The morning mailbag brings word of Miss Snark's colleagues headed out to points far and wide for writing conferences.
Miss Snark goes to these only when she can't avoid it.
Let's distinguish between writing conferences and fan cons.
Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Romance Writers of America ..those are all fan cons. Yes, editors and agents go, and there is some element of "how to" on the panels, but mostly its a place to meet and hear authors in the genre. Lots of authors (like SJ Rozan) like them because they are the place to see author pals and hang out with a pack of folks who understand your travails.
For unpublished writers it can be like going to the prom without a date,
but buck up bucko!
It's a great place to meet people who, when you DO land that deal, will be on your rolodex for blurbs. Try not to be too much the social climber or desperate housewife however or your rolodex will look like John Cage's score for 4:33.
Writing conferences are a whole different ball game. Their emphasis is on meet the agents and editors and learn how the publishing industry works. They can be helpful. They can also be a terrific waste of time and money.
There are lots of places to find tips on making a writing conference work for you. Here's mine:
Make sure the agents you meet with have actually sold something. Writing conferences are notoriously lax about checking this. They invite a big name agent, who sends the assistant. The assistant works "at XXX agency" but if that agent has never made a sale, you should know that going in.
Agents are NEVER upfront about this. They finess it in every form of fiction known to mankind.
And an agent who has never sold anything but works at ICM and has access to Esther Newberg is still worth talking to.
As in all things, do your homework. Know who you are dealing with.
And if you need to, write this down and ask till you get a straight answer:
"What have you sold?"