Thursday, March 14, 2013

Baby Evil Writers 101: Conventions

Baby Evil Writers 101: Conventions
Julie Butcher

There is a lot of information floating around out there about going to conventions in order to learn all of the professional writer things. Others tell you that you should go to meet agents and editors. These are both true in their way, but, depending where you are writing-wise, it makes a ton of difference in which convention you should choose to attend.

Right now I’m gearing this article to the baby evil writers. You’re in this category if you have completed at least one novel, if you are not published with a traditional publishing house, or if you are not represented by a literary agent.

You need to pick and choose your convention wisely. At this stage, you need to meet the scary agents and editors, learn to pitch your book, and go to workshops where you can learn craft.

My rule of thumb for this stage of writing is that you shouldn’t go farther than you can drive in a day. (Of course if you poop green money—this rule doesn’t apply.) You’ll be surprised how much area a day’s drive covers on a map.  Google Writer’s Conventions 2013 and figure out which events land in your area.
Now that you have a list, you need to focus on what you need to get for your convention dollars.

1.       Meeting other writers
2.       Workshops on craft
3.       Meeting agents or editors
4.       Learning the business end of writing

Guaranteed, all of the conventions will be fun. If you’ve never gone to a writer’s convention, start small. Pick one of the more inexpensive ones to get your feet wet. Convention etiquette is an art form in itself. If you pick one with plenty of workshops, and a few editors and agents, it will be a pleasant experience and you won’t end up hiding in your hotel room closet.

I do suggest that you attend one big enough that the workshops are in the same hotel where you stay. Networking opportunities with other writers are generally in the evening, after the workshops are finished. You’ll make friends and build a support community that you can continue online for years.

Avoid national conventions. They’re huge, overwhelming, and really won’t give a baby writer what they need. Don’t pick large fan-oriented conventions like Comic-con (which is awesome on a stick but won’t help your writing one smidge). Fan conventions are to be a fan—not to help you get published.

The reason you do want to attend conferences is to make new writer friends, learn craft, and to realize that editors and agents are real people who eat food and get sore feet just like you. I swear, just deep-down knowing this fact will take a ton of the angst out of sending queries. Plus, a publishing is a long road. You’ll need friends to make the journey seem faster.

1 comment:

  1. I actually disagree a bit with avoiding national cons. Here's why:

    My FIRST con was Cryptic ConFusion in Detroit. It was a nice small one like you mentioned. Big enough that everything was in the hotel but small enough, blah blah blah. I went to panels and learned and made some connections, but... There were no official things set up with editors and agents, and I wasn't comfortable as a bar stalker at that point.

    My SECOND con was Romantic Times (in Columbus). I roomed with a very vivacious author and met a few other people who helped to kick my wallflower tendencies to the curb. There were editors and agents galore, and I pitched up a storm. I still learned, but the networking I did there was AMAZING compared to ConFusion. Were there a zillion people? It felt like it, but I got a lot more out of it than I did the smaller con.

    I would just say to choose carefully if you go to a bigger con. Make sure it's one focused on books (a lot of the smaller ones--at least near me--are a mishmash. Confusion for example is books, anime, gaming, and other SFF geekery.)

    Having said that, RT IS expensive, so if you choose that as your first big con, make sure you get as much out of it as you can. Wallflowers need not apply--or better know how to fake it because you WILL disappear there.


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