After a couple of years of Covid, writers are again taking to the highways and airports to gather with colleagues at writers’ conferences.
My husband and I recently returned from attending two conferences just a couple of weeks apart. Although the conferences were different in their content and presentation, they were each wonderful in their own way.
Killer Nashville is targeted (love that word) at mystery, suspense, and thriller writers. We were there for two reasons: First, Hank Phillippi Ryan was one of the keynote speakers, and studying Ms. Ryan’s book Truth Be Told had a great influence on me when I was working on my first book. Secondly, my novel Time After Tyme was a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award in the cozy mystery category.
The American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference was held in St. Louis this year. One major reason we chose that one was to meet James Scott Bell and attend his Story Grinder course. Mr. Bell’s books on the craft of writing, his courses and novels have been hugely instrumental in my own writing career.
There are many reasons to attend a conference, and lots of benefits to be had. Here are a few:
- Gather with fellow writers. Authors spend a lot of time in solitary pursuit of the perfect story. It’s a good idea to get out occasionally and meet new people. Even for those of us who are introverted, the company of fellow authors is special. After all, most of those people are introverts, too.
- Learn a new skill. Workshops, lectures, and courses give writers an opportunity to sharpen their expertise in the craft.
- Get feedback on a current project. Most conferences provide some critical feedback of an author’s work for free. Others charge a small fee.
- Pitch your work. Conferences are an opportunity to pitch your work to an agent or an acquisitions editor. Remember to rehearse your pitch and have it ready. You never know who you may bump into on the elevator.
- Sell some books. Most conferences have a means to offer your books on consignment. We’ve had success in selling a few books at each of the conferences we’ve attended.
- Help a new author. Many attendees are first-timers. This is an opportunity to provide encouragement and feedback to someone who is just beginning their writing journey.
- Get motivated. Conferences have a way of energizing the author and getting the creative juices flowing. Use the excitement to build on your next novel.
Deciding on the ideal conference
Choosing a writing conference is similar to finding a college to attend. There are plenty of choices, and you’ll want to consider size, focus, cost, and travel distance. Some conferences are specifically tuned to a narrow genre selection. Others may be open to any writing area. There are plenty of lists online, but I think the best resource for finding a good conference is from your colleagues, like those here at TKZ. I hope we’ll see some recommendations in the comments.
Before you sign up
- Check out the conference to see if it offers the kinds of courses and workshops you’re interested in.
- Research the professional editors and agents who will be onsite for appointments, and register early to get appointments with the ones you want to meet with.
- If you’re going to put your books on consignment in the book shop, be sure you understand when to drop the books off, when you have to pick them up, and any other requirements
One more thing
I wanted to have some clever and useful give-aways at the conferences this year to advertise my mystery series, so I had some jar openers made to take with me, but they didn’t arrive in time for Killer Nashville. No problem, I thought. I’ll take them to ACFW. However, when I arrived at the ACFW conference with over a hundred jar openers ready to be placed on a swag table, I was told they didn’t have an area for that. I should have checked.
So, TKZers: What conferences have you attended and which would you recommend? What benefits have you experienced by attending a conference?
A gripping experience! If you’d like one of these FREE cute and practical jar openers (5-inch diameter), send me an email or contact me through my website at kaydibianca.com with your name and address. I’ll send you one while supplies last.