Is a Writer’s Conference Worth the Money?

Cindy Wilson, Wendy Miller, Me, Heather Sunseri
I just spent several days in Indianapolis at a national fiction writer’s conference. This is only the second writing conference I’ve gone to in my writing career. In fact, in all my years of writing, I hadn’t attended one until last year (after I had an agent and book contract).

How important are writer’s conferences, really? The costs are incredibly high for the pauper writing population. When figuring in conference fees, transportation, and hotel, we can easily spend $1000. Are there enough benefits to justify that kind of cost?

Like everything on this blog, I can only share my opinions based on what I’ve been learning. So make sure to chime in with your thoughts in the comments!

Benefits of a Writer’s Conference:

*Networking with other writers. The relationships we form with other writers are invaluable. They could lead to critique buddies, blogging partners, champions for our books. At the very least, the friends we form will encourage us, challenge us, and enlighten us. And if we already have friends, then it’s the chance to meet new people and broaden our scope and presence. Published authors can use the time to build their name and promote their books among the writing community.

*Learning more about the business. While rubbing shoulders with hundreds of other authors, we get to learn more about industry advancements and happenings. We learn new lingo, see who’s important, and see how it’s all done from the best. I had the chance to ask other published authors for their advice on book signings—what worked and what didn’t for them. And since I have a book release party this Saturday, I soaked in every bit of information I could.

*Growing through workshops and seminars. Often seminars are led by best-selling authors, agents, or editors. We get to ask specific questions and might even have the opportunity for one on one time. During the conference I just attended, I had the privilege of learning from James Scott Bell the author of my favorite writing craft books.

*Connecting with industry professionals. A conference is one of the only places where writers can schedule meetings with agents and editors, pitch their work, and have the chance to get a foot in the door—especially with those closed to queries. They learn our names, see that we’re taking our writing seriously enough to attend a conference, and perhaps might ask to see more of our work.

But are the benefits really worth the money?

In a day an age when we can do and see almost anything we want online, is a conference really worth the money and effort? After all, we can network with other writers through blogging, twitter, and facebook. With a little effort we can form critique groups, find encouragement, and broaden our online presence. Do we really need to go to a conference for it?

And same with learning about the business and growing as writers. We can rub shoulders with agents on twitter, read industry blogs, and stay up with daily changes. We can buy books about everything from writing scenes to marketing our work. Do we really need to spend hundreds of dollars to do that when we can do it from the ease and comfort from our desk chairs?

With webinars, online conferences, a plethora of blogs about writing, and all the information a click away for free, the internet has definitely changed the need for writer’s conferences. In fact, conferences can often have an “overwhelming” feel to them. Despite the camaraderie, invigoration, and fun, there’s an underlying fear and slight depression that comes from knowing we’re all striving after the same thing and that not everyone is going to get a gold medal.

Even so, I still think a writer’s conference adds something valuable to a writer’s career that can’t be gained anywhere else. As much as I love the internet and the friendships I’ve made online, there’s nothing that beats real life, face to face communication and relating. And to me, that’s what writing conferences are all about—REAL CONNECTIONS.

I think every writer should eventually give a conference a try. But there’s no hurry—especially when we’re young in our writing careers. I waited until I was at a place in my writing career where I was ready to meet agents and industry professionals. Before that I put the money toward other things like fiction-writing help books and freelance edits.

What about you? What are other benefits to writer’s conferences? And do you think the benefits are really worth the money?

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