13th April, 2018
7 min read
Attending Events as a Self-publishing Writer
Many authors who self-publish do not start off with ambitions to ‘be a writer’, instead you might find yourself with an idea that becomes a writing project, which then seems to lend itself to become a book. Along the way, you suddenly need to learn a bunch of new skills – not just to do with writing, but also publishing, marketing, design, and merchandising. But where do you go to learn the skills that you suddenly need now you find yourself as an author and publisher?
The internet can be a useful resource, but attending events learning from experts and networking with other writers can be incredibly beneficial as author Judy Hayland explains. ‘I rely on attending the annual Self-Publishing Conference to re-energise my conviction of the indie route – and to give me direction for areas that I have not yet considered. Technology, social media and means of reaching readers constantly evolve and I find the conference keeps me abreast of all of this.’
The UK hosts a range of quality and vibrant writing and publishing events year-round that allow you to learn writing and publishing skills, make new friends and form a group of like-minded contacts to bounce ideas off. However, attending events as a first-time author (or ‘would-be’ author) can be intimidating and terrifying. You often don’t ‘feel’ like a writer yet. Maybe you have no idea where to start with identifying good events – maybe you feel nervous about going alone.
We’ve now been running the Self-Publishing Conference for 9 years, and one of our favourite parts is being able to spend the day talking to authors and indie publishers – some who’ve published multiple books and some who are halfway through penning their first. Over the years we've gained an understanding of the reasons why authors love events. We see nervous authors, those who have never been to a writing or publishing event before, through to the super-confident networkers who have no such qualms.
Our favourite moments are seeing how the attendees relax into the day, finding new friends and learning new skills. The buzz in the room at the end of the day always says it all, attendees leave fired-up and enthused, ready to get back to their projects with new passion. This is what writing and publishing events should give to authors – a renewed belief in what you are doing and why. So here are our top tips for picking an event that is right for you and getting the most out of the day.
Tip 1: What type of event is right for you?
There are many writing/publishing events and conferences all over the UK from one-day events to three-day residential courses. But it’s important that you pick the event that is going to give you what you require. Identify specifically what you feel you need help and support with for your writing and publishing project and then carefully research the events to see which is going to deliver. There is a useful list of events in the Writers’ bible, The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.
Specific Writing Events and Conferences: These concentrate on how to improve your writing, often have critique or review opportunities and, while they may contain some opportunities to learn about publishing or agents, the focus is most sharply on the writing and editing side. These range from one-day to three-day events and are a wonderful way to learn from other writers and really immerse yourself in celebrating being an author. Many are online, and some are in person, so see which type of event will suit you better. One recommended event is the Festival Of Writing in York
The Self-Publishing Conference: The Self-Publishing Conference in Leicester exists to give solid, useful advice on self-publishing and all the tools you need to do it well. With less of a focus on writing – but more emphasis on how to publish, market and distribute, it is a great day out celebrating self-publishing. This year's conference will be packed full of talks, workshops and masterclasses from industry experts, and guest speakers for authors.
Jude Hayland has been attending the conference for many years and has found it to be invaluable to her as both a writer and publisher. ‘The conference is unique – and good value for money – no other event enables you to gain knowledge and information from professionals in their field as well as network and share experiences with other writers.’ Fellow Troubador author Andrew J. Mullaney agrees. ‘It is a wonderful opportunity to meet other authors, to learn more about the whole industry and consider additional ways that I could get my book into a wider set of communities. I find the most valuable part of the conference for me to be the plenary sessions and mixing with other authors – all at different stages of their journeys.’
Tip 2: Pre-event preparation
Study the programme in advance of the event and see if there are any sessions or seminars that need pre-booking. For example, at the Self-Publishing Conference, we offer 15 sessions over the course of the day so you need to select the specific sessions you want to attend. Other events have just one main programme – so you’d go to everything on the timetable for that day. Studying the programme in advance lets you plan your day, ensuring you won’t miss any crucial talks because you were unaware they were on.
Unless you have a one-to-one with an agent or publisher booked, where you’ve been asked to take your full manuscript in double-spaced format in triplicate, consider if you need to carry this around all day. Instead, get the synopsis/blurb of your work polished and perfect and take copies of that with you – making sure you’ve put your name and contact details on it of course! Have business cards printed – invaluable for networking with experts and fellow authors alike – and small and easy to carry. Or investigate electronic business cards and file sharing to avoid having lots of literature with you.
Ask the organisers if there is anywhere that delegates can leave leaflets or sample books for other delegates to browse through at the event. At the Self-Publishing Conference, we make a table available for delegates to leave information about themselves and their project, and we find this offers many great networking opportunities. Ensure any marketing materials you take for you and your book are professional, error-free and represent you as an author well.
Tip 3: At the event
You’ll get a lot of information during the day, so have a notebook, laptop and pens. Most events make delegates’ bags and small notebooks available, but I find it’s best to take your own, as that way you don’t risk running out of paper during the day. Before a presentation, ask if the slides being presented onscreen will be made available afterwards for delegates – this means you don’t have to scribble down everything that appears on the presentation but can concentrate on making notes on the talk around it. Finally, take every opportunity for networking – coffee breaks and lunches are a crucial part of the day, so chat and interact with as many people as possible during breaks, rather than grab quiet time on your own.
If you are on social media, check out the hashtag for the event – usually, events do live tweeting, and other delegates get stuck into the discussions on social media, so you can make good connections with other attendees and boost your own social profile at the same time. The sign of a good event is that you go home exhausted but buzzing – with a notebook full of inspiration.
Tip 4: Follow up
It is true that striking while the iron is hot makes the follow-up much easier – so within a few days of your return, drop messages to anyone you particularly enjoyed talking to build your network. It’s worth reviewing your notes as soon as possible when returning too – often notes scribbled in haste are impossible to decipher later, so take time to re-read sooner rather than later. The weeks following the event are the perfect time to follow up on tips and leads you picked up – and remember to check back with the event website too. Often the presentations and factsheets used on the day go online post-event and offer more opportunities to learn. Ultimately, writers – established or new – benefit enormously from getting out there and attending writing or publishing events.
The opportunities to meet and learn from those who have been there and done that are invaluable – and the chance to make writing a social, not a solitary event, is also worth the price of the ticket alone. Just make sure you know what you want to get out of an event before attending – and be fearless in introducing yourself when there!
Both Andrew and Jude will be attending the 2023 Self Publishing Conference and are already excited about what they will learn. ‘I am looking forward to feeling the energy and enthusiasm that everyone creates with their passion for writing,’ says Andy. Jude is looking forward to ‘catching up with writers I know – and learning how to use TikTok for promotion and marketing so that I can hold my own in this aspect of social media.’
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