An acquaintance of mine confessed that she cried all the way home from a recent SCBWI conference. I am not that girl, but I have been. This business is hard. For every writer that has a dream conference experience, there are hundreds who leave less than thrilled. Most are beginners. It's all about setting appropriate expectations.
I left my last conference in a mellow mood, but then I'm no longer expecting an editor to jump across the table and buy my book. So what exactly are realistic expectations from attending a conference?
1. You'll discover great books that you might not have heard of otherwise.
2. You'll have the chance to meet other writers that share your passion. Some of them will turn out to be lifelong friends.
3. You'll compile market information and begin to know which houses are appropriate for your work.
4. You'll attend workshops and pick up tips to improve your writing.
5. For an additional fee, you can usually have a chapter of your work critiqued.
That's it. That's what 99% of us can expect for our conference dollars. But as a disclaimer, I know four writers who actually met the editors who bought their books during critique sessions. So it can happen, but keep in mind that I've been attending conferences since 2005. My advice is to save yourself a lot of heartache and set realistic expectations. Any good thing that happens beyond that will be icing on the cake!