Writing Conferences: Worth the Trip?

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I spent this past weekend with about 250 other writers at the annual Greater Lehigh Valley Writer’s Group (GLVWG) Conference in Allentown, Pennsylvania attending informational sessions with published authors, meeting with agents and publishers, and mingling with fellow writers. I also dropped about $125 on a day-and-a-half event with no free alcohol.

Most of the writers I know are pretty split on the benefits of attending writing conferences. People “in the know” will encourage you to attend at least one. Some writers are conference whores who will shell out hundreds of dollars if there’s a conference within an 18 state radius of them. Other writers think it’s a waste of time and money and not overly helpful in the long-run. I’m kind of in the middle on this one. Here are the pros and cons of writing conferences:

Pros:

–          You’ll usually attend at least a few informational sessions that are actually helpful. You can learn about current trends in the market place, how to promote your work, and how to reach agents and publishers.

–          Most conferences have agent/editor meetings where you can sign up to meet an agent/editor or even several depending on the conference. Face time is always better than the blind query letter.

–          You get to interact with other writers. This past conference it was said what miracle writing conferences are. You have hundreds of people who would rather be alone all gather in one location and hang out with each other. Writing is such a solitary pastime it’s good to remind yourself there is a larger community out there should you want to participate.

Cons:

–          They’re expensive. Not only do you have to pay over $100 just to attend the conference, you usually end up paying for a hotel and food as well. The only reason I attend the GLVWG conference every year is because I live 20 minutes away so I can sleep in my own bed and eat my own food. If you’re a writer, I assume you’re poor and multiple conferences a year add up quickly.

–          After attending a few conferences now, it’s clear that some presenters are there to make money or promote their own work and nothing more. I literally sat through a 50 minute session on “Marketing your Self-Published Novel” where five minutes was on actual marketing techniques and the other 45 minutes was the presenter telling us her entire life story and how great she was. By the way, she did this all in 1999…so not all that recent. Helpful? Not so much.

–          You have to actually leave your house. For writers, this may be the thing that keeps you home. Conferences can be intimidating, especially if you’re doing agent pitches. You sit in front of an agent and tell them your great idea for a book and when you’re done, they say, “Nah” and you slink away like a dejected puppy. Or they could say, “Yeah. Send me some chapters,” and then you’re flying high. You never know. Some people can’t handle that kind of pressure.

If I had to make a recommendation, I’d say (if you have the money) go to at least one if you’re trying to pass yourself off as a serious writer. It’s worth checking out. Good things can happen that won’t if you’re sitting in front of your computer in your basement. On a whim, I entered the Non-Fiction Flash Contest at The GLVWG Conference and won first place. Something for the ‘ole resume. You just have to venture out of the cave every now and then and see what’s going on if for no other reason than to remind yourself that there are others out there fighting the same battle and you are not alone.

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~ by themoderntranscendentalist on March 24, 2014.

2 Responses to “Writing Conferences: Worth the Trip?”

  1. Thanks for this post. I always wondered if this sort of thing was worth it. You’ve convinced me I should try at least one. Sounds scary and interesting at the same time. How do you find these conferences? Google “writing conferences?”

    • You can Google writing conferences and writing magazines like Writer’s Digest usually have them listed in the back section. The AWP Conference is the Mecca of writing conferences so if you have some extra money and want to go to THE writing conference, that’s the one. It’s in Seattle this year. I’m poor so I’m not going.

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