by Penny C. Sansevieri
I’m a huge fan of author education, and there’s no better way to further your book marketing and publicity success than attending a writers’ conference. The connections you make at these events are tremendous.
With writers’ conferences finally returning to in-person, now is an excellent time to start planning for your next event. Virtual conferences were a great option, but in my opinion, there’s nothing like meeting other writers and industry professionals in person.
A word about goals…
Unfortunately, I find many authors attend writers’ conferences for the wrong reasons. I’ve heard authors say things like, “I’m going to land an agent!” While it does happen that an author may find an agent at a writers’ conference, it’s rare and should not be your absolute goal.
What Should You Expect?
This really depends on the event. When you first come across an event, I recommend you review all the classes offered before deciding to commit. Some conferences focus only on craft, while others are more heavily marketing-focused, so it depends on the event itself.
Don’t get pulled in by some flashy headline if the speaker tracks and content aren’t appealing to you. I suggest finding at least four classes that you feel are worthwhile before registering. Of course, you’ll probably want to attend more sessions, but four is a good start. That’ll give you enough time to network, maybe take in an agent meeting or two (if that’s something you want to do), as well as attend keynotes and luncheon speakers.
If you’re attending an event just to meet an agent (or two), make sure that agents are attending the event who handle your genre. That can be a big disappointment if you base going to the event solely on finding an agent, only to discover that none of them work in your particular genre.
Types of Conferences
As I mentioned above, there are literally as many writers’ conferences as there are genres (well, almost). There are romance-specific events, mystery and thriller events, and even writers’ conferences geared to lawyers who write fiction- you’d be surprised how many attorneys we’ve worked with over the years who write fiction!
So, I always suggest digging through some events and maybe even consider attending events outside your genre. Let me explain.
Attending Outside Your Genre
I’ve spoken for Romance Writers of America multiple times, which always puts on a great conference. And though I write in non-fiction, I always find their classes helpful. I know a lot of authors who attend events outside of their genre, like fantasy authors who go to Thriller Fest and on and on.
Though the sessions will be specific for a certain genre, you still can learn a lot from attending these events if the tracks seem appealing to you.
Finding the Right Conference for You
Google is a great place to start, but magazines like The Writer always have a monthly listing of events (and it’s pretty extensive). Also, many local writer’s groups may be linked to events that appeal to you. Ask around, you may just find your new favorite event!
(See below for some of my recommendations.)
What Are Your Book Marketing and Publicity Goals?
A big piece of deciding on what kind of events to go to will depend on your goals. If you’re looking to sell your manuscript to a publisher, you’ll want an event with many agent appointments. But if education is your interest, you’ll want to identify what you want to learn and make sure the conference offers related sessions.
Do you need to get more versed in social media? Are you interested in getting more influencers to review your book? Want to know more about how to work the Amazon algorithm? Knowing what you’d like to learn will help you decide which writers’ conference to attend.
In-Person vs. Virtual Conferences
Some events offer a blend of in-person and virtual, though not all – and some have gone all virtual for the foreseeable future. So if attending virtually is more your thing, that’s definitely another option. Though I have to say, it’s such a great investment to participate in person.
Why you should always purchase conference recordings
Most conferences record sessions, and I always encourage authors to get a set of recordings. Why? You’re not going to be able to attend everything, even when you attend sessions in person. Also, you may hear of sessions that you didn’t get to attend after the event, so it’s always good to have recordings to listen to later!
Now that you’ve booked your writer’s conference let’s get ready to make the most of it.
- Join the conference Facebook group: This is a great way to start networking early and get to know some of the speakers, topics, and attendees.
- Bring business cards: You don’t have to spend a lot of money creating these, but bring something professional looking that you can hand out.
- Collect business cards: Also, note where you met the person on the back and briefly take down what you discussed.
Be prepared to talk about yourself: I know this is tricky for many authors. We live in our world, and networking is hard, but the better prepared you can be, the easier this will flow. Here are a few things you should be ready to talk about:
- What kinds of books do you write? Get very clear on your genre; not knowing what genre you write in is the #1 way to look like an amateur.
- Describe them in one brief sentence.
- If you’re writing non-fiction, what are your qualifications?
- Bring swag if you have it: Swag can be anything from bookmarks to character trading cards – swag is optional but if you have it, bring it.
- Hit the bar: Some of the best conversations happen after the last session, so be sure and stop by the hotel bar and don’t be afraid to tee up a conversation or two while you’re there – just don’t, you know, partake too heavily. This is a work event, not a vacation.
- Never sit alone: It’s easy to want to sit alone during lunch or dinner but don’t, and most events won’t let you anyway. You’ll be seated at a table of eight or ten, generally. Also, don’t sit with the same people all the time. Get to know as many other writers and speakers as you can.
- Don’t hog a speaker’s time: This is from personal experience. As a speaker attending events, I can tell you that being courteous to others who want to chat with a speaker, whether after a session or during a meal, will be greatly appreciated by not just the speaker but other writers who want a chance to ask some questions.
Writers’ Conferences can be a fantastic way to network with other authors, learn more about your craft, and dig into more book marketing and publicity. It can be both inspiring and career-building if done right! I hope to see you at one very soon.
Also, here’s a list of a few conferences I love:
What conferences are your favorites? What are some positives that have come from writing conferences you’ve attended? Please share down in the comments so we can all trade information.
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Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a bestselling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU. She was named one of the top influencers of 2019 by New York Metropolitan Magazine.
Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most innovative Amazon visibility campaigns as well offering national media pitching, online book marketing, author events, and other strategies designed to build the author/book visibility.
She is the author of 18 books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon, Revise and Re-Release Your Book, 5-Minute Book Marketing for Authors, and From Book to Bestseller. She also hosts the top ranking podcast Book Marketing Tips and Author Success.
AME has had dozens of books on top bestseller lists, including those of the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal.
To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, visit www.amarketingexpert.com.