Are writing conferences worth it? Part II

Back  in March, I posted a question on if Writing Conferences were worth the money…so I decided to test it out for myself and sign up for one.

Last weekend, I attended the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC (after spending months talking myself in and out of actually attending).  Now, my motivations for going to a writer’s conference may or may not be similar to yours.  I wanted to learn about publishing options and the publishing/marketing process.  Luckily for me, there were quite a few sessions that dealt with publishing (all different kinds, with feedback from authors and agents) and the business of selling books, as well as other sessions that taught me about important things that I never knew existed – like metadata.

In the end, the conference was definitely worth it for me.  Here are some things to think about in order to determine if a conference would be right for you –

What are you hoping to get out of it?

-If you’re hoping to land an agent, editor, and publishing deal during a conference, then you’re going to want to scale back your expectations a bit.  Many conferences allow writers an opportunity to pitch their novel or ideas to agents and editors.  However, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll fall all over themselves and offer you a publishing deal right there.  You can count yourself very fortunate and successful if an agent or editor asks you to send them a query letter or the first few chapters of your book.  This is a big deal and if this happens to you, regardless of the outcome, you should be very proud.

These agent/editor sessions (essentially speed-dating, since you table hop to find your potential “partner”) are great practice even if you’re not finished with your novel.  But don’t do it unless you feel like you’re ready.

-If you’re hoping to learn about something specific (like publishing), do your research and make sure that the conference has enough session on that subject.  If it doesn’t, then wait to find one that’s right for you.

-If you’re hoping to meet other writers, again, do your research.  If you only want to meet authors that are in your genre, you may want to pick a conference that’s more focused (like Thrillerfest if you write thrillers).  But, if you’re open to meeting all kinds of authors, then go to one of the larger ones – it’s a great opportunity!  I had a lot of fun meeting other authors (especially with the help of my one free drink – yippee!).  But, before you go, think about printing up some author business cards.  Sadly, I didn’t do this and really wish I had.  But alas, there’s always next time for passing out pretty business cards (hmm, but first I have to decide on a design).

How much does it cost and how much can you afford?

-If you really want to go to a conference, but think the price is a little too steep, research to find if they have basic/cheaper packages or if you can save more money if you book in advance.  Also look to see if there are other conferences closer to you (there are a ton of conferences), that would allow you to save on travel and hotel costs.

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22 thoughts on “Are writing conferences worth it? Part II”

  1. Nice post. I attended my first two this year (Liberty States Writer’s Conference and BookCon). Each had its plusses. Neither was particularly expensive. As a self-published author, you’ll find that most conferences are still heavily geared toward traditional publishing (as they’re often also major sponsors). There can also be quite a negative spin toward the practice. That aside, there are often a lot of great seminars on craft and the industry itself.

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    1. Thanks and thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      The sessions that I went to were fairly balanced in their coverage of traditional, self, and partner publishing – which was pretty interesting. They also had a good number of hybrid authors (self and traditional or partner and traditional), who were very open about the pros and cons of the options. It did seem that despite this, most of the attendees still felt like they wanted to try traditional publishing.

      I’m still not sure which way I’ll go – as self and partner publishing allow much more author control over the traditional…though the major trade off is the price of going the self/partner-publishing route and not being able to have books in book stores. Did you use any services like book baby or inkshares?

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      1. I went entirely on my own back in 2011 when I published my first book. My latest (and first novel under my own name), I hired an editor and a well known cover artist. I’m also having the paperback professionally formatted. The cost of all that is a bit daunting, but I know the editing alone will make the book that much more successful. I’ve never used a service, despite being accepted by Booktrope earlier in the year. I decided that I’d rather keep the royalty they were asking me to give up and go it alone. It’s not easy, but it gets easier the more you do it.

        Control is really what self publishing is about. I don’t want someone change the story because it doesn’t quite fit the mold. My next book will be my third full length novel and I’d be hard-pressed to go the traditional route at this point. It’s not for everyone, but I’m happy with it. Good luck! 🙂

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      2. I definitely agree on the control part – I dislike the idea of giving up my control on the title, the cover, edits, marketing, etc…maybe that’s the control-freak I never knew I had in me. 🙂

        But, the money issue is somewhat daunting and surprising, at least to me. At the conference, they said that it can sometimes cost $3k – $10k to create a professional looking novel (which includes a profession cover, developmental editing, proof-reading, formatting, etc). Ugh. Scary… though at least you can keep the rights and maintain control – a trade-off decision either way.

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      3. $10k! Oy… who are they hiring to do their work? When all is said and done, I’ll have spent close to $1k to self publish my newest book. I look at that as very recoverable. That’s with an editor, a highly touted cover artist, and professional formatting. Even the low end of that range, $3k, would be steep. Now, I can see how it would be easy to get to those numbers, but I think it’s also possible to achieve similar results for much less.

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      4. Haha… I got Jason Gurley (http://jasongurley.com) before he recently retired from cover making. He’d made a bunch of gorgeous covers for Hugh Howey and Hugh, of course, had recommended him (http://hughhowey.com). I decided that, if I was going to go all out with this series, it needed great covers. I’m very happy with the work he did, and sad that he’s going to hog his talents to himself from now on. 😉 I also recommend checking out the yellow pages section of the Writer’s Cafe over at kboards (http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,123703.msg1837120.html#msg1837120). I’ve been going to that site as a resource for years. Lots of helpful people with a ton of experience in self publishing and publishing in general.

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences there! I was considering going, but the cost was a drawback when I wasn’t sure what might be there to gain. But it sounds like it would definitely be worth the money for that one in NYC. (We have one coming up in Orlando, but I researched it and it sounds cheesy.) Thanks again! 😀

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    1. No problem! 🙂 And you’re right – the cost is a major drawback. I wanted to go last year, but I didn’t and decided to save instead. It was still pretty pricey, but I had fun and learned a lot. And of course, meeting new authors is always fun. 🙂

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  3. Nice. I’m not looking to learn all that much about publishing, but I do want to meet writers, editors, and agents. I’ll be going to my first conference next month in “Los Angeles” (it’s actually in Orange County, but they call it LA for marketing purposes, I think).

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  4. Thanks for sharing! Super helpful tips! Have you thought about going to RWA conferences? I’ve been so on the fence about both attending and signing up for membership since it seems like I can’t settle on writing a full length novel.

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    1. I have thought about the RWA conferences…though I’m currently not a member. They’re on my list of things to research. But, I’m pretty sure that you can join without having written a full length novel – I wonder if they have writing groups and forums. Might be worth investigating. 🙂

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      1. I think they have both writing groups and forums… hmm…perhaps. It’s taken me this long to submit one query to a magazine. It might take me just as long to join a writing group! 😛

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      2. awww, but a writer’s group can be your friend! If you join the right group, they can help to foster your writing and critique your work (depending on the type of group and what you want). I love my writing group – meeting up with them is part of the reason why I was able to finish the rough draft of my novel. 🙂

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  5. I definitely think the cost of conferences can be prohibitive. For that very reason I started a conference series that’s under $100 and guests can pitch to an agent, and hear from publishers and best-selling authors. I think there are lots of affordable options if you know where to look. I’m glad you got so much out of your conference, and thanks for sharing advice on how to get the most out of a conference. If anyone is interested in my next conference on Sept. 20 in NYC check out the website http://www.writerswork.org.

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