first writing conference I attended at 16-years-old =)|
Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, 2010
3 - The Contract
I don’t believe we should attend a conference for the sole purpose of seeking a contract. If that becomes our focus then we’ll very likely become discouraged and miss out on other doors that the conference could open for us.
It is true, however, as a conference attendee, you have a better chance of signing with an agent/editor at a conference as opposed to via an online submission. Why is this?
Think about it: Agents and editors receive multiple submissions per week. It often takes months to weave through this slush pile; and the fact is, this isn’t the top priority of an agent/editor. But during a conference appointment, you’ll receive undivided attention. If you find an agent or editor who is intrigued with your pitch, then they’ll likely place your submission at the top of their slush pile and request your full manuscript.
|Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, 2014|
As I mentioned earlier, this is only the foundation of the benefits that a writing conference can provide. You have to actually attend one in order to fully understand the value of this experience. Every time I’ve attended a conference as a writer, it became more than a business venture for me. It was almost a vacation. Only in a dream world can one spend a few days immersed in a culture that breathes life into their dreams!
If you attend a writing conference this year, be prepared to come home with a notebook full of notes, handfuls of business cards, new relationships, memories, and a well full of inspiration and insight. All of these tools, resources, and connections will play a vital role in furthering you along your writing journey. And you’ll be one step closer toward achieving your writing dream.