Should Indie Writers Attend Conferences?


My Favorite Ride at Rest

I’m plugging away at my next novel.

OK, I admit 400 words today is hardly plugging, but this is Woodward Dream Cruise time around here and the rumble of so many classic-car monster engines, combined with the gleam of so much clearcoat lacquer, has my head throbbing too much to write.

Still, the question remains. Is there really a value for an indie author at a writers’ conference?

Writing conferences have long been a place to which aspiring writers thronged. I admit to attending them myself, listening to editors, agents and writers alike dispense marketing advice and publishing wisdom (used here in the broadest possible sense of that word).

I have yet to line up for a pitch session to run a book proposal past an agent or editor hoping lightning will strike … but, who knows? There’s always next time. That sort of thing may be considered de rigueur for writers looking to land a contract with a big publisher, but what about the indie author?

Writing conferences can cost hundreds of dollars, not counting hotel, food and transportation. Is it really worth your hard-earned dollars and precious time just to be with fellow writers, editors and agents at a hotel, college or other venue?

My short answer (and, indeed, my long one) is a resounding yes!

Writing conferences can offer far more than just pitch sessions and editor/agent panels. They usually have a well-stocked schedule of workshops and panels on all sorts of writing topics; from putting emotion into your fiction, plotting, writing dialogue, to building believable characters.

At my local annual conference, the Rochester Writers Conference, arranged by local Michigan travel writer Michael Wylie, there are panel and workshop tracks on writing both fiction and non-fiction.

Over the years, craft workshops there have ranged from presentations followed by Q&A, to writing exercises where, if you wished, you could share what you wrote with your fellow attendees. There was even a session (which I thoroughly enjoyed) on writing lyrics for music.

Even if you’ve read a number of books on fiction writing, these workshops can still help your understanding of how a story works. Of course, writing well isn’t just honing your craft, learning useful techniques, and tips on plotting or characterization. It’s also about finding inspiration and facing the blank page.

Panels and workshops today can be surprising, with all sorts of indie publishing topics being offered, covering things like promotion, marketing, using social media, search engine optimization, building a career as a self-published writer, designing an eBook, etc.

There is a growing recognition that indie publishing is another way to reach readers and possibly make a living (I haven’t found that particular solution … but so far, thank goodness, I don’t have to).

If nothing else, connecting with other writers is one of the biggest benefits from attending a conference. It’s a place to network, share stories, find possible critique groups and realize you’re not alone in your passion. It can be a boost to your confidence just admitting publically “yes, I’m an indie writer.”

It also gives you a chance to promote your own work (wink). Just be prepared to listen to the other indies promoting theirs.

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