By W. Terry Whalin
I've been attending writer's conferences for many years. Some times I attend for the training. Other times I'm invited to speak and when I have a spare moment, I attend the workshops and sessions of other speakers. Normally my workshop is recorded and I get a copy of the recording. At a recent writers' conference, they gave the faculty the opportunity to get the recordings for the entire conference (over 40 sessions). I downloaded everything on a flash drive and look forward to listening to these sessions.
Some people wonder how I’ve published in more than 50 print magazines and written more than 60 books with a variety of types and age groups. While I may not be the best writer in the room, I am one of the most consistent. If I pitch an idea and an editor says something like, “Sounds good. Send it to me.” I will make a little note, then go home, write the article or book and send it. Yes you have to write what the editor wants and many writers do not want to write what the editor is requesting. Overall I’ve found such a simple strategy works.
I understand to attend a conference is an investment of money, time and energy. In this article, I want to highlight five ways writers can profit from a conference.
1. Listen for opportunities, and then take action. For example, one editor I met told me about a forthcoming series of Bible studies that his publisher will be doing. In the past, I’ve written Bible studies and enjoy this type of writing. Because I heard about the opportunity, I emailed this editor and affirmed my interest in the project. The editor was grateful for my interest and said at the right time he would be in touch. This type of follow-up work leads to additional writing opportunities. You have to be listening for them and take action.
Another editor at the conference has worked on a publication that I’ve never written for. It has a large circulation and I wanted to write for this publication for the exposure as much as a new writing credit. I’ve emailed the editor and we are corresponding about some ideas which I believe will lead to an assignment and eventually publication. There are numerous opportunities at these conferences—if you listen for them.
2. Take time to prepare in advance before the event. Study the faculty and see what they publish and then write pitches and book proposals. Most publications have writer’s guidelines and other information easily available online. At a recent conference, several writers brought flash drives with the electronic copy of their material. I appreciated the quick response from these writers and it moved their submission to the top of my stack. I put their material into our internal system and moved it forward through the consideration process. In one case I’ve already turned in a writer’s project to my publication board and I’m hoping to get a contract for this author in a few weeks. The germ of this activity was her arrival at the conference prepared for her meetings. You can learn and mirror such actions when you attend an event.
3. Pick up the free copies of the publications and their guidelines at the conference. These publications are looking for freelance writers. You have to pick up the publications, read the guidelines then make your pitch or query or follow-through. When someone mentions an interest in your material, make sure you exchange business cards with them. Then when you get home, send them an email and follow-up.
4. Exchange business cards with editors and other professionals during the conference. You must bring plenty of business cards to the event. I met many people and came home with a large stack of business cards. I’ve been following up with writers and encouraging them to send me their proposal and/or manuscript. Yet few of them have reached out to me—and this type of situation is typical from my experience. If you reach out to the editor and take action, your actions will receive positive attention and you will get publishing opportunities
5. One of the reasons to attend a conference is to learn a new skill or a new area of the writing world. Are you learning how to write fiction or a magazine article or tap a new social network? A variety of skills are taught at conferences. It’s easy to put away the notes and never look at them again. The writers who get published take a different course of action. They review the notes and apply it to their writing life.
As writers we are continually learning and growing in our craft. A conference can be a huge growth area if you take action and follow-up.
Have I given you some ideas? If so, let me know in the comments below.
Here’s Five Keys for Writers to Profit from a conference. (Click to Tweet)
W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link). One of his books for writers is Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. He lives in Colorado and has over 220,000 twitter followers.