Friday, November 6, 2009

Is a Web Con Worth It?


Is a Web Con Worth It? An opinion by Jacqueline Vick

Writing conferences are a great opportunity for both published and unpublished authors to mingle with others for camaraderie and support; meet agents, editors, and others who can help shape their careers; and soak up information offered by various panels.

I remember my first writer’s conference – Love is Murder in Chicago, IL. I was floored by the warmth and sense of community offered by both attendees and big wigs, such as Charlaine Harris and Ken Bruen.

Now that money is tight for most people, online conferences are popping up all over the internet. But can a writer get the same benefits over the internet?

I recently “attended” both The Muse Online Writers Conference (2010 registration opens up soon!) and The PP Web Con offered by Poisoned Pen Press and the Poisoned Pen Bookstore, and here is what I found.

It’s hard to beat the costs of an online conference.

PP charged $25.00 which was then donated to a library chosen at random. Muse was free. You can’t attend a physical conference for $25.00.

Socializing takes place online, too.

Each of these conferences had chat rooms or “coffee shops”. At the PP Web Con, you did have to schedule time to visit, assumedly to keep the site from crashing.

Plenty of Panels to choose from

Both conferences offered dozens of live presentations, panels, and chats. The difference is, some of these panels were recorded and made available at any time during and after the conference to enable attendees to listen at their leisure. Some classes and panels were offered in text, some were offered as audio files, and some were full-blown video feed. My preference was the video, and my favorite was offered through Skype. I was able to type in questions and the author answered them. It was as close to being there without getting in the car and driving to the author’s home.

What about pitching?

Muse offered a lot of opportunities to meet with publishers and to pitch. Most of these companies were looking for Romance, and if that's your genre, you couldn't ask for a better chance to pitch your book. At PP, there was a drawing, and winning participants were able to pitch.

Will I need special hardware?

As far as hardware and programs, the PP WebCon listed the various free programs you might need, such as Skype, and a high-speed hookup will work best for conferences with live video and audio feed. You definitely need working speakers, and if you want to participate in some of the live panels, you will need a microphone as well.

I don’t believe that online conferences will replace physical conferences, since it’s difficult to get the same sense of community online, but they were both well worth attending, and I hope to see more offerings in the future.

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Jackie Houcin

But what about book purchases and book signings? I know I would miss that feature in an online conference. What about raffles and drawings and goodie-bags? And no candid photos of myself with Lisa Scottoline, Michael Connelly or Dan Brown? Ha-ha!

And, the food! Now, I know banquet food isn't always that great, but sometimes the fresh fruit platters, French rolls with real butter, and of course the desserts are hard to beat. (Yes, I know, we can always raid our own refrigerators if our stomachs start growling or we need something to chew on or to wake us up. But there's something "pampered" about having your meals provided.)

On the other hand ... online conferences do allow you to attend wearing your pajamas.

***

I should have mentioned that the PP Webcon did have a goodie bag filled with downloadable short stories, novel excerpts, and even entire novels. PP also gave attendees a $20.00 gift certificate toward their bookstore.

As for food, since you're in your pajamas anyway, you can eat at the computer and no one will think you're a piggy. (Except your significant other!)

2 comments:

  1. The financial advantage of online conferences extends beyond the attendees, for it benefits the organizers as well.

    Last February I attended a conference with a prestigious reputation. Due to the economy, attendance was down from previous years, and the organizers cut the program from three days to two(this may have been a chicken-egg situation). Less attendees/money means less sessions, less specificity, less non-necessities. For instance, the instructor/writer who gave the Plotting seminar used her romance books for examples. That genre requires two protagonists, which skewed the class for anyone who writes in one POV character, as was the case with the majority of us. In some ways, the most shocking omission was coffee -
    imagine a writer's conference without coffee!

    Online conferences may not be as necessary for the most popular genres like romance and mystery, but they would be invaluable for sub-genres that tend to get short shrift in conferences. They could also focus on specific areas of interest beyond genre, as well as skill level. The possibilities are endless.

    MK Johnston

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  2. Web conferences are an interesting concept. Listening live on-line would make it easier for those who couldn't afford the airline ticket.

    And I like the idea of being able to get to listen to various presentations later. In-person conferences would do better if they made available CDs of presentations.

    An interesting discussion Jackies.

    G.B.Pool

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