Conferences: How To Know When To Go?

In talking about the benefits of writers' conferences this week, I can't forget to mention they are an excellent place to network with editors too. In fact for authors without agents, conferences might be one of the only ways to get a manuscript in front of large traditional publishing house editors who otherwise don't accept unagented materials.

Several blogging friends got requests for partials or fulls from editors while at ACFW. It's not uncommon for writers to get contracted this way and then go on to acquire an agent as a result.

I was able to meet with Bethany House editor, Charlene Patterson, during the conference. Even though she isn't my "assigned" editor, she knew EVERYTHING about my work--my proposals, books, and future plans. I coveted her honest feedback and direction for my next book. And I gained a greater appreciation for editorial teams and their ability to work together with an author.

Aside from meeting other writers in real life and networking with agents and editors, are there any other benefits of a conference?

What about going to a conference to learn more about writing? I'm always reading one writing craft book or another. And I figure I don't need to spend $500 to go to a conference to learn more about how to be a good writer when I can spend $25 and get a couple of new books that can teach me just as much or more.

Of course, while I was at the conference, I tried to take full advantage of workshops. Some offered me new information, and some were--well, let's just say I sneaked out early. In other words, I wouldn't recommend going to a large expensive writer's conference if your main reason is to learn about the craft of writing. Save your money, go to smaller, less expensive conferences, and then head out to Barnes and Noble and splurge on craft books.

We hear a LOT of hype about attending conferences. But honestly, not everyone needs them or is ready for them. Before this fall, I'd never attended a writer's conference, not even a local one. I'd never been at a place in my writing career where I was truly ready to reap the benefits of a large conference. Until this year. . .

So, how do we know when we're ready to go to a conference and spend more cash in one weekend than most of us make in a year with our writing? Only each of us can truly know when that moment is.

However, here's a good test: Ask yourself if your writing is ready to submit to an agent or editor. Could you sit across from them in an appointment and proudly display your work? If yes, then maybe it's time to think about going. If no, then why not put the money to better use? Hire an editor instead.

Of course, this is all my opinion and some of you might feel differently. What's your opinion? How does a writer know when it's time to go to one of the large expensive conferences? How did you know it was time for you to go?

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