Writers’ conferences provide a wonderful resource for writers of all types. More and more conferences are providing great information not only getting published in general but also on nonfiction writing and building platform. Thus, they are becoming almost a necessity if you want to keep up to date on what’s going on in the industry and how to get your foot in the door of an agent’s or acquisition editor’s office and how to get your proposal—and ultimately your manuscript—accepted by a publishing house. You’ll also find great information there on writing article online and for traditional publications and on self-publishing. Additionally, you’ll make a ton of great contacts. You’ll likely even have a chance to try out your pitch on several agents and editors. Whoo hoo!
So, now that you are equipped with the knowledge of how to pitch your work and present your self so you make a great first impression—and now that you know the basics about building a platform—its time to look more carefully at writers’ conference and to choose one that meets your needs. That’s why I have asked my friend Barbara Santos, marketing director for the San Francisco Writers Conference and former co-director of the Maui Writers Conference, to join WNFiN again this year, this time to give us tips on finding the right writers’ conference for nonfiction writers.
How Nonfiction Writers Can Find The Right Writers’ Conference
By Barbara Santos
Nonfiction writers are a special breed. I know, because I am one of them.
A nonfiction writer worships the power of words as much as any novelist or poet. But our writing not only needs a good storyline, it has to be infused with labor-intensive things like pertinent facts, relevant quotes, exact measurements, and/or accurate dates. Anyone can write fiction, but only the best writers can write interesting nonfiction. Well, that is my observation anyway.
So, why do so many nonfiction writers harbor the feeling their “work-for-pay” articles or nonfiction books are somehow less valuable than a novel? It’s also unfortunate that many writers’ conferences treat nonfiction as the step-sister at Cinderella’s ball. Yet, a writers’ conference can offer so much to a nonfiction writer—networking to find new trends and clients, contacts with the publishing industry and the tools to be a more productive and professional writer.
It is up to you to find a conference that gives nonfiction the respect it is due. When evaluating conferences, here are some of the things a nonfiction writer will want at a writers’ conference:
Agents & Editors Who Specialize in Nonfiction—Do your homework and know which of the literary agents at an event prefer to work with nonfiction titles. Then research the publishing houses scheduled to be at the event to see if your project is a good fit for them. For instance, when I did some research on the publishing houses that will be at the San Francisco Writers Conference this year, I already knew Walker Books publishes a wide-range of nonfiction titles. I was surprised to discover, however, that St. Martin’s Press publishes nonfiction. I thought they only published literary books.
Networking with Other Professional Nonfiction Writers—I’ve seen mild-mannered nonfiction writers become party animals at writers’ conference social events and interactive sessions. It is exhilarating to meet up with other writers who understand the challenges of writing nonfiction. Ideas and connections will be free-flowing and that is always stimulating. But don’t just be a “taker’’; bring your business cards and be prepared to offer your expertise to other writers, too.
Self-Publishing Information—There many reasons why self-publishing makes sense for nonfiction titles, including better control of content, quicker turn-around from concept to publication and greater profit per book. Look for an event with recognized experts (like Dan Poynter) and representatives from companies with different kinds of self-publishing options. You’ll be more likely to get the answers to all of your questions about being your own publisher.
Sessions in Your Field—Nonfiction covers a lot of territory. Pre-plan your itinerary and attend the sessions that best pertain to your specialty, especially at the shorter concurrent sessions. It’s easy to be swayed by “big names” teaching other sessions. However, if you are writing a memoir, don’t be lured into the session on books-to-film—unless you know your story has real movie potential.
Nonfiction can be a cash cow. I learned years ago that most novels have a short shelf-life, but a nonfiction book can bring you royalties for decades. My first cookbook, written way back in 1995, is still generating royalty checks! (Yes, I sold that cookbook idea directly to a publisher at a writers’ conference.) Food is ever-evolving and that means a new opportunity to write about food every day. Okay, in full disclosure, I will be on the food-writing panel at the 2010 San Francisco Writers Conference. I hope to see you there!
About the Author
As marketing director for the San Francisco Writers Conference (February 12-14, 2010—www.SFWriters.org) and former co-director of the Maui Writers Conference, Barbara Santos has helped hundreds of writers break out into the writing business. She is a crusader for nonfiction because she makes her living writing press releases and articles as part of her business—Santos Public Relations. She also is the author of two cookbooks, the Maui Tacos Cookbook and the Maui Onion Cookbook.