Yes. If you can afford it.
Recently, an author’s agent stated that each agent at her agency receives upwards of 200 queries per day! Agents and publishers are now flooded with queries in epic proportions. The nice thing is that they acknowledge that it’s almost impossible to fairly assess a writer’s talent with just one query in a pile of thousands in one month. So if you’ve received a form letter like this recently, don’t take it personally, and most certainly don’t throw in the towel.
Benefits of Attending a Writer’s Conference
Attending the right conference can get you a face to face meeting with an agent or publisher. In person impressions is a very strong option to at least pitch your work. It’s hard for an agent or publisher to take a chance on a random query in an inbox of over 1,000 in one week, as opposed to hearing your passionate novel premise in person. It is even more difficult for someone to be as invested in your vision as writer if they’ve never met you. So, if only for the reason of being able to meet agents or publishers in person, I’d say attending the right conference can be beneficial.
I was recently invited to attend an academic conference unrelated to my writing. To my surprise, there were several vendors of small university presses selling academic books. Though I hadn’t planned it, I took a chance, and pitched my novel to one of the publishers. Right on the spot, I was invited to submit my manuscript to a publisher that accepts fiction by invitation only. What did I learn from that experience? There are more roads to getting published than just one, and that ultimately, my fate as a successful writer is fueled by my own initiative, not solely depending on an agent to get me there.
Conferences also act as a great way to learn more about the current writing market, although you can just as easily get this information on the internet or through writer’s magazines. At a writer’s conference, you can meet other emerging writers like yourself, and hear how they were able to get their debut novels published. If anything, the social contact with other writers can fuel a great boost of motivation. With the current market the way it is, it can be a hard road to publish without some kind of writing support from others.
Alternative to Not so Affordable Conferences
As far as the price of writing conferences…This week I researched the cost of upcoming conferences within my state of California. The average prices are starting at $400 up to $1,300. These prices don’t include lodging or travel expenses. Personally, I know very few writers that can afford this kind of investment, unless they are invited to be on a panel. And for writers with families, attending a writing conference is almost impossible. What is the alternative?
Start a writing group. Take a few months to get an established attendance, then research to see if there are any literary agents or publishers in your area. Invite one of them to meet with your group. I know this sounds unprecedented, but an established writing circle can accomplish many things. Make it worth their while. Serve up a nice brunch. Or if they can’t make it out, offer to host a skype conference. Be creative. You’d be surprised at how some of the more local presses may be willing to spend an hour or two to offer advice to serious writers.
Finding the ‘Right’ Conference
- Go online to research each agent, publisher, & writer who will be presenting at the conference or hosting panels. See if they are the kind of people who would even match up with your genre of writing. If you write romance novels, and the conference panelists represent sci-fi/fantasy or crime novels, you’ll have a better chance of finding a date than an agent (if you’re into the Lord of the Rings type of partner).
- While checking the publishers or agents web pages, make sure that they are currently accepting submissions. After meeting an agent or publisher, you may be invited to submit your work in person. However, I have heard that many agents/publishers present at conferences, and then writers go online to submit their work post-conference only to find that these same agents or publishers aren’t accepting submissions.
- A few conferences have sliding scale and/or scholarships. In order to take advantage of these options, if offered, you want to sign up sometimes months or weeks in advance of the conference dates.
If you want a career as a writer, and if you’re in it for the long haul, in this current market, one has to embrace ingenuity, and a sense of boldness to step forth in the world to be discovered.
I have made one huge deadline, and let me say, it is a feeling of exhilaration to have one project out in the world, and another peeking over the horizon. I have learned that the life of a writer means to never stop writing. Of course there is the time to take a vacation, or a good break every now and then (I must say, I haven’t had a vacation for a long time). No matter, break or not, there is always a book pacing back and forth in the waiting room of my right brain, anxious for its name to be called forth on the page.
It is important to recognize that there is a path to publication. For me, I’ve finished one book and it makes sense to keep writing. Publication is only one accomplishment. A writer’s career takes discipline, focus, most often for many of us, sleep deprivation, and as I’ve stated earlier on, a since of fidelity. Fidelity to create a body of work that has meaning, and a body of work that has room to evolve in the quality and uniqueness of my own voice. I have been fortunate enough to have veteran writers embrace my work which gives me the nod that my choice to be an accomplished writer is not a matter of chance. Publishing is not that difficult these days. The priority for me is to publish stellar work. That is what longevity as a writer demands, a challenge I welcome with great joy.
Now that I have one book out of the way, there is the e-book to finish cranking out. I’m excited. And for those following my blog, thank you so much for your comments and dialogue. I’ve made a commitment to keep this blog going for all of us. Writers United!!
I’ve decided to go bold. Bold is the path to re-invention for the writer in the 21st century.
When I look back at my former blog, as I mentioned earlier, I had over 600 visitors in the first five months. And after I stopped writing, over 300 more made a pit stop. Over 900. Hmm… Then I thought to myself, if that many people eyeballed and possibly read some of the pages within my blog, what would happen if I actually had a book accessible for them to read? Let’s just say an E-book. If only a quarter of that number actually purchased my e-publication, not only would my moderate confidence have escalated, not only would I have made a little money, my writing would be out in the world, and maybe those individuals would come back for more.
I admit, the agent query process has been daunting. Just receiving a few “we didn’t have time to look at your proposal” notes doesn’t do much for my motivation level, especially on the tail end of a recession. Now that my life has settled in, I intend to continue to query my first novel with more of a vengeance. However, inspiration still burns and I don’t want to lose that. I have a second novel in progress that I could challenge myself to finish in a short period of time. In addition to the second novel, I have about 6-7 more novels already in my brain waiting to pour forth. Plenty of material (I am thankful that I’m very lucky in that department. My only problem has been finding the time to write it all down). In the past few days, I’ve read a few good stories about writers like me who were becoming hopeless in sending out query after query, waiting and waiting for one little acknowledgment, a waiting that can age the hope of even the most determined writer. These few writers decided to chuck the query, and say hello to the Matrix, transforming their masterpiece into an E-book. And to the tune of Amanda Hockings, within two years, her ability to market herself invited over a million dollars before finally getting her first publication deal.
After reading her story, I thought hard, but not long. I thought about the number of visitors to my blog. My heart began to beat a little faster. The notion of taking my destiny into my own hands lit a fire I have not been able to contain. An E-book?
But let me say this first. I am a stern advocate for books in print. That is the ultimate goal. There is a reverence I have for books, an immortal magical quality about the printed word. During these times, people flock to get their hands on gold. But the priceless commodity in my world are words I can touch with my eyes on the page. I will be the Joan of Arc defending the immortality of the printed word.
However, I have decided to go bold. I’m going to publish my first E-book. No, I’m not selling out to the new world order. I look at it as paving yet another path to print. I have more time than ever right now to write, and my blood screams to seize the moment.
For any of you writers out there who are now feeling a bit of query rebellion, check out Amanda Hockings story: http://amandahocking.blogspot.com/2010/08/epic-tale-of-how-it-all-happened.html
My deadline to e-publish: May 1st.