Writers conferences (ours in particular): the best working vacation you’ll ever take
Sooner than you can imagine, many of us with gather at the Orlando Marriott Lake Mary for the Florida Writers Conference. It’s the yearly thing we do each fall that involves food, a big stinking banquet, more food, a chance to go outside in the pleasant weather, still more food, a chance to network, even more food, and a hotel bar.
It’s party time, right?
So, yes, the conference is fun, but it’s the kind of fun you have in a good workout, or on a really productive day at the j-o-b. Or it’s like the kind of fun you have with you write or edit more than you thought was possible.
It’s a working vacation.
So, if this year marks your first time going to our conference or a conference of any type, here are some things you can do now to make sure you get the maximum return on your investment–and given what it costs to attend the conference and stay at the hotel, you are making an investment in your craft.
- Come with a plan. Look at the conference program ahead of time. It’ll be loaded here and on the Florida Writers Conference website. Figure out which sessions you want to attend and figure out why you want to attend them. If you look at this as a working weekend, you might surprise yourself at the decisions. Maybe there’s a session on dialog that would be a lot of fun–except you’re really good at dialog, but you really don’t have a feel for the industry and the agent and publisher panel might be better.
- Invest a little more in the pitch sessions. Ultimately, you have to make a case for your writing. If you go the traditional publishing route, you need to make it to an agent or a publisher. And even if you self-publish, it’s still good to know if your work will interest an agent or a publisher. For $40, you can pitch your work to a real, honest-to-goodness industry professional. The conference website includes a list of agents and publishers you can select to pitch to. Pick the one that most closely matches your genre.
- Figure out who you want to talk to. One of the reasons the conference includes long breaks between sessions is so you have the opportunity to network with the other people attending. If there’s an author, session presenter, agent, or publisher you want to touch base with, those are good times. Remember, though, they’re working, too. So be polite, be respectful of their time, and be prepared. Know what you want to say. And if you can’t think of an ice breaker, “Can I buy you a drink?” is a cliche for a reason.
- Consider having business cards made. You can have professional-looking business cards made at VistaPrint for as little as $10. (That’s not an endorsement of their services–they’re just who I know. Google is your friend if you want to seek alternatives.) It never, ever hurts to have your contact information available in a small, easy to share format that isn’t a cocktail napkin or torn-out piece of the program.
- Come with a “working-weekend” mentality. That means you’re there to have fun–because there’s plenty o’ fun to be had. But you’re there with goals and you’re there to achieve those goals. Dress for success. Comfortable, appropriate clothing is…well, appropriate. And while it might be an unquestionable truth of the universe that that Yankees do, indeed, suck–your t-shirt might be best suited staying home for the weekend.
It isn’t a cheap thing to come to the Florida Writers Conference–or any other writer’s conference for that matter. Start planning now and you’ll be able to work to get your money’s worth.