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By Kristen Lamb

 

Writing conferences are extraordinarily valuable. We work in a creative field and sure, we can sit at a keyboard and write a book. But, without training and guidance, we can make our path to successful publishing far longer than it might have been with outside expert help. We open ourselves to learning by trial and error, which can cost time, money and be a real ego beating.

I joke that I should have called my social media book, I Did All The Dumb Stuff So You Don’t Have To. I did everything wrong. I believed because I was “smart”, I didn’t need help.

Yeah.

When it came to writing a novel, I spent four years trying to fix a train wreck. With social media, I spent two years undoing building a brand under a cutesy moniker. When it came to blogging, I blogged for a year and a half before I hit over 85 views a day because I was listening to “experts” instead of intuition. When I launched WANA International, I didn’t understand a key fundamental of life and business—Talk is cheap.

Understand the details and then you know 1) when someone is selling BS 2) you can keep others accountable 3) you will save time and money.

If we don’t know how to look for web designers, cover artists, formatters, what they should cost and what questions we should ask, we set ourselves up to be taken advantage of. We also might rely on a brand name. I know when we began teaching classes at WANA International, we chose Go To Webinar, because it supposedly was the best. That was a $1500 mistake. Their technology never worked and I refunded more than we made.

Good thing is that sometimes mistakes can lead to better things, but wouldn’t it be better to just find that better thing to begin with?

Knowledge is Power

Why are you looking for an agent? Do you know why you need one in the new paradigm? Why do you want to choose your publishing path? Why is your novel being rejected or not selling? What are the elements of a good cover and how can that impact sales? What is an author brand? What works? What is a time-suck that leads to pain, suffering and chocolate ODs?

Conferences are fabulous for connecting with experts. We recruit those we feel will offer great value, whether it is craft, business, publishing or social media. The smart writer learns from her mistakes, but the wise writer learns from the mistakes of others. Conferences connect us to people who’ve been there and can shorten our learning curve.

Every day is precious. You will never live THIS day again. It is ONE event in human history. Why not make it count? Time is a nonrenewable resource.

Connection is Vital

We don’t need to know everyone and everything. We simply need to know enough people to gain advantage from The Six Degrees of Separation. I don’t know all the answers, but I don’t need to. I’ve met enough people on social media and at conferences that I likely know someone who knows the answer. OR, they can direct me to a person who has what I need.

Conferences allow us to network. We can make friends, create a support group, and even meet authors who might blurb for our books. If we are unsure of a publishing path, we can listen to others. Which agents are great? Which indie houses are worth a look? Which cover designers are professional and affordable?

Word of mouth is far more valuable than a fancy ad. I know. I spent $3000 for a web designer for her to essentially install a $100 plug-in. The designer was a fraud who knew how to dazzle and frighten with tech-speak I didn’t understand. At the time, I didn’t yet know Laird Sapir (who is a WANA and who we now trust for all web work). At the time, I had a feeling I was being taken, but was too overloaded to do more research. It was a costly mistake I will never repeat, but sadly one I could have easily avoided with the right guidance.

There are few lessons better learned than the ones that make us feel like a raging idiot. But, I am not too proud to tell you guys I’ve fallen for the Magic Beans. This is why I work so hard to blog and to bring you WANACon. My goal is that my mistakes offer some greater value to the writing community.

Transition from Hobbyist to Professional

Like the protagonists in our books, we too have turning points in our author journeys. A conference is our way of accepting the challenge and rising to the call. It means we are willing to invest in our dreams. We transition from a hobbyist to a professional. Professionals seek information, guidance and are unafraid to put their money where their mouth is.

Granted, this can be tough. I know. When I went to my first conference many years ago, I was living on Ramen and praying the lights would stay on. But I knew something was lacking and that’s why I wasn’t making any headway. That first conference changed everything and was the best investment I ever made. Something inside shifted. I walked in a wanna-be and left a pre-published author. I took myself more seriously and, as a consequence, others began taking me more seriously as well.

There are a lot of fabulous conferences out there with hardworking people putting together the best selection of experts they can recruit. I strongly recommend attending a conference this year.

 

This post originally appeared on Kristen Lamb’s blog Warrior Writers January 28, 2014. It is reprinted here with her permission.

Kristen Lamb

Kristen Lamb is the author of the #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer.  Kristen has guided writers of all levels, from unpublished green peas to NY Times best-selling big fish, how to use social media to create a solid platform and brand. Most importantly, Kristen helps authors of all levels connect to their READERS and then maintain a relationship that grows into a long-term fan base. She is the C.E.O. of WANA International and the founder of WANATribe, the social network for writers.