6 Tips for Attending a Writer’s Conference as a Freelance Editor

By Shana Baldassari

LJWC_classroom_cropIn October, I attended the La Jolla Writer’s Conference (LJWC) for two reasons: as an aspiring author hoping to learn more about the craft and, more importantly, as an editor hoping to learn more about my client base and the industry. It was my first writer’s conference, and I was excited to experience what it was all about.

I originally had heard about the LJWC at SD/PEN’s September program meeting, where Jared Kuritz, director of the LJWC, discussed the different publishing options available. I was so impressed by Jared’s ability to clarify such a complex topic—all in 90 minutes—that when he mentioned he did a more in-depth presentation on this topic and others at the LJWC, my interest was piqued.

When I think of conferences, my mind is filled with images of huge convention halls packed with thousands of people (an overwhelming thought for most introverts), but this was not the case for the LJWC. In fact, it was quite the opposite—the LJWC was an interactive and intimate three-day conference dedicated to teaching writers about the art, craft, and business of writing.

Registration to the event granted me access to

  • Lecture classes
  • Workshops—read and critiques
  • Cocktail receptions and keynote addresses
  • Signed books and merchandise

As a first-timer, I wanted to attend as many lecture courses as I could rather than the workshops (I didn’t have a manuscript in hand for the read and critiques). The topics ranged from genre-specific lectures (thriller, comedy, sci-fi/fantasy, memoir, etc.) to big-picture discussions on writing skills/tips (the publishing process, the author-agent relationship, how to market yourself, etc.).

Like the conference itself, the classes were designed to be intimate and interactive, which I found to be a great environment to facilitate learning. All the presenters were published authors, or had a strong footing in the publishing industry, and encouraged questions from the class to drive the conversation. I walked away from each class feeling inspired and more knowledgeable.

The majority of the conference attendees were writers, but there were a handful of agents, publishers, and editors as well. Even though I was attending each of the classes with an editor’s (rather than a writer’s) mindset, I found the conference to be a fun and rewarding experience.

For those considering attending a writer’s conference as an editor, here are some tips to get the most out of the experience.

  1. Market yourself to potential clients (writers). This sounds obvious, but where else can you meet a handful of potential clients? They may be at various stages in their book development, but at some point, all authors will need their manuscript edited. Making an effort to introduce yourself and offer your services is a great way to market yourself. (Don’t forget to bring business cards!)
  1. Learn as much as you can during the lectures. You might attend a lecture on how to create a website, how to choose the right publishing option, or how to write strong plots. Even though these lectures are geared toward writers, it is a great idea to know what they know—and then some. This will help make you a more capable editor.
  1. Listen to what writers are struggling with the most. The LJWC did a great job at opening up the lectures to be more of a Q/A discussion. This gave me numerous opportunities to hear the writers’ questions or concerns. Pay attention to what is brought up and the answers that are given—you may find that your client has asked or will ask you a similar question.
  1. Allow yourself to get energized by the excitement. There’s nothing more infectious than a bunch of people excited about the same thing. Feed off the energy of everyone working toward the same goal—to publish a book. When you’re around other people who are passionate about publishing, you may find yourself inspired to be a better editor.
  1. Take classes on different genres. Just because you have never edited a screenplay or memoir doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Explore the different genres being taught and see if anything piques your interest. You may find you want to expand your editing expertise to include other genres.
  1. Write off the conference on your income tax as a business expense. If you’re a professional editor, you can get a tax break for attending editing-related conferences, so don’t forget to keep your receipts.

A writer’s conference is not cheap, so it’s important to get the most out of what you paid for. The next time you are considering attending one, remember these tips. You may find that you walk away from it a more skilled and inspired editor.

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