I recently returned from the CYA Conference in Brisbane, and it was fun filled, inspiring and fruitful.
Fun filled because I got to catch up with so many wonderful writer friends, and make new ones. Networking and making industry connections is invaluable for a writer. It helps you find out about opportunities and provides great support when your confidence is flagging.
CYA was also inspiring because I picked up tips about writing, publishing and marketing from the speakers at the conference, and because hearing about other writer’s successes and projects is so energising.
But just as important, because conferences cost money, it was fruitful. I had the opportunity to present my work to publishers and agents and even without all the other added benefits, this alone made the trip to Brisbane worthwhile.
WHY IT PAYS TO PRESENT YOUR WORK TO PUBLISHERS AND AGENTS FACE-TO-FACE
The advantages of presenting your work to a publisher or agent in person can’t be underestimated.
- When you send a manuscript to the slush pile, you rarely get feedback. The feedback I received at CYA came in different forms – some written on the manuscript itself – some verbal – all useful.
I found out for instance that one publisher liked my writing but the project I submitted clashed with one they already had on their list. A slush pile rejection probably wouldn’t have told me this – I would have been left wondering if the rejection was because either the writing or project weren’t strong enough.
Face-to-face feedback gives you so much more to work with. Although the project I submitted prior to the conference wasn’t of interest to a publisher, I had the chance to speak with them about another project I was working on, and received a request for that project.
- You have the opportunity to make a connection with that publisher or agent so you get some idea of what it would be like to work with them, and they are able to make the same assessment about you.
- You have the opportunity to make a positive impression on a publisher or agent so that when you send work in they know who you are – you’re not just one of the anonymous thousands who submit manuscripts to them.
- You have a chance to talk to publishers and agents about their views of what’s hot or what’s not. This can help you decide whether to shelve a manuscript for the time being or whether now is the right time to bring one out of the bottom draw and revive it.
- It makes you realise that in spite of any doom and gloom about the state of the publishing industry …
… Publishers are still looking for great books and new authors.
Conferences cost money so they can be difficult to get to. Here are some things I do/have done to make them affordable.
- Be a conference volunteer. This usually means that you don’t have to pay the conference fee – and you often get to meet the presenting authors and publishers during the course of the event so it’s a great networking opportunity. You will need to pay for any pitching sessions.
- Interview the presenters and write articles for magazines or online publications (preferably ones who pay). Years ago I funded my Reading Matters Conference fee by interviewing international authors, Meg Rosoff, Jacqueline Wilson and John Boyne and getting articles about them published. Apart from the financial benefits it was a fun and very inspiring experience.
- Apply for funding through organisations like CAL (Copyright Agency Limited) and SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators)
- Try and put aside $10 a week – even if it means sacrificing a favourite weekly treat, pedicure, dog shampoo, takeaway coffee etc.
- At Christmas, Birthdays etc, if loved ones want to give you a present, ask for money to put towards a writer’s conference.
- Have a market stall and sell things you don’t need/want. E-bay’s another possible avenue for fundraising.
I CAN’T GET TO CONFERENCES BECAUSE OF FAMILY COMMITMENTS
Having young children or other dependants makes it very hard to get away for a weekend conference.
So start small. I recently went to a Literary Speed Dating Event at the Victorian Writer’s Centre. It cost $30 and went for two hours. From that event I received requests for materials from two publishers I would love to work with.
I hope you’ve found my conference tips helpful. If you have other tips, please feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.
Hope to catch you at a conference somewhere sometime soon 🙂
Thanks to CYA for a great conference and for use of the photos – and to Peter Allert photographer extraordinaire