Back to associations, in the last Monday Marketing topic, we discussed how most associations will hold a conference or convention. Some of your smaller associations might host a conference. The venue would be smaller and the topics for discussion would usually be very specific. Let's say a conference on how to edit your manuscript and write a query. Yes, this could be combined in a workshop too.
A convention is going to be much bigger. You're going to have authorities there to do breakout sessions on many different topics. There will be keynote speakers and usually some kind of an awards banquet. For authors, these conventions might also host opportunities for you to pitch to agents and editors. There are often fun events to help the attendees mix, mingle, and network. And of course there are usually private parties put on by some of the bigger sponsors. (Again, with regards to authors, this might be given by publishers.)
One set back with conventions is cost. Most of the time these conventions travel from big city to big city annually. You have the cost of a hotel room (and usually a minimum of a four day stay,) travel, food costs, and then there is the convention fees. These usually are in the $200-$600 range. If you are a member of the association giving the convention you are likely to have a reduced admission cost.
The benefits of these conventions certainly outweigh the costs! If you can be a bit social and perhaps step out of your comfort zone you will be emerged in a whole new world. By simply sitting at a table full of people you don't know you are opening yourself up to at least ten other people who might have insight you need or you might have something they need. You meet all sorts of authors from newbies to New York Times bestsellers. I often think about the day that I sat down at a table with three Southern women who were laughing and having a great time. They were so much fun and it was so nice to get to know them. Then I found out that one of them was up for an award and I did go buy her book. It was phenomenal! A fan was born. Yes, how awesome was it to meet New York Times bestselling author Karen White before she had the title! An honor for me, that's for sure--especially since I was aspiring at the time.
I've walked out on a few classes, you can't win them all. But author Kelley St. John gave a workshop on self-promotion that I will never forget. To this day, some five years later, I still remember almost all of her information, I utilize it, and now I teach it. (I do believe in that class I met a writer from a daytime soap opera who had an Emmy! See you never know!)
On the flips side of this, you're going to attend conventions you walk away from wishing you'd saved your money. Watch for the first years. In fact, the first five years of a convention can be iffy. Usually the coordinator has decided they can put on a smaller venue convention, but usually the demands of the attendees are greater than what is coordinated.
I have twice now attended conventions where there wasn't enough room, the food was not right, items were not delivered. There is always an assistant taking the brunt of the complaints flooding in. The last convention I attended, each and every event was over an hour late. I walked away not learning anything, having taken a week off of work, and having traveled to attend. Now what happens to your networking? Well, you find some serious character flaws in people when they get stressed out. They are negative, non supportive, and you don't get a lot of connections. But if you're lucky enough to attend a good convention that won't be the issue. So look at the track record of a convention. If it's in its infancy, know that going in and expect issues.
On the networking...this is invaluable! I have not only met published authors but my friend Gretchen Galway, an amazing bestselling author, wasn't published when I met her, and neither was I. We were able to banter about the process and get frustrated. I got published and then one day we were bouncing around the bestsellers lists together. How fun is that? I met bestselling authors, I got to sit in a room with one of my idols in writing, Nora Roberts! Debbie Macomber walked across the room and introduced herself to me. Like I mentioned before, I met a soap opera writer, and the bloggers! They are not to be looked beyond. Make friends with the bloggers.
Some of the smaller conventions will also be author/readers events. These are great opportunities for book lovers to rub elbows with those who love their work. And it's a great place to get a good feel for what they're reading now.
How do you get the most out of these events? Plan.
When you register you should be given an itinerary of events and classes. Plan you stay and decide what you're going learn. Are you in need of query help? How about self-publishing? Here's a hint too...attend one class that has nothing to do with anything you need. You will be amazed at what you take away from that class.
Sit at tables where you don't know anyone. Shake lots of hand and take lots of business cards. Eat a meal with someone just looking at the menu. They are probably as lost as you are. Regardless, keep your mind open.
Take notes. This is education you're paying for. Meet the people on both sides of you in any seminar. They might be the person to change you're life.
Be prepared to introduce yourself, hand over a business card, maybe even have your 30 second pitch ready. Again, you never know who you're going to meet.
Don't bombard authors, editors, or agents. They have processes to acquire their next talent. You knocking on their hotel room door will likely give you a boot to the curb. But hand them your card and introduce yourself. They are there to meet you, just not in the dark alley!
If you can afford one convention a year I say it is a must to advance your career. If they are the smaller, local conventions, just keep an open mind that they might have a hiccup, but really nothing in life is hiccup free...in a smaller setting we just notice more.
Most of all have fun. Because why be a author if you can't have fun doing it!
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Bestselling Author Bernadette Marie is known for building families readers want to be part of. Her series The Keller Family has graced bestseller charts since its release in 2011, along with her other series and single title books. The married mother of five sons promises Happily Ever After always…and says she can write it, because she lives it.
When not writing, Bernadette Marie is shuffling her sons to their many events—mostly hockey—and enjoying the beautiful views of the Colorado Rocky Mountains from her front step. She is also an accomplished martial artist with a second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do.
A chronic entrepreneur, Bernadette Marie opened her own publishing house in 2011, 5 Prince Publishing, so that she could publish the books she liked to write and help make the dreams of other aspiring authors come true too.
Bernadette Marie began writing at the age of thirteen and submitted her first manuscript at sixteen. Just as any aspiring author has learned, the publishing world is full of rejection. So how does an author find readers and allies before they have a book? Self-promotion! Bernadette Marie shares her experiences in building a name for herself before her first book was ever published.