Money’s tight and living costs keep rising, I get that. Plus writing has never been a profession to make easy money. But recently I hear a lot about how expensive it is to attend writing conferences and festivals, many writers saying they can’t justify the expense.
My response is how can you not justify the expense? Perhaps you have a day job and it’s hard to get the time off. Yet writers whose time is flexible still resent the cost and time to attend these events.
Most professions require continued education. Why should writing be any different? In my long career I’ve had millions of words published in a variety of genres and translations but there’s always more to learn. Attending conferences and festivals lets me monitor changes in publishing, book marketing, indie publishing, and the fast-spinning world of social media. I’m also interested in other writers’ experiences. Not everything you hear at conferences and festivals shows up on social media.
The personal interactions are invaluable. We work alone a lot of the time. Getting out and “peopling” as a colleague puts it, not only renews friendships, but lets us discuss aspects of craft that don’t fit into a Facebook post or tweet.
I was reminded of these benefits at the recent Canberra Writers Festival where my agent, Linda Tate, and I presented a session at the National Library of Australia on how we work together, subtitled “how not to be screwed in 21st century publishing.”
Even savvy writers can be screwed in everything from contracts to options, advances and royalties. Before Linda became my agent twenty-plus years ago, I dodged a few bullets myself. And I can tell you, it makes a huge difference having someone else track those bullets, freeing me to focus on the writing.
As an indie, you can screw yourself unintentionally in the many details you must cover on your own account. An example is buying ISBN numbers (International Standard Book Numbers) your book’s ID in the reading world. Buying your ISBN numbers from, say, CreateSpace, can mean they are identified as the publisher instead of you. There’s a comprehensive article on ISBNs at the Self Publishing Advice Centre http://tinyurl.com/yc92hqdx This is just one of many pitfalls indies have to negotiate.
As Linda and I are based in different capital cities, preparing our session, presenting it and sharing the success afterward were benefits of being on the festival program. We outlined how we work together, very differently from most author-agent relationships. Her background is in the entertainment industry, so she isn’t inclined to submit books then wait months to hear back. Instead, she paves the submission’s way with the editor then calls to see how they’re enjoying the read.
Whether you’re traditionally or indie published, if you have an agent and they aren’t keeping up, maybe check with them about new ways you can interact. If you don’t have an agent and want one, ask them to detail how their approach can be tweaked to better serve your books.
Like conferences and festivals, agents come with a cost. However a good agent not only recoups their commission in the deals they make, but the relationship should be more beneficial overall.
Here I need to address the “it’s all right for you” syndrome. Successful authors are supposed to take in stride the cost of attending writing events. Generally we do for the benefits described here, but bear in mind that every successful author started with a first book, building our brand steadily over many years. While nothing beats writing the best book you can, mixing with writing professionals help us achieve our success, not the other way around.
As a writer do you attend festivals and writing conferences? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. They’re moderated to avoid spam but your posts go up right away if you subscribe – click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.
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Workshop Townsville : 7 October Story Magic Townsville Writers & Publishers Centre https://townsvilletickets.com.au/event/story-magic-with-valerie-parv-5096
Masterclass Canberra : 18 November Romance Writing Re-imagined ACT Writers Centre https://www.eventbrite.com/e/romance-writing-re-imagined-with-valerie-parv-tickets-35421113504?aff=Valerie