Conferences, Conferences Everywhere!

Yesterday we talked about the pros and cons of writing conferences. Many of you agreed conferences are extremely beneficial for the unpublished writer.

With the plethora of conferences available, how does a writer narrow down which one (or ones) to attend?

Rachelle Gardner has a list of Christian conferences on her blog and they are arranged by month. Click here for the list. Potentially we could attend a writer's conference every month of the year if we really wanted to!

As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), I've heard a lot about the ACFW Conference that will be held in Denver this September. I'm considering attending. But the cost could end up totaling over $1000. The basic conference fee is $500. Then add air fare, shuttle, and hotel. That's a load of cash!!

There's also The Write-to-Publish Conference in Wheaton, Illinois. Mary DeMuth is one the main speakers and agents Rachelle Gardner and Chip MacGregor will be there among many others. It would be considerably closer for me. From central Michigan, I could easily drive the eight hours. But again, the cost could potentially reach near $1000.

As we've talked about before, we have to be willing to invest in our writing career, and hope that someday we'll get a return on that investment. So, even though I'm not thrilled with the costs of writing conferences, I know it's necessary.

I liked what agent, Rachelle Gardner said: If you're unpubbed and/or unagented, you should know that writers' conferences are the single best way to make a personal connection that can lead to agency representation and/or publication. In addition, generally the only un-agented manuscripts that editors accept are those they've requested at a conference. So... you decide. Can you find the time and the money?

But how do I narrow down my choices?

What are the most important things you look for when deciding which conference to attend? What conferences have you attended and which ones would you recommend?

And here's my final question: If you could pick ANY conference to attend, which one would it be and why? I would love to hear your opinions!


  1. If I could go to any conference, I would attend Jerry Jenkins one.
    Conferences cost. Right now, I've had to put them off but I agree with the value of them. I attended a few back in my home town area where I could stay with family or friends. Big savings of money but still cost airfare and car and fees.
    But where else can you pitch your book face to face?

  2. Hi Terri,
    Which one is the Jerry Jenkins and where is it? I would love to hear more about it.

    And I would love to find a conference in a place where I could stay with family or friends. But I wonder if you miss out on some of the conference aura if you do that? Just curious.

  3. Hi Jody,
    Thank you for visiting my blog (and for your kind words). I'd want to go to the one in Wheaton. I greatly respect all three of the people you mentioned would be at that obstacles are distance, cost and 3 little ones...but I know soon enough I'm going to make the effort to be at one.
    Great questions & resources!
    ~ Wendy

  4. Hi Wendy,
    The Wheaton conference is also one at the top of my list. It looks really good. I'd love to hear how it compares with the ACFW conference. (So anyone who can share about that, please feel free!)

    And I do understand the struggles with obstacles! I'm just praying God will make it really clear if this is the year he wants me to head to conferences.

  5. They are so expensive. Not only that, but I've three little children that it would be hard to find someone to watch while I went. I'd love to go to the ACFW one and the RWA one.
    I've been to the FL Christian one though a few years ago and it was wonderful. :-)

  6. Hi Jessica,
    Would your husband be willing and able to watch your children? It would indeed be a sacrifice for them to watch our little ones while we go. But I know I would willingly sacrifice for my husband to go to a weekend conference for his work should he ever need it (and I have).

    They are incredibly expensive, so I think we have to know if we're at the point in our writing career when our MS's are really ready to pitch.

  7. This will be my third year attending Write! Canada. It's the largest Christian writer's conference in Canada, but still considerably smaller than ACFW's. I attend it because it's within driving distance and my girls are old enough for their dad to handle on his own and they actually enjoy the daddy/daughter long weekend together that it gives them. If my kids were younger, I highly doubt I'd even be attending that one. The courses have helped me grow as a writer, and allow me to interact with like writers.

    I've also been to a smaller chapter RWA conference in Ottawa, Sweet and Spicy Romance Writers. It was good, but I do love the feel of the Christian one much more.

    Defining factors? Up until now it's been cost feasibility and courses available. Now I'm starting to add pitching criteria to the top of my list. Six years into this, I figure I better start pitching. So I'll be looking for conferences that Steeple Hill Love Inspired editors attend since that is the line I believe my books are fit for. Since they don't require agent representation, for now, I'll just be using the conferences to familiarize myself with various agents of interest to me to start narrowing my list of want-to-contact.

    Available Courses are still up there in my criteria. I'm all about learning all aspects of writing and the industry requirements.

    All these criteria are great to have, but without prayer, they could amount to nothing. Allow God to guide your choices. He'll help you figure out which is the best for you at this time in your life.

  8. Hi Eileen,
    That's a great idea to find out if your target publishing house will have representatives at the conference. My targets are the larger CBA houses. I'll have to do a little more research into which conferences have which editors.

    So, if you don't need an agent, you might have less pressure to attend a conference to make those connections! Or at least you can go and not feel the pressure to pitch your work!

    Thanks for the encouragement to pray. I am praying God will make it very clear if he wants me to go to a conference and to which one. It's just hard to wait for the answer!

  9. I haven't attended conferences. I have only looked at one that's near me this summer, and I don't know much about huge awesome ones to answer your last question, LOL. Sorry!

    Great post though. Thank you for giving us some great info!

  10. I haven't ever been to any conferences, which is sad because I live in Colorado, right by Denver and there are so many that are near to me. I love hearing about writer's experiences from them, though!

  11. Hi Lady Glamis,
    Maybe you'll be fortunate enough to land an agent through the usual querying routes! Wouldn't that be awesome! If not, then some day you'll have to start the conference migration and see where it leads!

  12. I'm attending my very first conference this summer--and it's a biggie! I'm going to the RWA National Conference in Washington D.C.

    The cost, time away from family, and finding child care were all huge factors, but my husband and I agreed it was time for me to get out there and network. I really believe it's important for new authors to get out there and meet editors and agents.

    Our local RWA chapter had a speaker not long ago who told us, "editors and agents buy books from people they like." Of course, the writing has to be good, but let's face it, they ARE more willing to take a chance on someone they have felt a personal connection with.

    Also, I've LOVED romance novels since I was very young. I'm thrilled to be getting the chance to meet some of my favorite authors and to take workshops being led by them.

    To keep the costs down, I'm rooming with a friend. I found cheap airline tickets months in advance. I'm also familiar with DC, so I'll be using the Metro subway system instead of pricey cabs. Where there's a will, there's a way!

  13. OK Cindy, you have none of the excuses the rest of us have for the ACFW conference in Denver! You're right there!! How cool is that?! Maybe you can pop over to it even if it's just for one day. I noticed that they have rates for paying by the day. And you're right, I've noticed a LOT of Colorado conferences. What's up with that? I guess there must be a lot of writers in the area! Either that or its a favorite destination!

  14. i'm feeling a sense of deja vu while i write maybe i've already told you i'm going to ACFW this year? i don't know if i did or not, so there it is again! :) i'm excited...we've got 4 of us to the room to cut down on costs and we're going to try to arrive together so shuttle together, etc. WAY pumped about it!

  15. Hi Jill,
    I looked at the RWA conference in DC too. It looks like it will be fantastic. When you get back, you'll have to do a blog post about your experience!

    I think connections are critical. Sometimes who you know can make the difference! But since I've never gone to a conference, I'm still struggling to know how much exposure an attendee actually gets with agents and editors. I suppose some of it is up to us, to make the effort to mingle. But on the other hand, we don't want to be pushy!

    I like your suggestions for cutting cost! Maybe once I figure out which conference to attend, I'll try to hunt down a friend to room with.

  16. Hi Jeannie,
    You already have four? Wow! How did you work that? Now I'm starting to feel behind listening to everyone already making their plans! I still don't know which conference to attend, much less the other details!

  17. For me it's proximity. I admire your resolve to drive for eight hours! And the fact your willing to spend some serious $. Have you ben to a writers conference? I think they are beneficial and also some people do walk away with representation. It might be the break your looking for.

  18. Hi T.Anne,
    Actually eight hours is a pretty average drive for me. We live away from family and so have to drive at least eight hours a couple of times a year. I think I'd rather drive eight hours than go through the whole flying fiasco!

    I've never been to a writing conference, so this might be the year for me to finally start going! And I can hope and pray that maybe it will give me the break I need!

  19. ACFW - and I'm going! My first one and I'm going all out! Cutting cost by rooming - that's how Jeannie and I met. we're rooming with Ralene and Diane Dilcher. Still trying to find cheap air fair.

  20. I think I would feel intimidated going to a conference on my own. Although I do feel it would be beneficial. I do not think child care would be an issue as my husband is very supportive, but costs could become a problem. I'm pretty sure I couldn't come up with $1000 to go :( However I think I may start looking into it as well after a blog post by Writers House....This whole writing thing sure is more complicated than I had imagined. However every complication is worth it! Thanks for the my hamster running!

  21. Hi Katie,
    You guys sound like you're all set!! I hope you have a wonderful time and learn a lot. And if I finally make up my mind to go, then I will definitely be on the lookout for your foursome!

  22. Hi Marybeth,
    I hate that the conference costs so much. But as I told my husband, I'm starting a business and so look at it like the $1000 is one of the start-up costs. He could relate since he started his own business a couple of years ago. Hopefully we'll get the money back some day that we've invested! And I wouldn't be thinking of going unless my MS's were polished, critiqued, and ready to sell. Otherwise I think I'd be investing the money prematurely.

  23. I've heard the Write to Publish is good.

    I chose ACFW for a couple reasons. First, I like that it's fiction focused. Many of the other conferences, the Write to Publish, Blue Ridge, and Mt. Hermon, are for non-fiction and fiction, and I'm really a 100% fiction girl. It's great to network with others who are focused there as well. That said, I'd love to go to some of the other conferences too, but my finances (and limited time away from work) limits me to one a year.

    If you go to ACFW, I'd definately find a roomate or two, or three. I roomed with 2 other girls from my local group, who at the time I knew VERY little, and it was a great experience! This year I'm dragging my husband along because we are staying a few extra days and doubling it as our anniversary trip (10 years this year!) so, uh, yeah, I'll be rooming with him. but otherwise, it saves a good bit of money to find at least one roommate. Plus, it's fun! Makes me feel like Youth Group Summer camp all over again. *grin*

  24. Hi Krista,
    Thanks for distinguishing between the two conferences. I appreciate knowing the difference. I would love to meet face to face all of the fiction writers that I've met through blogging! And since I'm a fiction writer too, I'd love the focus to be completely on fiction! But I guess I need to see where I can best market/pitch my books. Thanks for all your advice! It's great to hear from someone has some experience.

  25. I didn't see it mentioned in any of the comments, but one of the BEST smaller conferences is OCW's summer conference. ( It's reasonable priced, has classes and attendees that are at the same level of national conferences, and will take your writing to the next level.

    When I went to ACFW two years ago, there were only 5-10 editors or agents I had not met already at OCW. Also, OCW has daily coaching classes, totaling near to 10 hours with top notch teachers and are limited to SMALL groups. Chip MacGregor was my coach last year and there were only about 10 of us in the class!

    Disclaimer: I've been on staff with them for the last three years, but I would highly recommend it regardless.


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