Should You Attend a Writers’ Conference?

Attend Writers' Conference

Is it time to take your writing career to the next level by attending a writers’ conference?

The answer is a definite yes. No matter where you are in your career as a writer, attending a conference will benefit you. In this post, we’ll explain all of the reasons why you should get yourself to the next conference.

What is a Writers’ Conference?

A writers’ conference is an annual meeting of literary professionals. Attendees include published and unpublished authors, editors, literary agents, and publishers. Most writers’ conferences take place over an extended weekend with sessions kicking off on Fridays. During the conference, you may participate in workshops, attend lectures, get one-on-one manuscript critiques, and meet fellow authors during mixers and relaxed happy hours.

Many conferences also open up an exhibit hall for its attendees. During conference hours, you can visit different exhibitor booths and learn about peripheral literary services that you may not have considered before. Writing clubs, unions, ebook distributors, photographers and book shop owners are frequent exhibitors at writers’ conferences. You’ll definitely want to stop by the exhibit hall during your time at the conference to see what and who may be available to help your career.

The Benefits of Attending a Writers’ Conference

Let’s explore the top nine reasons why you should register for a conference:

1. Get Serious About Writing

Anybody can declare themselves a writer, but only the most serious writers will actually register for a conference and pay the associated fees.  

It’s time to invest in yourself. You can spend years daydreaming about writing or you can spend a weekend actually meeting with the people who can make your writing dream a reality. By attending a conference, you’ll give yourself permission to fully embrace yourself as a writer.

Don’t attend a writers’ conference unprepared. Here’s a list of tips to make sure that you get the most out of your time.

2. Learn From Other Writers

Attend Writers' Conference

At a conference, there will be writers at every stage in their career. You’ll meet authors who published several best sellers. You’ll meet beginners who haven’t actually finished their first manuscript. No matter where you are in your career, there’s always an opportunity to meet others who are further along the path. Don’t be afraid to forge a friendship with writers who aren’t on your same career level. These people can serve as mentors to you and help you get to your destination sooner.

Also, don’t forget that you may be a good mentor, too! There are people who would love to know what you’ve learned along the way. Don’t shy away from assisting others.

3. Learn From Editors

There are professional writers and then there are professional readers. Editors are professional readers who will help you shape up your manuscript and clarify your content.

At a writers’ conference, you may be able to meet with an editor for a mini-critique session. During this 10- to 15-minute sit-down session, your editor will evaluate a limited sample of your manuscript (for example, the first 20 pages) and may provide you with written notes for improvement. You’ll get immediate feedback on a manuscript that may not be fully developed yet.

There is usually an added fee for this service, but some conferences include this service for “free” (i.e. it’s baked into the price).

In addition to a one-on-one meeting, you can also learn from editors in a less intimidating setting, such as a Q and A panel or a workshop. Discover a different point of view and learn more about the rewriting process during one of these sessions.

4. Learn From Literary Agents

Looking to get published by a traditional publisher? You’ll need representation first. And guess what? You can find representation in one weekend by attending a writers’ conference.

Literary agents are always in attendance and they’re eager to sign up new clients. The alternative is to spend weeks, months or even longer querying agents to see who’ll bite. In a conference setting, you have the advantage of being able to speak with them face to face (it’s harder to resist you that way). While not everyone will be a connection, if you shake enough hands, you may find the perfect match.

Have your pitch ready. You never know when or where you’ll meet a literary agent during the conference. (Agents visit the loo, too.)

Literary agents may be panelists in different sessions. During these panels, literary agents can give you a heads’ up on what publishers are looking for and some need-to-know trends in the industry.

5. Pitch Your Manuscript to Literary Agents

Attend Writers' Conference

In addition to workshops and impromptu meetings in the elevator, you may also have the opportunity to pitch your manuscript in a prepared setting. Many conferences have pitch sessions where you have between three to 10 minutes to discuss your book with an agent (or a series of agents). In addition to hooking an agent, use this opportunity to find out if your book is marketable.

Another option is to get query letter advice. Get professional feedback from agents who are able to help you with your career.

6. Sharpen Your Skills

At a writers’ conference, you’ll always learn something to improve your craft. For example, you may discover new genres or learn how to market yourself to the right demographic.

When choosing a writers’ conference, look for one with sessions that support your unique needs.

Don’t just go for the most popular conferences or the ones with the biggest names. Choose ones that will help you grow in your career.

7. Network With Fellow Writers

One of the biggest perks of attending a writers’ conference is just meeting with other writers. Being at an event with a group of writers produces a special camaraderie that you can’t find anywhere else. Make new friends with fellow writers who commiserate with your struggles and share common goals. These friends can become extra lines of support when you need encouragement.

8. Break Up the Monotony

You spend 99 percent of your time as a writer by yourself. Even if you’re around others, you’re still alone with your own thoughts.

Attending a writers’ conference gives you an escape from the norm while still working on your craft. Who says you can’t be productive while on a mini-vacation?  

It’s almost impossible to come away from a writers’ conference without feeling inspired. You can take that new energy back to your writer’s cave.

9. Tax Write Off

Finally, you may* be able to write off your expenses. While this won’t exactly make the conference and its associated travel, lodging, and meals “free,” it will reduce your taxable income and the amount you’ll need to pay Uncle Sam when tax time comes.

*I’m a writer, not an accountant or lawyer. Don’t take my word for it. Check with a qualified tax professional to find out which deductions may apply to you.

Related Resources

Check out these additional posts:

Over to You

Have you attended a writers’ conference before? We’d like to hear from you. What’s your number one tip? Let us know in the comments below.

Don’t forget to download this list of preparation tips here.

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