Going to writing conferences and festivals can be expensive, but instead of calling it an expense, think about the cost as an investment in your writing career. Writing is a business just like any other and needs an injection of capital to get it off the ground. So should your writing career be any different? Money invested in festivals and conferences will reap the following, plus more.
Writing is a lonely business. You slog away for hour after hour perfecting your words to create the right atmosphere, intriguing dialogue, and tension between the characters hoping that the the reader will keep turning the page so that she can't put your book down until the early hours of the morning. To achieve this you have to spend many hours at the keyboard, or putting pen to paper, and then some. By going to conferences/festivals you find you aren't alone. Out there in the world there are others who are toiling away into the wee hours of the moning honing their craft and trying to bring something of their life's journey to their reader.
There are many writers who have gone before you. They've walked the experiences of writer's block, procrastination, will my work be exciting to read, the structural edits, the line edits and the many revisions. They have tips and solutions that have stood the test of time and brought them through to the finish line. They know about characters, plotting, setting, pacing, revising, editing, publishing and marketing. These writers have enormous banks of knowledge inside them. At conferences they are bursting to share their knowledge with others. Workshops are the hive for the aspiring author, too. Be honest with yourself and determine your weaknesses and go to workshops that focus on them. Gain the knowlege you need to make you a better writer.
Finding an agent or publisher is a difficult and also time consuming part of being an author. Most conferences have editors representing their publishing houses and if you can get a face to face interview, even if it's only five minutes, you are way ahead of someone who doesn't go to a conference. If properly prepared those five minutes may land you a three-book contract with a major publishing house. Being prepared and feeling confident about your work and who you are as an author is one of the biggest challenges. This is your opportunity to get that elusive contract. I will go into depth about this in a later blog. Meeting an agent or editor at a conference can help you by-pass the slush pile. Well worth the investment, don't you think.?
The book is written, you've found the publisher, now you don't have to worry about that book because it's going to sell, right? Wrong. Publishing houses do some marketing for the first two weeks a book comes out, after that they expect you to be pushing your book. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I think marketing is harder than writing the book. But clever marketing can bring you more sales, but the most important aspect of marketing to remember is if your book doesn't sing with your readership, your book will sell poorly. It's hard pushing a second rate book, it has to be good and that brings us back to knowledge and craft. Where are you going to get that current knowledge and craft? At a writing conference or festival.
So, it seems conferences and festivals offer a lot for the aspiring and published author. Yes, published authors should go to these events as well, because there are always new and inovative ways of writing and what better place to do that than with a band of brainstorming authors. This weekend I'm off to the Bundaberg Writefest to fellowship, gain more knowledge, speak to editors and agents, and to learn more about marketing. Oh, and to have a lot of fun too! If you're going to be there, make sure you say hi, I'd love to meet you.