Conferences: Costs, Convenience & Confusion

Honey Creek Writers I met at conference!

Many writers new to the concept of conference-attending ask me, “Should I go?” My knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Yes, go. Definitely go.” But the truth is nothing’s that simple. I mean: Who will watch the kids while you’re away? Can you get the time off work to go? How much will this shindig cost you? And I don’t mean the registration fee. I mean, the whooooole thing. Conference fees are only a launching pad into hunderds, possibly more *cringe* for some authors to attend a conference. There are travel costs, airfare, gas, mileage on your car, rental car costs, a couple nights at a local hotel, and any meals, snacks, drinks not included in the registration fee. Oh, and the bar. The bars at the hotel locations make a mint at every conference. Not because the writers go lush it up, but because the hotel bar is the perfect spot to mingle and talk in a casual setting. Agents and editors don’t have to be “on” after hours the way they do while presenting or taking pitches. The bar is the place to be after the day is done. Trust me.

Conferences come in as many shapes and sizes as writers. They’re are the huge-humongous national events like RWA Romance Writers of America Nationals every year, RT Romantic Times annual convention, or Thrillerfest for crime junkies. Those conferences are gonna cost you several hundred dollars just to get in the door. If you live too far to drive like me, you can add several hundred more dollars in gas and airfare. See what I mean? But those aren’t the only shows going. National writers groups like RWA, Sisters in Crime (SinC), Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and others have regional and local chapters who throw a pretty great conference too. The costs are lower and the amount of one-on-one opportunity is higher. No, you might not rub shoulders with 37 NY agents, but maybe the 3 or 4 attending will actually have time to talk with you. It’s a trade off. Plus, attending an event close to home means meeting other people in your area you can network with. That’s important in such a rejection filled industry. Keeping your head up ain’t easy. I know.

If you’re still not sure a conference is for you, consider attending a local writer’s guild meeting, or a small workshop at a community college in your area. Take a chance, choose your level of investment and see what you think. I hope you will. And I hope every writer gets the opportunity to attend many many many conferences in their writing years, preferably at least one national show. It’ll be a trip you won’t forget.

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