Writing Conferences: Value or Vanity?

Many published authors recommend attending a writing conference as the logical next step in the writing journey. In the Christian market, writing conferences are where scores of first-time authors met their agents or editors. I’m not sure those stats hold up for other conferences. If it’s true about agents not responding quickly during the summer months, then a conference is a place where you’ll probably find them. Yet conferences are spendy. Expect to drop a tidy sum, sometimes in the thousands. Are these things worth the considerable money they cost?
Writing Tip for Today:

  • New novel writers with unfinished book-length work should be aware that a pitch will probably not result in representation until you’ve completed and polished, maybe even hired a pro editor to help you get the book into the best shape. If you can afford a conference, go ahead. You can absorb the conference culture, network and take workshops which interest you. Set a goal and target a future conference where you plan to pitch to agents.
  • Keep in mind that these agent pitch sessions often cost extra. Expect to pay $15-25 for each 15 minute session with an agent/editor. Many conferences do provide free pitch lessons or practice sessions where you can hone your skills.
  • If you have a completed novel or a nonfiction proposal with a solid platform, then yes, the cost of a conference may be worthwhile. If you itemize your taxes, it’s a write-off, and should you hit it off with an attending agent or editor, a conference makes sense. Inquire about scholarships available, volunteer or enter a conference contest. Winners are often allowed to come free for at least part of the conference.
  • If you are an experienced author, writer or teacher, make up some proposals for next year’s conference. The schedule for next year is often decided in January or February. Pitch several workshops in your area of expertise and consider the past few years’ offerings so as not to duplicate unless you have a fresh angle.
  • Buddy up. If you must fly in order to attend, network within the organization to find possible roomies to help hold down costs. Start early!
  • Find Prepay programs. Some conference set up funds where you can pay for your conference in installments.
  • Brown bag it. See if you can get to a grocery store in the area and purchase healthy snacks or even meal makings for times the conference meals aren’t included.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

4 comments on “Writing Conferences: Value or Vanity?

  1. Hi Linda,
    I so agree with your perspective on conferences. I would rather spend the money on a professional editor than a spendy conference.
    On your fourth point did you mean that if we are an experienced writer and/or teacher we could propose doing a workshop at a conference? I would be interested in doing that as I love to teach and currently lead a writers group and do some speaking.

  2. Hi Jan, Yes, if you have the experience or the credentials. For an unpublished writer, your best bet might be either a spiritual aspect of writing (for Christian confs) or something about writer’s block or a beginner’s seminar. If you are a teacher in real-life, say, then you might have a better chance. Some conferences require to to attend at least one conf. before you pitch to teach. Hope this helps. Linda

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