Monday, June 23, 2014

Start Proposing!

No, not to people.


I've posted about various conferences, events, and conventions I've attended, and a lot of the comments indicate folks want to go, but are unable. Though not being able to go can be based on several issues, I thought I'd address the issue of cost.

If you can't afford to go to a conference, convention, or other writing event there are three major ways to address this: 1) Apply for a scholarship, 2) Volunteer, and 3) Propose a workshop of your own/apply to be a speaker. I'm going to focus on being a speaker, but will quickly speak about the first two options, as well.

1) Apply for a scholarship. Many large events have the option of winning a scholarship to attend. People donate to these funds to give you that opportunity. To find these opportunities, look around the event websites for information on scholarships or grants. Be sure to fill in all the information requested. Also, be prepared to have to do something, likely volunteer work, to "pay" for your scholarship. That is another way scholarships can be justified.

2) Volunteer to be staff. Any large event will be in need of volunteers, from folks who act as meal door guards to people who run a department. Obviously, the positions involving a supervisor or larger duty will likely be reserved for people who are knowns, who have volunteered in the past. But there are a ton of other positions available in these types of events that need to be filled. A note on this, if it's a situation where the event belongs to a group that also does other types of related, but perhaps smaller, events, volunteer at those events, offer to lend a hand when you see something that needs to be done, introduce yourself. The more the staff get to know you, the more likely they'll offer a recommendation should you ask for greater responsibility.

Just a note: staff will not necessarily get a full ride (and this is true of all these options.) It may be a percentage discount, a single free day, or another variation. You should find out when you get a volunteer position what your "payment" will be.

3) Offer to be a speaker. To give you an idea of how this works, when a conference or writing event are being put together they will often put out a call for speakers. If it's the type of event that has keynotes, those folks will be contacted directly and issued an invitation. However, that still leaves a bunch of workshop times to fill. For Pikes Peak Writers Conference, we try to find a selection of types of workshops. For instance, we want some workshops on business of writing, some on the writer's life, some on the dynamics of writing, etc. Genre is also a consideration, and something folks want a mix of, but the wider the topic, the safer a bet it will be (unless you're attending a conference/event that is genre specific, such as a romance conference, though I imagine those still aim to make workshops applicable to different types of writing, in addition to romance.)

How do you make a topic applicable to a wider array of people? Take romance. Pretty much every genre can have romance wrapped into the story. There are romances in mysteries, thrillers, westerns, sci-fi stories, even horror. So anything on breaking down romance, creating it, building the pieces of it, anything along those lines can be made interesting to other genres. If you can work it into the verbiage, even better.

Speaking of verbiage, be prepared with a workshop description on the topic you wish to speak about. They'll want a title and workshop description. They may tweak it or ask you to make changes, and yes, they will sometimes be willing to put it together for you, especially if you've been asked to do a requested topic, rather than one you specifically put in to do. But if that isn't the case, it's considerably easier on those staffers dealing with this if you propose with a workshop title and description from the very beginning, not just a general pitch.

A note: It will likely not be free for you to attend unless you're giving a bunch of workshops, so don't give one pitch, give several. If you don't get completely free attendance for presenting, you might get just the day you're speaking, or you may be given a percentage discount. Even a discount could make the event/conference doable for you. This will vary per event, and each one has its own basis for deciding how to "pay" speakers, whether that's with cash, free attendance, a free hotel room, or transportation. Know, though, that this is highly dependent upon cost of the event, your qualifications, and a bunch more. Figuring out ample good speakers for an event is a lot of work, and is harder than you might think.

If you pitch a workshop to a writing event and don't get a request to do the workshop, know that this doesn't necessarily mean they don't like your pitch. It may just be that they had too many of a certain type, that multiple people proposed the same sort of thing, or a variety of other reasons. Continue pitching the workshop each year (or each time the event occurs), pitch it to different groups/events, or tweak it before pitching again, if you think it maybe really was your pitch or workshop that was faulty. If there's anything writers know about, it's rejection and re-writing.

In a related option, if your workshop doesn't get picked up for a big event, consider looking for ways to pitch for individual events. For instance, I run the Non-Conference Events for Pikes Peak Writers. We put on a free 2-hour workshop each month, plus a smattering of paid workshops as they come up. While I actively pursue new speakers, I also appreciate pitches sent to me. And speaking at an individual event can be a way to get noticed for conference, though understand that there are far fewer openings for these types of events than an event that has multiple workshops going at the same time over a period of anywhere from a day to a week. Therefore, they (we) have to be really careful about spreading out topics and types of topics, and not repeating speakers until a certain amount of time has passed.

If the issue is not about affordability, but getting your book seen and your name known, your best chance is to go as a speaker, not as a volunteer. Your willingness to pay for the event is going to increase your chances of getting you in as a speaker (and, therefore, someone who possibly gets to sell and autograph books at the conference/event). You pay to go to the event, but give a workshop, and you will get a certain amount of exposure.

Hopefully, there are some ideas in here that might help you get into an event you couldn't previously afford.

Have you presented a workshop at any type of writing event? If so, what types of "payment" did you get, and was it worth it? Have you volunteered? Were you paid to volunteer, or given any other incentive? Were you glad you did so? Have you ever received a scholarship? Were there any requirements to fulfill in order to get it? If you haven't done any of these things, would you ever consider doing so?

May you find your Muse.


  1. I'd be nervous about doing a workshop. Haven't been to a writer's conference, but not because of cost - there just aren't any nearby.

  2. All of this is great advice. We have plenty of ideas for workshops, and we've love to give more some day. If anything, being able to teach can often be more rewarding than the free ride itself.

  3. My local librarian is pushing me to do a program at the library once my book comes out. The idea terrifies me, but I think if I could come up with a decent topic to discuss, I might be able to get through it.

    I've been to a couple of conferences, but, like Alex, they're just not nearby, so I don't get to attend as many as I would like.

  4. I could totally do workshops, but I have a hard time with the idea that a convention would want someone whose book sales are still just in the double digits.

  5. These are marvelous tips Shannon and you're right that romance is one of those categories that works for any genre. I hope you have a excellent day!

  6. I have volunteered and have thought about presenting but the conferences always have so many more experienced writers than me that I haven't had the courage. Might try it next year.

  7. I used to be paid to present at conferences. In fact, before writing fiction, I did at least three a year. That meant a lot of work, but I made tons of contacts, too, so it was worthwhile.

    I still present at conferences, but not so many. The benefits are mostly networking and some reduction in costs for the conference.

  8. Lots of great information to consider. I've participated in online conferences, which I found to be a really great experience.

  9. Alex, I bet you'd be good at giving a workshop. The hardest part is choosing a topic you're knowledgeable on so you can talk without worrying about a "script."

    B&B, I agree on teaching the workshop being more satisfying than the free ride or pay.

    M.J., it's a great way to get people interested in your book! One way to figure out what to talk about might be to start searching around on what others have spoken on and see if there's anything that triggers an idea.

    Andrew, I know PPWC tries to balance out the speakers. We've got people with only a couple books, not best sellers, who are fantastic speakers, so we bring them back again and again. Then we've got best sellers, of course, and all types in between, including both self and traditionally published. It's worth a try to put proposals in at a local conference and see what happens.

    Maurice, thank you! Even those who claim they don't like romance usually enjoy elements of romance wrapped into something else.

    Susan, I understand that. I've given workshops for writer's groups and at a full-day mini-conference, but have been afraid to pitch at the conference I'm most involved in. I should, but I fear being rejected from something I'm so close to, I think. Or not having people come to the workshop.

    Lee, what kind of workshops did you present?

    Susanne, I was telling someone who lives in the boonies about online conferences, but couldn't for the life of me remember any names!