Leveraging Writers Conferences to Build a Writing Career

With a good mindset and a bit of research and preparation, aspiring authors can use writers' conferences to advance their careers. Here are some tips for making the most of these events.

Attending a writers' conference can be an invaluable experience for first-time writers. Not only does it provide networking opportunities, but it also allows aspiring authors to gain insight from established professionals in the industry. With so much to learn and discover, here are some tips on how to make the most of your first writer's conference:

1) Do Your Research – Before attending any event, research who the panellists and keynote speakers will be and what topics will likely be discussed. This way, you can come prepared with questions or ideas that could help further your writing career and avoid the trite and over-asked questions of the panellists. Asking specific questions like, "What resources did you use to research X scenario for Y character in your book?" will lead to a far more useful conversation than the very generic and over-asked question, "Where do you get your ideas?"

2) Network – Writers conferences offer great opportunities for networking with other like-minded individuals in the industry and established professionals who may have valuable advice and connections that could benefit you down the road. Take advantage of all available resources, such as panel discussions or social events where there is plenty of opportunity to mingle with potential contacts while learning more about their experiences within publishing circles. This could prove beneficial when seeking representation or publishers for your work.

3) Ask Questions – Don't hesitate to ask questions during panel discussions or Q&A sessions; this is one of the best ways not only to get answers from those already successful but also to create conversations which might lead to something more fruitful than just a simple dialogue exchange between yourself and attendees. Remember to do your research and ask specific, intelligent questions of the appropriate panellist to get the most out of any Q&A. Additionally, remember small talk! Introducing yourself and engaging in casual conversation between panels or during social activities might open doors to future collaborations.

4) Take Notes – Keep a pen and paper handy to jot down any tips, organization names, websites, contacts, or even just random ideas that come to you during panel discussions or keynote addresses. Your notes should also help you track which speaker made a point or comment you'd like to ask further questions about during Q&A. You don't need to write down every word spoken, but just enough that your memory will be jogged when you revisit your notes after the conference.

5) Follow Up – After attending a writer's conference, take time afterwards to reflect upon everything learned & experienced at the event; then follow up by sending thank-you emails/notes expressing appreciation for having met various people (especially if they've offered helpful advice). Leaving a review online for the conference is also a way to thank those involved. If the advice or contacts gained at a conference helped you achieve a goal somehow, share that with the organizers by email and social media. You never know; sharing the credit for your successes may lead to you being on the expert panel at a future conference!

By taking these steps before, during, and after attending writers' conferences, early-career writers should find themselves better equipped to handle whatever comes next on their journey to becoming published authors. Good luck!

Wendy Woudstra

Wendy Woudstra is the driving force behind PublishersArchive.com, an ad-supported informational website featuring a comprehensive database of book publishing companies, literary festivals, and literary awards.

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