By: Joel Quevillon
A writing conference is one of the greatest places to advance your writing career. For more than 20 years the Pikes Peak Writers Conference has put together a slate that will strengthen your skills in the craft of writing and expand your knowledge of the publishing industry. And that’s just the sessions.
One of the greatest benefits of a conference, such as PPWC, is something you will not find on the schedule or listed in the brochure. Networking.
It’s all about that old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
There will be hundreds of writers in attendance at this year’s conference, just like you. Your backgrounds may be similar or different, but we’re all putting words on paper, creating worlds, and telling stories. Some have more experience, some have less. But this writing journey is one you can’t go solo. You need critique partners, beta readers and people, who understand, to provide encouragement. Take the time to meet others who are writing in your genre or live in the same area. You don’t have to become best friends to make your relationship beneficial to both of you. We need people we can trust in our writing corner. A conference is a great place to build your team.
These creative minds have experience and firsthand knowledge they can share with you on your journey toward publication. Traditional, Indie or Hybrid all have unique twists and turns. Take the time to talk to these authors about their path to publication. You might be debating the pros and cons of a publication contract right now or still waiting to finish that novel. By making an author connection at conference you’ll have a person who can provide the advice you need at the moment you need it.
Acquiring Editors and Agents
For those of you looking at traditional publishing these special attendees could hold the key to your future. They are not gods or superheroes; they’re people with really cool jobs. Don’t be scared to discuss the industry and your projects. Talk to them, not at them. If you want to lower your anxiety, go introduce yourself to an editor or agent who doesn’t represent what you write (just for practice). You’ll find out they’re just normal people… well, as normal as anyone in this business. And guess what, when you see that same editor/agent later in the day talking to an editor/agent in your genre…it makes the introductions so much smoother.
Guess what? They’re people too. They’ve just sold more books than you. Which means they have an amazing amount of knowledge they can share. And some pretty cools stories about their writing careers. Try to keep your fan geek calm and enjoy the conversation.
Most of our staff and several of our volunteers have been attending conferences for years. If you have questions or concerns just grab one of them. Need to know where a specific room is? Need to find that pitch session? Where’s the hidden bathroom? Or maybe you’d like a little assistance with an introduction with that certain agent? The PPW staff and volunteers are there to help you enjoy your conference.
Networking is a business term
It really is. And this is a business. It’s entertainment. It’s educational. It’s artistic. The publishing industry is many things, including a billion-dollar business. In all your interactions with people (aka networking) remember to act accordingly. Be courteous. Don’t be pushy. Be gracious. Don’t be all about yourself. Be friendly. There are times to talk about your work. And there are times not to talk about your work. Be aware of your surroundings and the flow of conversation. You’ll get the chance to promote yourself and your novel when the timing is right. And remember… people might be trying to network with you, yeah you. If all you do is talk about yourself, you’ll be missing out on the opportunities to engage with some great people.
There are several great times to meet people at conference. What is one of the most social things people do? Break bread together. You’ll have plenty of time to meet and talk to people during the meals. Grab a seat at the table of your choice. Introduce yourself and get ready for the question…“what do you write?”
People also drink together. Otherwise known as BarCon. Whether you like wine, beer or a martini—or prefer non-alcoholic beverages, hanging out at the hotel bar and lobby after dinner is a great place to connect with people in a casual atmosphere. The stress of the day is washing away. Your mind isn’t trying to take in every word of the guest speaker. Sit back, relax, be yourself.
If you have trouble starting conversations or are a bit shy…make a list of four to six questions or topics you can bring up when meeting new people—your personal “ice breaker” if you will. For us introverts, remember to set time aside to recharge, we can’t be “on” every minute of every day. Conference can be a whirlwind of fun and people. Get ready for some prime networking.
The person you meet at lunch on Friday, might be the person who introduces you to your future spouse… wait, wrong blog… introduces you to your next critique partner. Networking isn’t about one-to-one connections, but about placing yourself in the interconnections of your writing tribe. That friend-of-a-friend really could be the person you need on your writing journey. One thing to remember, networking doesn’t always show its value immediately. What if in the end the editor/agent you meet doesn’t want your current novel? It could be the next book she wants, and you have an “in” because she’ll remember you from conference. Or there could be a magical referral to another agent.
Get connected and engage with others at conference. You never know how many doors may open. It could be the greatest benefit to your writing career.
About the Writer: Joel Quevillon’s first Pikes Peak Writers Conference was in 2008, and he volunteered for the 2013 and 2014 conferences to support A/V needs. He has judged the Pikes Peak Writers Contest numerous times. Joel writes speculative fiction, which gives him the opportunity to touch several genres. He got serious about writing after a dinner conversation with two authors in 2007 and has been at the keyboard ever since. Hiking 14ers, fly fishing and college football are the major distracters to his writing. Joel has spent most of the last 20 years in some form of journalism or communications position. Joel has degrees in journalism and management from the University of Arkansas. (Woo Pig Sooie!) He lives on the other side of Pikes Peak. Twitter @Joel__Q