Why All Writers Should Attend a Writing Conference

Image via Bill_Owen Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Bill_Owen Flickr Creative Commons

Writing conferences are extraordinarily valuable. We work in a creative field and sure, we can sit at a keyboard and write a book. But, without training and guidance, we can make our path to successful publishing far longer than it might have been with outside expert help. We open ourselves to learning by trial and error, which can cost time, money and be a real ego beating.

I joke that I should have called my social media book, I Did All The Dumb Stuff So You Don’t Have To. I did everything wrong. I believed because I was “smart”, I didn’t need help.

Yeah.

When it came to writing a novel, I spent four years trying to fix a train wreck. With social media, I spent two years undoing building a brand under a cutesy moniker. When it came to blogging, I blogged for a year and a half before I hit over 85 views a day because I was listening to “experts” instead of intuition. When I launched WANA International, I didn’t understand a key fundamental of life and business—Talk is cheap.

Understand the details and then you know 1) when someone is selling BS 2) you can keep others accountable 3) you will save time and money.

If we don’t know how to look for web designers, cover artists, formatters, what they should cost and what questions we should ask, we set ourselves up to be taken advantage of. We also might rely on a brand name. I know when we began teaching classes at WANA International, we chose Go To Webinar, because it supposedly was the best. That was a $1500 mistake. Their technology never worked and I refunded more than we made.

Good thing is that sometimes mistakes can lead to better things, but wouldn’t it be better to just find that better thing to begin with?

Knowledge is Power

Why are you looking for an agent? Do you know why you need one in the new paradigm? Why do you want to choose your publishing path? Why is your novel being rejected or not selling? What are the elements of a good cover and how can that impact sales? What is an author brand? What works? What is a time-suck that leads to pain, suffering and chocolate ODs?

Conferences are fabulous for connecting with experts. We recruit those we feel will offer great value, whether it is craft, business, publishing or social media. The smart writer learns from her mistakes, but the wise writer learns from the mistakes of others. Conferences connect us to people who’ve been there and can shorten our learning curve.

Every day is precious. You will never live THIS day again. It is ONE event in human history. Why not make it count? Time is a nonrenewable resource.

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 9.40.52 AM

Connection is Vital

We don’t need to know everyone and everything. We simply need to know enough people to gain advantage from The Six Degrees of Separation. I don’t know all the answers, but I don’t need to. I’ve met enough people on social media and at conferences that I likely know someone who knows the answer. OR, they can direct me to a person who has what I need.

Conferences allow us to network. We can make friends, create a support group, and even meet authors who might blurb for our books. If we are unsure of a publishing path, we can listen to others. Which agents are great? Which indie houses are worth a look? Which cover designers are professional and affordable?

Word of mouth is far more valuable than a fancy ad. I know. I spent $3000 for a web designer for her to essentially install a $100 plug-in. The designer was a fraud who knew how to dazzle and frighten with tech-speak I didn’t understand. At the time, I didn’t yet know Laird Sapir (who is a WANA and who we now trust for all web work). At the time, I had a feeling I was being taken, but was too overloaded to do more research. It was a costly mistake I will never repeat, but sadly one I could have easily avoided with the right guidance.

Jay Donovan of Tech Surgeons, WANA's Digital Dark Knight

Jay Donovan of TechSurgeons, WANA’s Digital Dark Knight

There are few lessons better learned than the ones that make us feel like a raging idiot. But, I am not too proud to tell you guys I’ve fallen for the Magic Beans. This is why I work so hard to blog and to bring you WANACon. My goal is that my mistakes offer some greater value to the writing community.

Transition from Hobbyist to Professional

Like the protagonists in our books, we too have turning points in our author journeys. A conference is our way of accepting the challenge and rising to the call. It means we are willing to invest in our dreams. We transition from a hobbyist to a professional. Professionals seek information, guidance and are unafraid to put their money where their mouth is.

Craftfest

Granted, this can be tough. I know. When I went to my first conference many years ago, I was living on Ramen an praying the lights would stay on. But I knew something was lacking and that’s why I wasn’t making any headway. That first conference changed everything and was the best investment I ever made. Something inside shifted. I walked in a wanna-be and left a pre-published author. I took myself more seriously and, as a consequence, others began taking me more seriously as well.

There are a lot of fabulous conferences out there with hardworking people putting together the best selection of experts they can recruit. I strongly recommend attending a conference this year. WANACon will never fully replace an in-person conference, but we can:

1. Be a Supplement

For years it didn’t matter if we only attended one conference a year. Publishing had barely changed in twenty years. In the Digital Age? It changes by the moment. WANACon can keep you abreast of all the shifts in the industry and keep you informed so your decisions are sound ones.

2. Be a Start

Many new writers are pinching pennies and working a full-time job. WANACon has over 20 presentations on craft, social media, business, publishing, branding, etc. We have agent and editor pitch-sessions and they are all yours to enjoy from home. Our conference is virtual and the closest thing to the real deal without a holo-deck. Other conferences might record sessions, but those cost extra. At WANACon, recordings are included so you don’t miss anything.

This WANACon does have a romance emphasis, but we are also here to help guide those who are in the NaNoWriMoWTHNow? boat.

Our conference is tailored to work around those with a job and family who might not have the luxury to drop $1000 or more and 4-7 days attending a traditional conference. Many writers are from emerging markets like Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and WANA is here to support you, too.

No airfare, hotel, babysitting or time off work. We’ve recruited talent that is just as good as any conference in the country. NYT/USA Today best-selling authors, top social media experts, successful traditionally published authors and self-published authors and more.

Completely ABSURD TSA searches NOT included.

Completely ABSURD TSA searches NOT included.

We still have Early Bird Pricing. Sign up HERE. Also, we always kick off with PajamaCon, which is FREE. You can get a sense of what the conference is like because we know are cutting edge and some of you might want to dip a digital toe in the digital waters. WANA is reinventing the conference for The Digital Age. PajamaCon is also how we ease you into what to expect and make sure any technical issues can be sorted so you can enjoy WANACon worry-free.

Also, the FABULOUS Jami Gold has more details about WANACon AND a raffle for you to win back the cost of admission, so check out HER BLOG!

Whether you choose WANACon or another conference, I cannot recommend conferences enough. Take that vital step to invest in yourself and your dream. Save time by making better choices and connecting with people who can help.

What are your thoughts? Have you never attended a conference? Did your first conference change your outlook and attitude? What were some changes you witnessed in yourself after going to a conference? I HIGHLY recommend WANACon (of course) but the Dallas Fort Worth Writers’ Workshop Conference is one of my all-time favorites. I also love RWA conferences, even the mini-cons. Cannot recommend ANYTHING RWA enough. What are some conferences you’d recommend?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

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  1. #1 by grfrazier on January 28, 2014 - 12:05 pm

    I attended the Writers Digest/Screenwriters World Conference in LA this past August. It was an awesome experience with ample learning opportunities. This year I’m probably going to stay closer to home (Nashville) and attend the Killer Nashville Conference for thriller/mystery writers.

    • #2 by Jennifer Rose on January 28, 2014 - 12:59 pm

      This was helpful! I was considering the next WD/LA conference, but It’s so costly…I thought staying at my sister’s in Pasadena would help, but not with a 1-2 hour public transportation each way as part of the deal…

  2. #3 by Lisa Hall-Wilson on January 28, 2014 - 12:09 pm

    I make a point of going to at least one in-person conference a year (more than that when I can afford it) and I’ve never come away thinking it was wasted money. But I don’t go only to sell books or a manuscript – I go to connect with other writers and learn as much as I can. And help as many others as I can. That mentality has always served me well.
    One day I’m going to make it to Thrillerfest – it’s on my writer’s bucket list. :D

    • #4 by Gry Ranfelt on January 28, 2014 - 12:27 pm

      What’s Thrillerfest? :) I’m coming to the US this may/june so I’m hoping there might be some conference in the North Carolina general area that I might attend XD

  3. #5 by Diana Beebe on January 28, 2014 - 12:15 pm

    My first conference was DFWCon 2012. Even before I met you that weekend, I was already blown away by how much I needed to learn. I think I was completely fried by the time I got home. I’m still learning, but I’m loving it as much as I loved grad school. WANACon is high on my list now–thank you for all you do!

  4. #6 by mandyevebarnett on January 28, 2014 - 12:17 pm

    I absolutely agree – writing conferences are a wealth of opportunity. My writing group hosts one every year. http://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/event/nine-ninety-nine-writing-all-ages-conference
    Skills can be refined, learnt or discovered.

  5. #7 by Janet Salbert on January 28, 2014 - 12:17 pm

    I have yet to go to a conference but this post has sold me. I work full time and have a small book ready to publish and just started researching how and where to start.

  6. #8 by cynthiagrstacey on January 28, 2014 - 12:19 pm

    I would love to attend a conference. Any recomendations for Canadian ones? Specifically Ontario?

  7. #9 by ontyrepassages on January 28, 2014 - 12:23 pm

    What a coincidence, I’m attending an online conference in February. ;)

  8. #10 by Gry Ranfelt on January 28, 2014 - 12:26 pm

    I loved WANA Con. Sadly this time around it’s placed so that I can’t attend Saturday at all :( I’m arguing with myself about whether I should just attend Thursday and Friday and live with the recordings for Sunday hangovers, lol.

  9. #11 by Paige on January 28, 2014 - 12:35 pm

    I have been looking into attending my first conference this year, but the search for the best conference to attend is overwhelming! Do you have any advice for authors writing in the SciFi/Fantasy genre on which conferences would be best for a first time? Thank you for such an informative blog! I always look forward to your posts!

  10. #12 by Pamela King Cable on January 28, 2014 - 12:42 pm

    Do the WANA conference. Don’t waste your airfare, hotel, babysitting or time off work traveling across the country like I did for years and years. I wore out two cars attending writing conferences from one side of the country to the other. Way back when everybody said you had to do it to succeed in this business. I made TON of connections. Agents, editors, writers, published authors, bestselling authors, you name it … I became close friends with folks who I really liked, and thought they might just throw me a bone at some time in the future. Invitations to agents weddings, etc … yep, I did succeeded in “connections.”

    I also believe we’re looking at our social media connections the same way. Hoping, praying, believing social media is the “key to success.” It’s not.

    Work on your writing. Study, write, study, and write some more. Do the WANA conference. Online conferences. And don’t waste any more time or money on writing conferences.

  11. #13 by Susanne Leist on January 28, 2014 - 1:12 pm

    I had self-published and then had my book edited. Self-publishing was my first mistake. The edit had only corrected grammar and punctuation. Three edits later, I’m now working on another large group of edits. I’ve used the advice of fellow authors, articles, and an editor on goodreads.com. I don’t feel like my book will ever be good enough. It sells about 20-30 Kindles and Nooks a month. I could use the help of a conference.
    Susanne Leist

  12. #14 by Vicki Johnson on January 28, 2014 - 1:35 pm

    I love online conferences! I’m a single working parent and the time and expense of traditional conferences are off-putting. That being said, I’m heading to LA for the SCBWI conference this summer – as god is my witness!! (fist pump)

  13. #15 by orthodoxmom3 on January 28, 2014 - 1:39 pm

    Krisitn- I love your blog… I gain valuable insight from it… wish I had time to read it each day. I’m working on figuring out a schedule to let myself read the blogs I get the most from and to write daily! I did attend 2 SCBWI conferences in the past… won’t make it to the winter one this year but am already hoping for next year!

    • #16 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 28, 2014 - 1:41 pm

      I’m probably going to put them together in book for for like .99 so people can just read like a book if they want what they missed out on all in one place. I appreciate your effort a LOT, though ((HUGS)).

      • #17 by orthodoxmom3 on January 28, 2014 - 1:55 pm

        That would be incredibly awesome!! :)

        • #18 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 28, 2014 - 1:57 pm

          Was thinking I’d break into social media, craft, then just fun. On my To Do List, LOL.

      • #19 by abdul j. on January 29, 2014 - 12:48 am

        That is BRILLIANT! I’m suddenly strapped for cash and this convention just seems worth the convenience alone. Would be great to buy the book as some sort of consolation prize lol.

  14. #20 by sharonhughson on January 28, 2014 - 3:24 pm

    The fall WANACon was fun, motivational and educational. I’m not attending this one because I want to pitch an agent and editor at my next conference and I don’t have a readable draft of my novel ready. Maybe by May, so I’m saving for a conference near my home this summer.
    Do WANACon. It was an inexpensive way to learn more about writing and meet some fantastic people.

  15. #21 by rmaher28 on January 28, 2014 - 3:46 pm

    thank you for sharing this wonderful insight, will be on the look out for confrences in Australia, and online ones as well.

  16. #22 by Stephanie Scott on January 28, 2014 - 4:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing, I’ll check out the links. Maybe dip in a digital toe…

    I’m lucky I’m nearby an RWA regional conference (Spring Fling, northern Chicago suburbs April 25-26). I attended in 2012, with no intention of joining Romance Writers, but I met a lot of friendly, welcoming people who said over and over, join us for a meeting and we’ll help you. And they did. I did the national conference last summer, which was an experience for sure, but I will probably stick to local conferences for the next few years.

  17. #23 by Denise Drespling on January 28, 2014 - 5:11 pm

    Wow, this looks amazing! I’ll see if I can scrape together the funds :)

  18. #24 by jbiggar2013 on January 28, 2014 - 7:07 pm

    Reblogged this on jbiggarblog and commented:
    WANAcon 2014 writers conference, join me :)

  19. #25 by Kristen Luciani on January 28, 2014 - 7:24 pm

    I never considered attending a conference. It always seemed like a lot of work – with a full time job, kids and travel, It always seemed easier to connect online and read books. Now I understand the importance of conferences and I’m definitely going to find one for myself!

  20. #26 by Debra on January 28, 2014 - 8:04 pm

    Thanks, Kristen! Well written…
    I have never attended a conference–I’ve looked at a few, but either they interfere with other plans or I get cold feet (and cold sweats with some of the requirements), wondering if it would really do me any good for the bucks I’d have to lay out.

    I have one book published and did everything wrong (all the wrong choices, but was stuck with them)–a definite learning experience.

    I’m contemplating pulling it and re-writing it, but that will have to wait till I get the second one published (doing things a bit better this time!)

    I keep promising myself I’ll find a good one to attend…maybe WANNA… ;)

  21. #28 by Nicole Grabner on January 28, 2014 - 9:18 pm

    Oh man, I’ll never forget my first conference. It was equal parts humiliating and exciting…it changed my life forever. At the time, I would stay say that writing was my “hobby,” but I left that conference with a new-found confidence and outlook about what I wanted in life. I would also like to say, that the MOST influential, helpful, and informative class that I took at that conference was none other than our very own, Kristen Lamb’s “BBT Class.” (If you haven’t taken this class, I would highly recommend it!)

    For those of you out there who haven’t had this experience yet, digital or otherwise, I would just like to say that you won’t regret it at all. Not only do you attend life changing classes, but you meet life changing friends. And in our solitary career, having those connections and friendships are worth their weight in GOLD! :)

  22. #29 by Sarah Allen on January 28, 2014 - 9:32 pm

    Very timely post. I just need a couple more paychecks and I’m buying my attendance at the Las Vegas Writers Conference in April. So, so excited!!

  23. #30 by Diana Staresinic-Deane on January 28, 2014 - 11:14 pm

    I’m at a transitional point in my writing career where I’m self-published and doing well but still have lots room to grow as a writer and a businesswoman. However, I’ve outgrown the beginners’ conferences in our region. I’ve spent the past few months trying to identify what I need now in my career and where to find it.

  24. #31 by Sherrey Meyer on January 29, 2014 - 1:35 am

    My first conference was a small one in the coastal town of Yachats, OR. I had no idea what to expect of Them (the presenters) or of myself. In the end, I came away after three days knowing I was a writer and a damned good one, according to those who critiqued my work, and I could even win a contest during the conference! I was stoked and haven’t stopped working toward publishing my memoir since (that was a year ago the end of February). My hope is to have my MS ready for toting with me to a local conference here in Portland in August where I’ll have the opportunity to meet editors, agents, and publishers face-to-face. Lots of decisions to be made in this book business and each time I visit here, I feel as if I been to a workshop considering all the great info you continue to feed to us.

    I’m off now to look into WANACon and see what’s up with the PJs. :)

  25. #32 by theauthorevanramspott on January 29, 2014 - 2:04 am

    I wanna do WANACon, but I have budget for just one conference this year and it turned out to be in my back yard – SCWC in February. I went last year and learned a lot. I also went to WDWest last year and learned less. Pick your conferences wisely.

  26. #33 by Marilyn Hudson Tucker on January 29, 2014 - 6:41 am

    I went to several workshops and conferences last year. I recommend Writers’ League of Texas and DFWCon. Both are well run and extremely helpful. Best of all, I got to meet the wonderful Kristen Lamb.

  27. #34 by Tamara LeBlanc on January 29, 2014 - 3:28 pm

    Conferences ROCK. I’ve gone to 8 or 9 RWA Nationals and every year I attend and work our Georgia conference Moonlight and Magnolias. I get so much out of them, the workshops, the friends I make, the networking and book signing and wine…yeah, I love knocking back a Pinot or 3 in the bars with my buds at those things.
    I’m not sure I’ll be able to attend this year (Will you be there since it’s in your own Texas?). Dusty is still battling the tumor and money is very tight. But I’m gonna try my very, very best to do WANACon! I think it’s a FABULOUS idea!!!

    Have a great Wednesday :)
    Tamara

  28. #35 by Leanne Ross on January 30, 2014 - 12:26 pm

    I attended my first (and only) writer’s conference 12 years ago this month. It was the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Winter Conference in New York. HUGE event. I was a fledgling writer out of my shell for a short time and I wanted to experience what it was like to rub elbows with other writers and huge rock stars in the the Children’s Book World.

    The book I was writing was still in rough draft form about a tiny boy who didn’t know he was the prince in a below ground fairy kingdom. I went to a few agent talks and to hear from some of the publishing houses. Then I attended a very unorganized critique session. We were all supposed to be able to share our writing, but it turned out there was only time for one. Being the brave sort, I volunteered.

    Before I get into what happened, let me say that I always thought I was a natural storyteller. My belief was that since I got nothing but praise from my teachers, professors and others who read or heard anything I composed, I could write.

    Well that critique session broke me. I’d never felt so insecure about something that I created. I don’t know what I was expecting, but whatever it was…it wasn’t that. The negative words flew at me so fast, I couldn’t even take them all in before the hall was cleared to go to the Keynote Speaker’s luncheon (at the time I remember I was so excited to hear this person speak, but I can’t even tell you who it was or what they said). I have tears running down my cheeks right now as I recall the moment.

    I abandoned my story, thinking both it and my writing must be crap, and didn’t write another thing for six years. That’s when I had a story idea that pulled me so hard that I had to sit back down at my keyboard to get it out of my head. Now I am writing my fourth novel (YA adventure story with love interest – tough girls with tough skin – like me!) and they just keep getting better.

    I am openly looking for critique partners now.

    Please enter my name into the hat for attending the conference (I have also linked this post on my blog for a second shot – see http://readfaced.wordpress.com/ ).

    Like I said above, I am the brave sort. ; )

    Leanne Ross

  29. #36 by Linda Williams Stirling on January 30, 2014 - 10:37 pm

    I’ve only managed to attend one conference, years ago in Palm Springs. I have the most wonderful memories of that experience. Not only did I learn a lot, I met a big group of people just like me. How wonderful to sit and talk and share our experiences. Plus, there were some big names there, who turned out to be amazingly gracious people. I met Ray Bradbury and Micky Spillane, who signed books and posed for pictures, plus many more excellent authors. I hope to repeat this experience again soon.

  30. #37 by Raani York on February 1, 2014 - 5:37 pm

    I felt like attending a writers conference this spring, but unfortunately I cannot afford it – with the flight. It sucks – I will probably have to wait until I’m back home to start doing these things. :-(
    It’s the same thing with all the wonderful online-meetings I’m invited to. I just can’t attend since most of the time when they take place, it’s in the middle of the night here. :-(

  31. #38 by saralitchfield on February 5, 2014 - 4:09 am

    Yes my first conference changed things for me – and it was the last WANACon! I met Laird and Jay after having spent over a month tearing my hair out over web design / development / hosting quotes and costs and technicalities that I just couldnae understand. I was fed much BS along the way, including a $10,000 nzd quote for a website that I really don’t think would have done all the things I would have wanted for that money (which I didn’t have anyway) – things like sing, dance, develop its own AI personality, and give me back my money :p it was great to be in a ‘room’ with likeminded people all sharing their experiences, and yes, their mistakes – and just telling the damn truth!!!!! Which is why I’m looking forward to it again :D

  32. #40 by writingale on February 20, 2014 - 9:24 pm

    Reblogged this on Radhika Meganathan and commented:
    I attend conferences, whenever I can, wherever I could find any, which is tough, given that I live in India (most of the time) and it is crazy tough to afford the flight fare from here to anywhere that hosts a decent conference. I started my career all thanks to a writing conference, and over the years, I have found that investing in a conference at right time pays off in unexpected ways. Here is an article by Kristen Lamb on why all serious writers should attend a writing conference.

  1. Why All Writers Should Attend a Writing Confere...
  2. Why All Writers Should Attend a Writing Confere...
  3. Why All Writers Should Attend a Writing Conference | Love to Live
  4. 10 Links To Inspire Love and a Larger Wordcount | Jess Witkins' Happiness Project
  5. Do I Or Don’t I? Sigh… | creationsbydjamesonsmith blog

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