Friday, June 13, 2014

Going Indie - Conferences and Workshops- Should You?

In the shadow of a calling I found myself . . .

Wistful for my potential to be realized.

Musical Moment ~ “Velvet Show”  King of Leon

I’ve been off the blogging train for a couple of weeks basically recovering from May. May was a whirlwind of conferences and my annual girls weekend. While I was at the conferences, I had many conversations with people who had debated whether they would attend the conference this year due to cost, workshop types, travel, etc. I decided to chat about the pros and cons of attending conferences.

Keynote Speaker at NESCBWI: Laurel Snyder (She's amazing, but my pic not so much as I was live tweeting, because she is amazing.)

The early and mid-part of May I attended two conferences: the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (NESCBWI) in Springfield, MA and the Romantic Times (RT) Convention held in New Orleans this year. I love these conferences. There is nothing better than being apart of “your” community of artists who love what they do and want to share their books, art, and knowledge.

I debated whether or not to attend the NESCBWI conference this year, not because of cost or travel, but because I decided to Go Indie with my own publishing company PUG PAW PRESS.  Did the conference have what I needed? You bet it did. This year there were a number of workshops with Indie writers/publishers where I learned a ton of info on marketing, writing, book reviews, eBook formatting, ISBNs, craft, etc., and I got to meet other people contemplating Going Indie. The group was small, but it was the first year multiple workshops on this topic were offered and I believe the tide is changing for writers in all genres’ to creatively think how to reach our audiences, even the more challenging Middle Grade category which my upcoming novel THE HOPPERNOTS falls into. I felt validated. I felt that the path I have carefully chosen will be challenging and require flexibility and fearlessness, but is definitely the right choice for me. I also met and hung out with children’s writers faithfully sticking with the traditional route.

On the flip side, the RT Convention had so many Indie published authors (as well as traditionally published authors including E. L. James, Sylvia Day, Eloisa James, and Lisa Kleypas) that it felt as if I were stepping over writer’s especially the Indie-focused ones. Plus, extra benefit, the RT Conference is geared heavily toward readers, so I met and learned from readers what their interest were and how much they LOVED indie authors who now have the opportunity to write what’s in their adventurous heart’s and not what’s “hot now” or requested from their publishers. (Freedom, people!)  At RT, there was a ton of Indie workshops with a slew of people – traditionally, indie, and hybrid published, and those contemplating their publishing path. It’s definitely an experience going to two such different conferences, but well worth the time and money.

The is "The Darker Side of Thrillers"workshop at the RT Convention with (L-R) Andrew Peterson, Christopher Rice, M.J. Rose, Leo Maloney, Allison Brennan, and (my awesome friend and writer) Gennita Low.

The basis of the NESCBWI and RT conferences are the same: to network, meet your favorite authors, learn what publishers are looking for and open for submissions, meeting and learning from agents and editors, learning craft (Point of View, are you a Pantser vs. Plotter, the (hated) Query letter and Synopsis writing, Worldbuilding, listen to amazing keynote speakers and their inspiring stories, and…goodness the list of benefits go on and on and on.

But are conferences and workshops “have to do’s” to become published? No. It is not necessary, but it is valuable. If you can afford it (Cost can be from $50 - $500) and the time it takes (these particular conferences went from 3-6 days away from family and home) then I say do it. However, there are many resources online that are free or for a nominal fee where you can obtain great information (IndieRecon.Org, for instance). The biggest benefit of conferences and workshops is the connections to others you can make. You can meet your next best friend, your critique partner or group, or even make a connection with an agent or editor if you pitch your book idea just right.

Attending conferences/workshops provides valuable opportunities to network, learn tips and tricks on craft, give you ideas on making your own work bigger, better, and more powerful, as well as infusing your energy and intention as an artist. Seriously. I couldn’t sleep for a week after attending NESCBWI as my mind and muse would not shut down for all the ideas I received and implemented.

If you can’t attend either, read, read, read…or watch videos. You all know I am a huge fan of Harold Underdown. Check out his website, become friends with him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or anywhere else he’s online and socially active. He attends conferences and holds workshops in person and online and is a whiz on answering all kinds of industry questions and he is generous with his knowledge. He also has links to others in the industry who graciously share information. Or simply, let Google and Youtube be your best friend.

In the end, the answer is: No, it is not necessary to attend conferences or workshops, but give it a try at least once so that you can see what is offered and determine if they can benefit you.

Do you attend conferences/workshops? What benefits have your received?  Or not?

Good luck and Good Writing,
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