Tips on Attending a Writer's Conference

Updated on January 19, 2018
Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe has been to a couple of local conferences in her area in the past three years. She would love to go to the bigger ones too.

Getting Your Foot in the Door

If you're a creative writer, and if you want to get your foot in the door, going to your first writer's conference can be an exhilarating and beneficial experience. Whether you write poetry, songs, short stories, novels, or nonfiction articles, there are a couple of things you need to know before you start planning your first trip. These tips can make things easier for you in the long run, too.

A writer's conference is another way you can land an agent, an editor, or all of the above, besides querying for fiction writers or sending clips and proposals for journalists and non-fiction writers. Landing a referral, if you're lucky, can help you too.

If you're interested in attending a writer's conference, you can find information online, from magazines like Poets and Writers and Writer's Digest, and from books like Writer's Digest Guide of Literary Agents. Every once in a while, you might get mailed information for an invite to sign up.

Some writer's conferences are also geared toward the reader with special reader-related events to meet and greet your favorite authors. Or get an autographed copy of their book, too.

This Year's Boucheron Is Set for St. Petersburg, Florida

Mark the date for your calendar: Bouchercon September 6-9, 2018
Mark the date for your calendar: Bouchercon September 6-9, 2018 | Source

Location, Location, Location!

Keep that one word in mind. If you attend a local writer's conference in your area, you don't have to worry about airfare and arranging a hotel room. If there's none near your home, try the nearest county or regional area.

For those writer's conferences that are out-of-state, long-distance trips can be expensive. If you don't want to travel alone, bring a friend or family member for support, who also might read, too.

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Guide to Literary Agents 2018: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published (Market)
Guide to Literary Agents 2018: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published (Market)

Every writer should have a copy of the guide of literary agents on their desk's bookshelf for easy reference.

 

If the Price Is Right

Besides finding the right location to attend your first writing conference, you need to keep a budget in mind. Local ones in your area wouldn't cost as much, probably around $100-$300 and some might be lower than one hundred dollars. It depends on how long you want to stay for. Those that are out-of-state will cost you more than $300 and go higher, depending if you wanted to do the extra amenities. You would have to account the total cost in a couple of items on your list.

  1. Registration fee. For a single fee with no bonus amenities, some aren't free. But they cost you around $25 to reserve your fee.
  2. Airfare. You would have to reserve your own round-trip tickets, whether it's in-state or out-of-state.
  3. Room and board. You would have to reserve your hotel room, whether you want to sleep alone or share with a roommate.
  4. Meals. Most meals like breakfast, lunch and/dinner come with the package. Others you have to pay for, especially if you want to eat out in a different place.

Besides the basic amenities covered with your registration package, there are other fun stuff to do, besides meeting and greeting your favorite authors, and meet new friends who are fellow writers too.

  1. Workshop Classes. Most classes are free. But if they come with a fee, you would have to pay more, if you want to attend more than one.
  2. Extras. These will cost you some money, but worth the while if you want to improve your writing conference experience. Most writing conferences will have an award dinner or some other celebration, especially if it's sponsored by an organization like Romance Writers of America, International Thrilller Writers, and the Mystery Writers of America. They're optional and you don't have to attend.
  3. Manuscript Critique. This can be expensive, but getting feedback from an experienced editor or agent often helps to improve your craft. Those spots fill up fast if you want to reserve your spot in line.
  4. Agent/Publisher Pitch. If you don't need a critique and want to pitch your work to an agent or editor, this will cost you a little extra as well. Those spots get filled up too. If you don't have a manuscript, a query or cover letter will suffice.
  5. Contests. Entering your story in a contest can be daring and fun. Some entry fees are free, while others are under $25. Keep in mind, the more you enter, the more you have to pay. This is a good way to get feedback and criticism. If you're lucky enough, you'll win a prize. And that you can add to your query or cover letter as a publication credit. Many writing contests don't provide feedback.

Sometimes Less Is More

Besides location and price for the total package, you also have to take into consideration about how long you have to stay. If you have some spare time on your calendar, and if it falls in line with a writer's conference, then you get lucky. From what I've heard in the past about newbies who want to attend a conference this year, start small. In other words, less is more. Some seminars are a half-day or a full day if you want to get a full hands-on experience. Other preferable choices are weekend packages, which are only two or three days long. These are also inexpensive, while those longer than three days would cost more for the weekly ones.

When you request information or check their website online, some will have options for specific days. If you have time for one, give it a go. Most conferences that do happen once a year, (while some stay put in one location, others like Boucheron rotate to a new location every year), others have two a year, like one in spring and one in fall. So if you can't make one this winter or this spring, try the summer or fall ones.

All Set . . . Now Register Early!

Once you've got the basic information down on writing conferences, if you're interested, register early while you can. While most registration dates are open until it's filled, others have a deadline. So it's a good idea to do it. The same goes for hotel room reservations and the other extra amenities, too. The same applies to airline reservations when you want to get there early, like the day or night before, so you wouldn't miss any fun. If it's in your area, you can drive there in your car or take the bus or taxi to where you need to go. You can commute from your home and bypass airline and hotel reservations.

Other Options

If you don't have any money saved up for the trip, there are other alternatives. For the past couple of years, I've attended a free online writers conference every mid-October--except for last year, when it was canceled—and registration is free. It's called the Muse Online Writer's Conference. It's a good experience to learn the craft and get your own foot in the door. There are chat rooms for chats on specific fields, forums for workshops in various writing crafts, and a special pitch chat room to pitch your story to agents and editors. (Sorry, only novels are allowed to pitch.) It's a great alternative to get the same experience as a real one. Unfortunately, it's been inactive for the past year or so. Maybe it would return next year.

A writer's retreat may be another option for you. It's also expensive when you can spend time writing and hone your craft, and have very little extra amenities to spend your money on. Some are weekend packages, while others are longer, like for a week. Try to stay away from writing residencies, which are held in college dorms and last for two weeks to a month.

All Summed Up

In overall, keep this tips in mind. Start local in location, save money on the price, and start small with half-day/full-day and weekend packages. Later on, you can go for the big bucks on the weekly ones. You would have to pay for the basic amenities, while others are optional and costly. Register early and have fun if you go!

One Final Tip

Another tip for those who are going is to take notes.Bring notebooks and pens or pencils, or bring your Ipad to type down everything you learn. Or even bring a portable tape recorder to record the session, if it's okay to get permission. If you want to go to two classes that's held at the same hour, sit in the back and quietly sneak out to go to the next class. Have fun, takes notes, meet new people and make new friends. You'll learn a lot in one conference!

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    • Kristen Howe profile image
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      Kristen Howe 22 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      You're welcome! I'll be happy to help you out, my friend.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 22 months ago from Taos, NM

      Thanks for the web sites! They look interesting although I'm not quite sure how to navigate them and submit an entry but I appreciate your help!

    • Kristen Howe profile image
      Author

      Kristen Howe 22 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      That's so cool Suzette. Where in New Jersey?

    • Kristen Howe profile image
      Author

      Kristen Howe 22 months ago from Northeast Ohio

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 22 months ago from Taos, NM

      Yes, I would appreciate the links. I guess I've been living in a cave as I don't know about these Twitter and email pitches.

    • Kristen Howe profile image
      Author

      Kristen Howe 22 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks Suzette. It's harder that way. There's tons out there that you can pitch via Titter or email. One's this weekend and one's next month, the same way. I'll be happy to give you the links. I'll be sending out my check next Monday for the conference--I have enough for one pitch though.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 22 months ago from Taos, NM

      I keep forgetting to tell you I am a former Jersey girl too. I grew up there.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 22 months ago from Taos, NM

      Good to hear you are experienced. Congrats! I never know you could do it via Twitter and in 140 characters! That's unique and creative!

    • Kristen Howe profile image
      Author

      Kristen Howe 22 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Suzette, I've done it via Twitter and from various contests since last summer. Cool! I've pitched at an online conference once, a few years ago.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 22 months ago from Taos, NM

      Other than on HubPages that is. Lol!

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 22 months ago from Taos, NM

      The same here. Probably 1-2 pitches. I have never made a pitch before but I thought that this would be a good experience. It will be my first time meeting professionals in the writing/publishing industry.

    • Kristen Howe profile image
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      Kristen Howe 22 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      You're welcome Suzette. I'm doing the extras too. I'll be sending out my check real soon. How many pitches? I hope to do 1-2. My pleasure.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 22 months ago from Taos, NM

      I sent in my check today. I added on for the pitch/consultation but that was all above and beyond the workshop. I am really looking forward to this and I can't wait to meet you. Thanks so much for writing this hub and for the info.

    • Kristen Howe profile image
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      Kristen Howe 22 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Suzette, you're very welcome. It would be so cool to meet a fellow Hubber. Cool. Are you do the extras or the plain conference?

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 22 months ago from Taos, NM

      Kristen : Thank you so much for the info. I want to attend this workshop and I have e - mailed to register. I look forward to meeting and seeing you there. I am so excited as this is the first writers workshop I will attend.

    • Kristen Howe profile image
      Author

      Kristen Howe 22 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Hi Suzette. You're very welcome. I'm not going to Boucheron, since it's too much money, and it's in a new place every year. But I'm planning to do the Cleveland Writers Workshop on 6/4/16. Hope to meet you there.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 22 months ago from Taos, NM

      Thanks for an interesting article. Your tips are great and so helpful. Where are you going for this writing conference? I am also living in NE Ohio right now and I am interested in this. Thanks!

    • Kristen Howe profile image
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      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks Molly for the comment and the correction. I meant, you can reserve a spot to have your ms editing by an editor or agent by the conference sponsor. I'll fix that spot, today.

    • Molly Layton profile image

      Molly Layton 2 years ago from Alberta

      " For a single fee with no bonus amenities, some aren't free. But they cost you around $25 to reserve your fee."

      I don't quite understand this line. How do you reserve a fee? What is the "they" you are referring to? You may need to edit this part. Otherwise, this hub is beautiful! I love it.

    • Kristen Howe profile image
      Author

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      You're very welcome Gail. That's pretty cool. I wish my local library did it. But the one I went to in March was a local community college about an hour away from where I live.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 2 years ago from South Carolina

      Great tips.

      I'm fortunate that a local library in Southern DE hosts an excellent, free, all day writer's conference each summer and it's a great way to network with other authors and to get tips on how to get published.

      Thanks for sharing this information.

    • Kristen Howe profile image
      Author

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks Patsy for stopping by and commenting. Thanks for sharing my hub too. I was nervous for mine in March.

    • Patsybell profile image

      Patsy Bell Hobson 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

      Great hub. A great encouragement for first time conference goers. Up, UAI, tweet, Pin.

    • Kristen Howe profile image
      Author

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      You're very welcome. I hope you get to go sometime.

    • Emese Fromm profile image

      EmeseRĂ©ka 2 years ago from The Desert

      Good article, great idea. I've been invited to a few over the years but haven't attended one yet (there is always next year). You have shared some useful information here, thank you.

    • Kristen Howe profile image
      Author

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks Poetryman for stopping by. There's not many online writers conferences out there, except for some Twitter pitch events. There surely be one a local one that's inexpensive for you in your area.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      I would probably just stick with the online variety. Upvoted for the useful information.

    • Kristen Howe profile image
      Author

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      You're welcome Dolores. The one I went to last weekend was in another country, a half-hour one. My local one doesn't host one, since it's not a big town. But good tip.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Kristen, thanks for the info on writers' conferences. In many areas, if you belong to a local writers' group, usually the group hosting the conference, you may get a break on fees!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for sharing all the useful information, Kristen. Attending a writer's conference sounds like a great idea!

    • Kristen Howe profile image
      Author

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks Flourish for stopping by. I'll be going to a local one in three weeks!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      Great information. I would like to do this one day soon.

    • Kristen Howe profile image
      Author

      Kristen Howe 3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks Mel. I hope it's helpful for all newbies.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Great tips. I had never considered attending a writer's conference but I can definitely see the advantage. Great hub!

    • Kristen Howe profile image
      Author

      Kristen Howe 3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      You're welcome Billy. I hope to go to one too this year.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This is something I haven't done yet, but one day soon. Thanks for the tips.

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