Writers Conferences – Are They Worth It?

I have only been to one writer’s conference. It was a small one in Auckland, New Zealand run by the Romance Writer’s Guild. So yes, there were a lot of Mills and Boons authors there and yes, I possibly could have found one that was a slightly better fit for me, but all my books have a heavy romantic element and it was in town, so I figured I should give it a shot.

Was it worth it?

For me – a thousand times yes!

I went at a point in my life where I was still trying to find an agent and a traditional publishing deal. I knew there were going to be some agents there plus a top executive from Harlequin. At the time Harlequin Teen was just launching. I walked in there thinking it was all about the pitch. That’s the main reason I shelled out the money, but I got SO much more out of it than that.

Here are some of the reasons why I think “Going to a Writer’s Conference” should be on your To Do List.

– I went with the mindset that this was a golden opportunity, so I forgot my fear and introduced myself to everyone I wanted to meet. I ended up meeting some amazing authors. I spoke to Christopher Vogler who wrote one of my go-to books on writing – The Writer’s Journey. That was awesome.

– I sat through some amazing sessions with best-selling authors that shared some of their writing techniques and gave me a ton of things to think about.

– I was lucky enough to win a breakfast meeting with an agent who gave me so much advice in that one hour. She put my Time Spirit Trilogy on the right course. If not for that meeting, I don’t think the books would have done nearly as well. She also gave me some great insights into understanding the market.

– I got a better grasp on the whole business of writing, something us indie authors need to understand. We’re not just writers anymore – we are business people as well and whether we like it or not, we need to understand the writing market.

– One of my highlights from the conference was sitting in on a session run by a group of guys who do medieval sword fighting in their spare time. They had all the gear there and due to hounding them, they actually gifted me a private session and showed me exactly what moves to do for my story. All the fight sequences in the last section of Golden Blood are thanks to these awesome guys.

– The last thing I’ll mention, and probably the most important, is that I connected with many authors who were in the same boat as me. I ended up meeting two key women and we formed a little group called Inklings. Since then another three writers have joined us and we now all critique each other’s work, promote each other’s work and support each other through the ups and downs of writing. I haven’t even met two of them face-to-face yet and I would already consider them wonderful friends.

I came away from the conference feeling inspired and motivated. I would definitely tout it as one of the best weekends I’ve ever had.

Writer’s conferences are worth attending. If there is one in your town, jump at the chance to go. You will get so much out of it.

Author: Melissa Pearl

Melissa Pearl is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of multiple novels spanning a variety of genres, from YA fantasy and paranormal to romantic suspense, including award-winning novel, BETWIXT. For more on Melissa, visit her blog or her Amazon author page.

18 thoughts on “Writers Conferences – Are They Worth It?”

  1. Thank you Melissa. I have contemplated if it was worth going to a convention/conference being an Indie. Now after reading about your experience, I am excited to participate in one. Have you attended any book fairs as an author? There are some set up for Indies but not many. Any advice in that department?

    1. I have attended one small Fantasy/Sci-Fi Conference as an author, not to speak, just to sell books during the book fair sessions. I didn’t sell many as I don’t think my book were the best fit, but I did sell some and made some connections with a few small bookshop owners. I still felt it was worth my time.

      I would LOVE to get to some of the big book fairs in the States one day. I know there are some geared to Romance and Young Adults that I’d love to check out… and they allow indie authors to set up tables there.

      I’m very much of the opinion, that any positive exposure is usually worth the time 🙂

  2. Very nice article Melissa! I think you nailed it on the “inspired and motivated” part. I’ve only gone to a few conferences myself, along with attending some writing programs at Comic-Con, but you’ve captured what I’ve taken away from them. Attending a conference probably won’t reveal the magical ‘secret to success’ or revolutionize your writing skills overnight, but you’ll probably come away energized and feel more connected to the writing community in general.

    1. I agree… and sometimes it’s really important to get that energy boost. It definitely motivated me to work hard. Writing can be quite a lonely endeavour. It’s worth the effort t to make connections and get inspired every now and then 🙂

  3. Let me mention that there is a group called Writing Conference Link-In on Linked In (and another of same name on FaceBook) for people offering or shopping for conferences. It hasn’t been as popular as I’d hoped, but has some good information.

    The most powerful piece of information you can get on conferences is this:

    What’s funny to me here, is a lot of the people presenting at these conferences are also asking themselves “Are they worth it?” 🙂
    I’ve done three and am still deciding.

    1. Thanks for that link. That’s excellent.
      I can understand people’s hesitation. Often it is A LOT of money to spend, but I did find my experience totally inspiring and I would love to get to another conference eventually 🙂

  4. Your point about learning about the business is huge, because even though we’re indie, we have to address some of same issues as traditional publishers.

  5. I’m spoiled–I live in area where the arts are pretty highly valued, so they occasionally have free writing conferences. They aren’t flashy and they don’t get a lot of big names, but they’re great places to find encouragement.

  6. Good stuff, Melissa. One of the things I came away with from WFC this year was an idea about how to complicate my main character’s life even more, lol.

    Also, I’ve learned to take the day after the conference off from work. I get so excited about being around other writers for the weekend that going back to work puts me in a funk, unless I build in decompression time.

  7. I class conferences into three categories, though most have aspects of more than just one.
    1. How to Write Gooder
    The emphasis is on improving writing, with writers working on style etc.
    2. Biz
    Meet agents, write queries, talk to actual publishers, learn how to market
    3. Starfxxxers
    Kiss the hem of the garment of some rapty admired god/goddess or literature.

    I think the main value for a LOT of people is just milling around among hundreds of other writers and getting the vibe.

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