In this age of self-starters connected via social media to the entire industrialized world with the ability to self-publish through sites like Amazon and LuLu, many wonder why the older way of doing things, namely conferences, are even necessary. We’ll answer that question with another question:
Have you seen what the majority of writers who think they can go it alone produce?
At the risk of offending the self-publishing movement, (a.k.a. the “Indie writer” movement) there are no mythical “Gate-keepers” attempting to prevent new talent from thriving. On the contrary, the publishing industry thrives on new talent.
Are there close-minded publishers and editors out there? Absolutely. They’re human beings, not evil, inter-dimensional snobs bent on preventing the free flow of ideas. There’s often a legitimate reason your story or novel was rejected. The concept of letting work that isn’t up to snuff through the supposed “gates” so “the people can discover it” is just an endorsement of laziness.
This is not to say all self-published writers turn out an inferior product. Some well-known traditionally published writers have turned to self-publishing their more controversial work, such as award-winning science fiction author Norman Spinrad. However, without professional involvement and input, the likelihood of not reaching one’s potential is vastly increased.
If you chose to become a surgeon, you wouldn’t (we hope!) buy a bunch of books on the type of surgery you found most interesting, absorb them and start cutting into someone. Why should writing be any different?
The answer, of course, is it shouldn’t. Writer’s conferences are there to help you, to guide you, and to ultimately provide for you a venue in which you can thrive while learning. Sitting in your home office uploading files can never substitute for that experience!