Full disclosure — I’m not a big fan of writers conferences. I don’t like sitting in a room packed with people who want more than anything exactly what I want. Of particular uselessness: listening to editors from women’s magazines who insist that their pubs differ greatly from the others, and they only consider publishing content that is extremely unique. Huh? I look at those mags, and they all seem to cover the same thing: “Walk off belly fat.” “De-Clutter your home in 5 easy steps.” “What your man really wants in bed.” I haven’t given up my dream of one day publishing in a woman’s mag, but as more and more fold, I’ve moved on.
Still, I’ll admit, writers conferences can be productive. Private meetings with editors and speed-dating type agent sessions have helped friends of mine get deals, columns, etc. I know people who’ve found communities right in those packed rooms with aloof editors and built writers groups, including the local one in my town that has given me infinite support. And one of my writer group members just scored a fiction deal with William Morrow — so every step can bring you closer to this very mystifying process.
For me, I’ve left one-on-one meetings knowing a little more about building a winning proposal, and that helped me land my first book deal with Entrepreneur Press.
My take: If you map out several goals, and are very deliberate in what you want to get out of the conference, go. But be strategic. Be prepared.