Galen Kindley left some excellent questions in the comment trail of my last post, including: "Have you achieved any 'real-world,' tangible benefits through conference attending? That is, did you realize a payback?"
Here's what I think writing/mystery conferences are great for:
- Learning the craft of writing
- Learning the publishing business
- Networking with other writers, published and unpublished
- Getting energized
- Hanging out in the bar
- Talking about books
- Networking with editors, agents, reviewers, conference organizers, publicists, booksellers, etc.
- Attending cocktail parties, auctions, movie screenings, readings, interviews--all focused on books!
- Getting feedback on your work
- Finding other writers to be critique partners
- Pitching to agents, formally (during a pitch session) and informally (during lunch or at the bar or in the elevator--remember: be cool, no stalking!)
- Meeting/pitching editors
- Buying books
- Seeing how published authors participate on panels
- Did I mention hanging out in the bar?
Here's what I think writing/mystery conferences are NOT great for:
- Making money (unless you're a best-seller and sell a ton of books during your signing)
(Note: my comments are oriented toward the unpublished writer, although many of the above benefit writers in any stage. Once you’re published and are promoting a book, your goals will probably shift more toward marketing and promotion.)
So back to Galen's question: Have I achieved any real-world, tangible benefits? Did I realize a payback?
My answer: an unqualified, unequivocal, resounding MAYBE.
I think quantifying the benefit of a conference, like counting the number of agents who can dance on the head of a pin, is difficult.
Attending a conference can be expensive. There's the registration fee, airline ticket, hotel room, food, drink, and other traveling costs. And don’t forget all those books from the book room. So, strictly financially speaking, I have not achieved a "payback" -- yet.
But almost without exception, I'm glad I attended the conferences I did. I know the direction I want my writing career to take, and going to conferences is one of the stepping stones along my path. I feel more connected to the writing community, and I've met lots of terrific writers. I've learned a ton--about writing craft, about the publishing business, and about creative ways to market my books. I've gotten feedback about works-in-progress, I've met editors and agents, and, yes, I've visited the bar.
Quantifiable benefits? Hard to say. Worth the money? In my opinion, an unqualified, unequivocal, resounding YES.
It all depends on your goals.
What are some of the benefits you've gotten out of conferences?