Get Thee to a Conference, Writer!

I want to be alone...photo from www.fanpop.com

I want to be alone…photo from http://www.fanpop.com

Like many writers, I work at home, which means I spend much of my day alone. To force myself to get out of the house and interact with living, breathing, real people, I set a goal of attending at least two conferences in the course of the year.

They’re not writing conferences, however.

They’re pre-writing conferences.

In other words, I go to conferences to do research for my books. In particular, I go to events that have to do with birding, nature, and spirituality, since those are my book topics, and I’m always looking for new ideas and the latest developments in the field.

But last month, as I promoted my second free Kindle offer on amazon.com for my Birder Murder mystery series, I realized a marketing benefit to those research conferences: the stuff I bring home – the hand-outs, the programs, the lists of attendees – are invaluable marketing tools.

Influential contacts

You meet a lot of people at any kind of conference, but you might not get the chance to meet them all, especially if they are keynote speakers who typically are surrounded by a crush of people at the conference. If you keep the program, though, you can usually track them down again on the internet, and make contact by sending an email and thanking them for their presentation. Then, when you would like to notify them of your book release or promotion, you’ve got  influential contacts in your target market. Even if you haven’t previously corresponded with them, just naming the conference in a subject line will ensure your email will be read by the recipient. Ask them to share your promotion, and you’ll reach new readers through their cooperation.

Potential readers

Every person who comes to a conference is a potential reader of your work. I recently went to a conference on the therapeutic effects of nature, and chatted with other attendees about my interest in nature and birds. When I mentioned I was an author, I was asked for the names of my books, so I got to do a little promoting to a market I hadn’t previously considered. At a birding event, email addresses of all the attendees are sometimes included (because birders like to email each other about bird sightings), so I have a ready-made email list for special book promotions that I think they might appreciate. Never underestimate the personal touch of addressing individuals!

Creative approaches

Being the packrat I am, I keep all the hand-outs and advertising materials from conferences, too, thinking I might be able to set up a speaking date or promotional opportunity with one of the sponsors. For example, I never thought of wildlife photographers as a market until I met a camera rep at a birding event; now it’s a part of my target audience. As a result, I’ve found that thinking about the ways sponsors connect to conferences is a fertile field for marketing development.

What kind of conferences do you attend and what are the marketing benefits you find?

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About jandunlap

"Archangels Book I: Heaven's Gate" is Jan's new Christian suspense novel that melds cutting-edge science with faith. She is also the author of "Saved by Gracie," her best-selling humorous spiritual memoir and the Birder Murder Mystery series that follows the adventures of ace birder/high school counselor Bob White, who has a bad habit of finding bodies when he birds. When she's not playing with fictional devices, Jan is a birdwatcher, a featured speaker, and the proud mother of five children. She welcomes visitors at jandunlap.com.

12 thoughts on “Get Thee to a Conference, Writer!

    • Only when nobody’s listening, David!
      Oh, you mean Twitter.
      No, I don’t, though I should. I’ve been working on my social networking marketing pieces for the last year – Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn – and have yet to add Twitter. It will be my final marketing frontier.

  1. Excellent blog post, Jan. As a biblical counselor and writer, I now see great value in attending biblical counseling conference in the way you described. An eye opener for me. Thanks!

  2. This is very good encouragement and great advice. As a writer’s conference director, I am always harping on attending seminars, webinars, conferences and workshops of any kind. I myself am a conference junkie and would go to more if I were independently wealthy! Any time we can network and broaden our knowledge is well worth the effort. It’s the best place to build relationships that will benefit us in the long run.
    Thanks,
    Jan Cline

    • Thanks for affirming my advice, Jan. Given the time and money, I think I could find plenty of conferences to fill my time, too.

  3. I’ve been trying to figure out what conference would be best to attend, and if it was worth the time and cost involved. This has been truly helpful, you mentioned a lot of other unforseen benefits from attending writers conferences. Thanks Jan.

    • That’s always the tough part, Kimberly – choosing which one to attend. That’s why I give myself a goal of at least two, to spread out the odds I’ll hit a great one.

  4. I like to go to women’s ministry events and even volunteer at their merchandise tables. This way I get to talk to people I’d never have met had I only sat in the audience. Last time I did this, I was made the center salesperson because I my enthusiasm for the books being sold (other’s books) “moved” so much merchandise. I also like to volunteer at Christian rock concerts to meet and connect with music fans. My WIP has a big music theme so it’s very much within my target market.

  5. I have been contemplating which ones are the best for the genres I write in and plan to attend at least one in the coming year. I have been to retreats and taken group classes and webinars, and they are always informative.

  6. You have a great perspective, Jan, and I’m going to take a leaf from your book. Ren Fairs here I come! :o)

  7. Pingback: Blogs, articles, information, videos, etc. – the weekly offering … | Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

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