Are Writers Conferences Useful?

For a general answer, I would say yes. There’s a lot of useful things that can be gotten out of a writers conference: networking with other authors, the opportunity to see where your genre/the industry seems to be heading, and the ability to get feedback from other authors and agents. Plus there’s normally a wide variety of panels available, often ones that are genre-specific, or can be useful for publishing or marketing.

For a long answer? Maybe.

The main problem with writers conferences is that they’re ungodly expensive. The big one near me (this weekend, in fact!), Pikes Peak Writers Conference, is almost $400, without hotel costs and the like. I’ve seen some that are closer to $600. Our smaller conference, Colorado Gold, is close to $400 as well. That amount of money can be hard to justify, especially year after year.

And it’s up to the individual author as to whether this is money well spent or not.

I would argue that the people who get the most out of writers conference are either beginning writers, or people who are actively submitting/publishing. While there are a wide variety of panels, some get repetitive, or cover information that experienced authors already know. It’s good to network at any stage, but it can be hard to keep in touch with some people if you’re at very different stages or if you’re not actively producing.

Getting feedback from authors, agents, and editors can be invaluable, but if it’s the only thing you hope to get out of a conference, there may be cheaper ways to do so.

Remember that there are other avenues outside of conferences. Local writing groups often host exercises, panels, and critiques, or there may be authors in your area that teach classes. Some writing groups also host speakers such as authors and agents.

So it’s up to you whether the money is worth it. I’ve done Pikes Peak twice and had a good time both times, but I was also actively looking for agents at the time. I haven’t been able to justify the money since then, not with where I am and what I’m doing at the moment, though I may look at doing a conference in the fall or, more likely, next year. I’ve also made some good connections through my involvement.

If you are looking at attending a writers conference, take a look to see what people who have attended before have said about it, and if it seems like a good fit for you from an experience and genre standpoint. I recommend taking a friend. That way you can divide and conquer if two interesting panels or events fall at the same time. (Preferably a friend with similar writing interests as yourself.) And if you do go, don’t hang back from trying something because it sounds scary. Get your money’s worth. Remember that everyone feels self-conscious about their writing sometimes, and they’re unlikely to laugh at you.

Have you been to a writers conference, Squiders? Yay or nay? Best one you’ve attended? Planning on going to any soon?

(If you’d like more writers conference information, try the following entries:

These are my personal experiences with conferences and might be interesting for people who are considering going to one for the first time.)

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