Writing

This one time at a writing conference I stuck a pencil…

Today I want to talk about writing conferences. Two things to know before you go:  Are they worth the money? Will the information they provide help my writing?

Unfortunately, the only way to answer those questions is to go and find out for yourself. Everyone is different. This is just my opinion/review of the conference I attended.

San Francisco Writers’ Conference. Attended 2012, 2013, and 2014 – The first thing I will say is this. I initially loved this conference. The information I learned in 2012 and then in 2013 made me the writer I am today.

In 2012 I only took two a la carte classes. Cost: $99

  • One on how to query which is where I learned that I was a complete and total moron. I shudder to think of the query letters I sent to agents before I took this class.
  • Second class was with an NYT best-selling mystery writer. This 3-hour class taught me SO much. Story arcs, setting up plots, sub-plots, how to layout a story in general.

I left that class on a mission. A mission to complete my book and to attend next year’s conference.

In 2013 this is what the conference was about. Cost: $650 (plus $50 for the speed dating with agents)

  • Classes were geared towards basic writing methods, building your writing skills, figuring out how to tell your story.
  • I learned about POV, story structure, why backstory is bad, and the basic elements of fiction writing.
  • I sat in on panels with authors and agents speaking about the current market. The genres that were hot, what was not.
  • I was told that self-publishing was the kiss of death if you ever wanted to get an agent.
  • I went to a class on platform and building a social media presence. This was very helpful because I was clueless when it came to Twitter.
  • RL Stine spoke at the conference he was funny and so cool. And also very inspiring.
  • Bella Andre, a successful self-published author spoke about her experiences with being published and self-publishing. We were told she is the exception, not the rule.
  • At the keynote luncheon, a panel of agents sat on stage saying if you self-publish we won’t even open your manuscript. Unless – you sell 10,000 books.
  • I speed dated with agents. I pitched 6 agents. 5 of them asked me to query them.

I left this conferences with such a huge boost to my ego and a very positive outlook on my writing career. The conference takes place over President’s Day weekend which was also Valentines’ weekend. My husband and I had loads of fun and the hotel is beautiful. The next day I crashed my car. I spun out in the rain and hit a light pole, it fell on me and totaled my car. It was a very scary and humbling moment in my life. I felt like the universe was trying to tell me something. It turns out, I’m just a really bad driver.

In 2014 this is what the conference was about. Cost: $680

  • Classes on how to use Smashwords, in fact, they were a sponsor of the conference. They spoke about their website and how to use it to self-publish.
  • I attended a panel of self-published authors that said don’t listen to the agents in the other room. You can publish your book online and be successful without them!
  • I listened to a panel of agents and publishers say do not listen to those self-published authors. I guarantee you they are trying to get an agent at this conference.
  • Every other workshop I attended was just like the one I went to the year before.
  • At the keynote luncheon a panel of agents, most of the same ones from the previous year sat on stage and said – We’d love to work with you and help you decide if you should self-publish or traditionally publish. WTF?

I left this conference conflicted. I learned nothing new. Agents seemed to be turned on their head when it came to self-publishing. With the success of 50 Shades of Grey, indie authors were on the rise. During 2013-2014 indie authors like Colleen Hoover and Abbi Glines were signed to Atria Books (a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster the largest publishing house in America).

The only place you will find someone snubbing their nose at a successful self-published author today – is a room full of literary agents. Self-publishing makes their existence obsolete.

For the sake of this blog – I looked up the latest SF Writer’s Conference agenda. I didn’t find one class on actual writing. The majority of classes are focused on marketing, promotions, how to self-publishing, how to make money. Lots of classes on money, it’s all about the money. It’s almost embarrassing to read the agenda. They call it a writers conference, it should be called a “How to make money” conference. The registration is now $750!  The agent list hasn’t changed, it’s still 75% the same agents as the last 4 years. The keynote speakers are “best-selling” authors that I’ve never heard of. I looked up one of them, Heather Graham, some of her books have less Amazon reviews than mine!

My final thought on the San Francisco “Writer’s” Conference – SKIP IT! You will learn more googling than at this conference. Unless you’re all about the money, then I suggest you keep your $750 and invest it in a good editor!

One very important tip I want to pass on: At the conference, they really encouraged us to follow the agents we wanted to query on social media, specifically Twitter. So, I did. It didn’t take long to realize that I didn’t really like the agents I was so desperate to work with. They complained – a lot. Some were even writing their own novels in the genre that I was writing. (Hello, conflict of interest) A few just weren’t good people. I realized that I didn’t want someone like her to represent me or my work. She would be in charge of my future, and she was a cunt. This was the agent that all the other agents were like, “She will love your book.” Long story, short. I never queried her or any of the 5 agents that asked for my book. Nobody can represent me better than myself.

Spoiler Alert – I self-published it.

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