Friday, August 14, 2009

This One's for Galen

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  • Networking with other writers, published and unpublished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(Note: my comments are oriented toward the unpublished writer, although many of the above benefit writers in any stage.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?



Meredith Cole said...

Meeting other writers and feeling like a professional--that's what I remember the most from my first writing conference. And I think it was worth every penny!

Thanks for posting this, Alan.

Alan Orloff said...

Hi Meredith,

What a coincidence! I'm halfway through POSED FOR MURDER right now (and I'm grooving on it!).

I didn't explicitly say it, but making friends is a primo "benefit" also. (My wife bestows upon them a special appellation, "writer-friends").

So, thanks for visiting the blog, writer-friend!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Alan, a writer's conference is where I made the contact that led to publication, so naturally I think they're great. The other big payback for me for both conferences and conventions is the people I meet. I have so much fun.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Wow, Alan, what a pleasant surprise. My name and link mentioned…a couple of times…on a prestigious and influential blog by a serious, big time blogger. I AM humbled.

Thanks for addressing these topics in such thoughtful detail. While the entire post is informative, I think the paragraph that begins with, “But almost without exception, I'm glad I attended the conferences I did.” Is a great summary of, and recommendation for, conference attending.

I learned the other day, on Helen Ginger’s blog, that there will be a conference in Austin at the end of October. Thinking seriously now about going. Not to far from Albuquerque.

Okay, again, thanks for the shout out, and the great, informative post. Should you get to New Mexico, I’ll have you over for Lemonade. (Wink)

Have a wonderful and safe weekend, pal.

Best Regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I like your reasons for attending conferences, Alan. The reason I'm planning to go to Malice this spring is because I was told that Berkley REALLY likes their authors at Malice and they throw a big shindig for us. I'm up for that!

Nothing wrong with the bar, either. :) Except I usually fret over the cost of the drinks compared to buying wine at Total Wine or Costco. Once I get over all my various neuroses, I'll be a much better conference-goer.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Alan Orloff said...

Patricia - That's really the thing--you never know who you might meet, or what you might learn, that will help you in your career. And, yes, going to conferences can be a blast!

Galen - I've never been to a conference in Texas. I bet it'll be real big. Good luck, and try to go with a good attitude (not hard for you).

Elizabeth - In reality, I'm not much of a partier or drinker. I'll usually just nurse a Sprite all night.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

I've had great experiences and not-so-great experiences at conferences, but I wouldn't trade either for the world. I've had priceless face-time with agents and learned a lot about the business. I've gotten many positive requests for my most recently completed novel that I'm hoping will soon lead to representation. Meeting other writers and being in the 'writing world' is a complete treat.

BTW, Alan, I'm following you now.;-)

Alan Orloff said...

Yes, Debra, well put--"meeting other writers and being in the 'writer world' is a complete treat."

I like that description-and that attitude.

(BTW, thanks for following!)