At some point in a writer’s development and attempt to rise in the publishing industry, he will recognize the necessity of participating in an organized writers’ conference. Conferences have much to offer a writer, with education seminars, panel presentation from agents and publishers, networking with other writers and the premier draw of pitch sessions with literary agents.
Writers’ conferences can be expensive to attend. Cost can include air fare, hotel, conference registration and extra expense for personal critique sessions or other activities. A two-day weekend conference can cost a writer more north of $1000 than south.
There are good conferences and okay conferences. A bad conference does not survive for very long.
I would advise any writer to carefully study upcoming conferences for a number criteria.
First, timing. Will you have a project ready to pitch to an agent? If you are between projects it could be a costly exercise in futility. An agent is not going to be enthusiastic about a book project you have as an outline or first draft. They want a manuscript that is ready, or darn close.
Second--what is being offered at the conference? Some conferences are specific to a particular genre. There is a Thriller/Suspense writers’ conference held in February in San Francisco. If you write historical romance or slipstream it is pointless for you to attend this conference.
Third—agents committed to attend are important to research. If an agent you have had the start of a relationship with is at a conference and you are certain a face-to-face pitch could clinch the representation—then go to the conference. I pitched to an agent at the Nebraska Writers Guild Fall conference in October, and darned if the agent didn’t remember me from my pitch to him for my first novel Algonquin two years before. Now he is waiting for my next project.
Finally—location is important. Let’s be honest, it’s nice to fly out to Los Angeles, Denver, Asheville to Aurora, Nebraska. (Well, flying is down I-80 from Omaha to Aurora.) At the Los Angeles conference I attended a couple years ago, I was thrilled to find a wonderful old world style Italian restaurant on a side street off Hollywood Boulevard.
This year I attended the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Fall Gold Conference in September. It was held at the Westin Hotel in Westminster, Colorado. The conference was perhaps the most professional and informative that I have ever attended. It featured the usual agent sessions and state of the industry panel, but it also had highly educational seminars like Homicide for Writers Who Aren’t Murderers taught by a forensics expert who works with the Denver police department.
The next conference I attended was the Nebraska Writers Guild Fall Conference in Aurora, Nebraska. While not on the scale of the RMFW conference, it nonetheless had a good seminar on taxes for writers and agent pitches. I was also able to read at this conference. What I read was well received.
If a writer weighs the expense of attending a conference against the potential benefits he may not feel it worthwhile. But I assure you it is indeed worth it and could be the best investment you have ever made in yourself.