My Writer Convention Experiences
In a previous blog I spoke about the Importance of Attending Conventions as an Author but I didn't get into what it's like actually being there. The question was posed "are writer's conventions worth the time and money?" and in my experience I've found good and bad in attending them.
CHOOSING A CONVENTION OR CONFERENCE
The first thing I look at is which convention or writer's conference I want to go to. Usually that entails it being close enough to drive to so I can easily transport my books. If it's further out then it needs to be something very special for me to make the trip.
I live on the West Coast which allows me quite a bit of choices in regards to conventions. My very first one I attended was on the East Coast. It was the RT Convention and it came highly recommended. A few authors from my same publishing house were going to be attending and one of them offered a place to stay so it seemed like a win-win.
That particular convention was worth the time and money I put in. Being my first time attending, I didn't know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised at everything going on. For those that don't know, the RT Convention used to be a mix of writing workshops and social meetups. That provided a nice balance to the occasion. They also had some of the top agents and editors attending and you could reserve a spot to pitch them your book face-to-face.
The agent pitches helped me a lot in forming my narrative of what the story was about. I recall author James Scott Bell helping me craft my pitch beforehand so I could unleash it like a gunslinger during the brief 15 minute session.
YOUR ATTITUDE CREATES YOUR CONVENTION EXPERIENCE
During that convention I also did my first signing with a group of other authors that attended. For me, it was a lot of fun. But I'm not the type to just sit there and wait for readers to approach me.
When you're doing a book signing you have to engage the crowd like a carnival barker at a fair.
I vividly remember my time during my signing because the group of authors across from me looked absolutely miserable. And they wonder why they didn't get any sales! You have to be engaging, which can be hard for introverts, but you're talking about your book baby...gush over it! The other thing I recall about that signing is that Sylvia Day was seated right next to me. This was before she skyrocketed to success.
You never know who you're going to meet at a writer's convention
That was my first experience with a writer's convention. Over the years I attended RT Con a few more times and each time it was a good experience. I even hosted my workshop on how to write fight scenes one year and met my author inspiration Dean Koontz! Unfortunately RT Con is no longer being hosted but it's hardly the only one out there.
WHY DO YOU WANT TO ATTEND?
One way to decide if you want to attend a writer's conference or not is to decide beforehand why you want to go?
Are you trying to network?
Do you want to socialize with other authors?
Is a book signing important?
What types of panels are you looking for?
Do you want to pitch agents?
Answering these questions will help you narrow down which writer's conference is best for you. For instance, the Writer's Digest Conference came through town one year and just by reading the guest list I knew i wanted to attend.
One of the best books for developing and marketing an author brand is "Creating Your Writer Platform" by Chuck Sambuchino. It's the only book I've ever read that really details what you need to do to market yourself as an author. So when I saw that Chuck would be doing a few panels at the Writer's Digest Convention I jumped at the chance to go. Turns out his panels were the only interesting part of the convention but I did get a chance to speak with him at length afterwards and he gave me some tips about the craft of writing.
STEP OUTSIDE THE USUAL WRITER BOX
I've found some of my best convention experiences by going to conventions not specifically advertised as just for writers. For instance, way back before it became a popular thing to do I tried my hand at going to comic cons. Because I write fantasy my books lended themselves to that same audience who attended the comic cons. Fast forward to now and every author and their mother is doing them. Why? Because they get the foot traffic. But making those conventions worthwhile comes down to advanced planning. You need a beautiful table display, a poster big enough to be seen through the crowd of people, and something that will make you stand out if you get the bad luck of being seated next to another author. You would think that would be a good thing but not in that environment.
One of the other atypical conventions that I found useful was called Leviosa and, you guessed it, this was Harry Potter themed. As a smaller convention it had quite a few names and a good showing of panels that made it worthwhile. This would be my first introduction to Sarah J Mass whose work is wildly popular. I also spoke with Roshani Chokshi on the importance of including diversity in books.
Here's my final take on whether attending writer's conferences are worth it or not. Sorry to say such a vague answer but it depends. Really it depends on you.
What are you looking to get out of it?
How is your attitude going in?
Does it match your budget or work geographically?
I can tell you that there is a local convention that happens every year in my hometown of Las Vegas that I never attend because there is no value in attending. The entire thing is authors pimping themselves out. There is nothing to be learned or attained by going.
So if you're on the fence about going to a convention or conference decide what you're looking for and then do some research, ask others who have gone, and maybe take a risk. That's what I did for my first writer's convention and it turned out great. Have they all? No. I mean I was a vendor at WonderCon, one of the biggest comic conventions in the world, and I did horrible in sales. But that may have just been a bad day at the office. Point is you'll never know unless you go.
What questions do you have for me about writer's conferences or conventions?