Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Conference Goal for First Timers

I don’t think seeing a picture of the Swiss Alps is the same as being there.

I don’t believe watching the Superbowl on TV is the same experience as sitting in the stadium immersed in the roar of the crowd.

And reading about swimming is not the same as paddling around a crystal blue lagoon.

I thought I understood publishing. I’d perused numerous brochures and figured writing conferences weren't much different than the conferences I'd been to for years in my day job. Just a bunch of information I could learn less expensively from reading books. Then I went to my first writing conference.

Wow. I quickly discovered Jim be highly ignorant.

A conference will baptize you into the world of publishing like no book or blog ever could. You'll come away inspired and encouraged. You'll feel like a teacup in front of a fire hose, but that's a good thing. You'll soak up a ton of wonderful wisdom that will advance your career, as well as meet potential lifelong friends.

Let's talk about those friends for a moment

If you're coming to the Florida Christian Writers Conference to sell your project, don’t. Your goal should be to meet people. Not get a contract. Seriously.

As Randy Ingermanson likes to say, “Think contacts, not contracts.” He’s right. And not just contact with editors, agents, and faculty members. At most conferences, I see writers scramble to hob knob with everyone on faculty, while ignoring the fascinating conferees all around them.

Relationships are the conduit to success in any business. Relationships with everyone. The pub world is no different.

My first conference

On the way to my first conference I rode in the airport shuttle bus with a husband and wife from Montana. Warm people. Lots of laughter. Fun questions were thrown back and forth.

By the time we arrived at the conference I felt like I’d made two new friends. But I was so brand-spankin’ new to the world of publishing it was halfway through the weekend before I realized this lady was a multi-published, influential author.

Three days after the conference she volunteered to read some of my writing. A day after that she said she wanted to recommend me to her uber-agent.

Let me be clear

The moral of that story isn't, "Make friends with everyone because they might help further your career!" The moral is relationship. This author has become a dear friend. Yes, the intro to her agent was wonderful, but the gold is an eternal relationship with this lady and her husband.

In other words, if you believe God is in control, then believe God is in control. Just meet people. Don't try to make things happen at the conference. Don't try to maneuver and manipulate. Trust Him. If He knows every hair on your head, He's figured out who you need to meet, and just as important, who you shouldn't meet. He's the most talented appointment coordinator you'll ever know.

If you’re a veteran, tell us about your first conference experience.

What was good? What wasn't? What one piece of advice do you wish you'd been given before your first conference?


  1. My first writing conference was my best!!!Only because I discovered people who thought as I thought, who talked and wrote the things I wanted to write and encouraged me to do the same. Florida Christian Writers' Conference is where Dan Penwell taught me about a book proposal and he introduced me to his wife who is a wonderful friend. My Kindred Heart Writers on-line critique group began at the conference. My first book was sold at the conference. My room-mate and friend, Elaine Creasman has invited me into her writing group. It isn't the publishing contacts that keep me going back, it is the friend I hope to see and the new friend I hope to make this year. FCWC is one of the highlights of my year. I am anticipating another wonderful experience,

  2. I should have mentioned that Billie Wilson does a fantastic job and one reason I had such a great first experience is because of the friendship that happened between Billie and I. A wonderful woman who does such a good job putting the conference together.


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