Convening, considered as an ing on the way to publishing, means attending conferences & conventions for those involved with books and writing in assorted capacities. Some examples with their primary audiences in parentheses: SCBWI (writers and illustrators for kids & teens), ALA (librarians), NCTE (teachers), KidLitCon (bloggers about children’s & YA literature).
There are many many MANY other conferences out there aimed at writers and/or fans of particular genres: romance, science fiction & fantasy, mysteries. And if you read my blog regularly I’d hazard that you already know of the existence of comic conventions.
All these conventions are places where you can meet people who are involved in publishing. Agents, editors, writers and illustrators often attend and speak at conventions. Sometimes conventions feature manuscript critiques and/or portfolio reviews from industry professionals.
But convening can be worthwhile even if you don’t feel like you’ve Made Important Connections. Maybe you asked an interesting question at a panel. Maybe you met an author you admire and told them so. Maybe at one session you ended up next to a blogger whose site you read religiously and discovered that you like the same obscure snack food.
None of these things might seem that significant, but trust me, they can be. I wrote a post a while ago, Shapeshifting, that looks at how people’s roles in relation to the publishing industry shift, and how one person can even occupy more than one at the same time! (Shocking, I know.)
The subtext of that Shapeshifting post, btw, is Don’t be a jerk. Because in these posts I am erring on the side of stating what might seem obvious to some of y’all, I will say that if you go to conventions in hopes of furthering your writing career, it will help immeasurably if you are pleasant to everyone you meet.
Maybe you’re thinking But conventions cost so much money! I can’t afford to go!
It’s true — some cons are quite an investment. But if you look for cons that are close to you geographically, you can often find great offerings that are relatively cheap. For instance, I attended KidLitCon in 2008 in Portland and thus I didn’t have to worry about travel & lodging costs.
You can also get something of the convention experience online. There are great regularly scheduled writing-and-publishing-related chats on Twitter. I’m most familiar with #yalitchat, but it’s one of many. And lots of people make lists of industry professionals so you can follow as many of them as your level of Twitter zealousness allows. Again in the obvious department, being pleasant is at least as important online as offline, if not more so.