Writer's conferences are wellsprings of information, but you can only attend one session at a time, so choose wisely. Any good conference will have a variety of sessions to choose from and your job is figuring out what's going to be most useful for you.
“During 30 years of earning my daily bread as a writer I have learned many lessons about our craft. The most significant of those lessons is that I still have many lessons to learn about out craft.”
― H.P. Oliver
You can never go wrong with craft. There’s not a writer out there who shouldn’t aspire to improve their craft regardless of where they are in their career. However, if you just finished or are still writing your first or even second novel, this is probably where you should focus most of your time. You may be a prodigy, but odds are that first novel isn’t a masterpiece. It’s a stepping-stone to growing as a writer. Like any skill, you aren’t born knowing how to do it right or when it's a good idea to break the rules. You have to learn the ins and outs of your vocation before you can advance through the ranks from apprentice to master. Craft sessions are there to help you on that journey. Take advantage of them.
“Content is King. Promotion is Queen”
― Bob Mayer
Whether you intend to try traditional or independent publishing, marketing is something you’re going to need to learn. A great book that can truly sell itself is almost as rare as unicorns. Don’t hang your career on the hope that your book is going to be that fabled creature. Plan to bust your ass building your audience and make your book soar. These sessions will help you get ideas on how to go about that and what will work for you and your book.
“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.”
― Stephen King
If you haven’t decided how you want to approach publishing, these sessions can give you the knowledge you need to make that decision. If you’ve decided on a traditional approach, these sessions can give you an inside look on what agents and publishers are looking for and how the publishing process works in the traditional world.
“Behind every novel is a greater story of how it came to be published.”
― T.L. Rese
Again, if you’re not sure how you want to go about publishing your work, these sessions can help you make an informed decision. If you already know you want to go this route, the sessions will give you insight on what has and hasn’t work for others and help you figure out how to go about it.
Remember, don’t get ahead of yourself. If you only just started writing, focus on craft and worry about marketing and publishing after you’ve seasoned your skills. If you're ready to move on, keep in mind that in publishing sessions, the people presenting will likely be advocates of the route they’ve chosen. Learn about your options and don’t get caught up in someone else’s enthusiasm. Choose the publishing path that is right for your goals as a writer and the kind of writing you do.