4 Reasons for Published Authors to Attend Conferences

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

If you’re an unpublished/unagented writer, then you probably know that writers’ conferences are a great place to meet agents and editors. But today I want to make clear: There are plenty of other good reasons to attend a conference – even if you already have an agent and/or a publisher.

1. The workshops can be valuable.

It’s like doctors and lawyers who are many years into practice but are still required to take a certain number of hours per year of ongoing instruction. You might be brushing up on some skills you already have or you might learn something new; you might get updated information on the latest trends in your industry; you may hear interesting discussions about the future and what to expect. You can gain new insights in your writing, and gather interesting marketing or social networking ideas. At the very least, you can get inspiration and encouragement.

2.  It’s nice to know you’re part of something larger than yourself.

Writing is such a solitary endeavor, and it helps to be reminded that “the industry” is not a big scary impersonal thing, it’s a community populated by real people who are passionate about writing and publishing. When you spend most of your time sitting alone at your laptop, it helps to feel like you’re part of this community. Conferences are one of the best ways to become a part of it.

3. You can make real, long-lasting friendships with other writers.

Conferences can introduce you to a whole world of like-minded people, and when you go back home, you can stay in touch via the Internet. Many writers don’t have anyone in their “real life” who gets it—who understands what it means to be a writer. It’s crucial to make those friends who can be there for you, year round.

4. Ongoing networking is crucial – and fun.

Even if you have a publisher,  don’t underestimate the value of continuing contact with writers, publishers and editors. If you go to conferences repeatedly, your face and your name may become familiar to people in the business. And you never know what might come of that. One day your publisher might decide they don’t want to publish your genre any more; being on a first-name basis with a dozen other editors can’t hurt.

Of course, there is some protocol involved. If you have an agent and you’re happily contracted with a publisher, you may socialize with other agents and editors, but you may not want to be seen in those one-on-one appointments with an agent or editor. (Except for your own.) Tongues will wag and your loyalty will be questioned and you may get a negative reputation. (Even if you’re looking for a new agent, this is best done discreetly.)

If you’re an agented author, it’s a good idea to discuss the conference with your agent before you go. She’ll let you know if you should be having meetings with editors, and if so, she can help you determine which ones to target.

One caveat: Authors always ask me if they “should” go to a conference. I say, first and foremost, take care of your family. If it’s a financial hardship, or it’s simply too difficult for you to be away for a few days, then DON’T feel pressured to do it. But if you (and your spouse) have determined that it’s a priority, and you can swing it, I recommend one conference a year for most writers. Some attend two or more. Some go to one every other year. You need to figure out what works for you.

Are you going to any writer’s conferences this year?

36 Responses

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  1. Sarah Thomas says:

    Today is the last day of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in NC. It’s been excellent. Great workshops with writers, editors and agents. Time to connect with other writers. TONS of encouragement from everyone. I had good meetings, great input and initiated some friendships that I hope last a long time. Highly recommended!

  2. Good points, Rachelle. When I was practicing medicine, attending professional meetings wasn’t always about the workshops and lectures. It was helpful and refreshing to network with friends, and I always left having picked up several “pearls,” most often over coffee with some of the people there.
    I’ve been fortunate to attend a number of writing conferences, and they were all great. See you (and many others, I hope) at the ACFW Conference in my “hometown” this fall.

  3. ACFW-bound! 🙂

  4. Michelle Lim says:

    Thanks for the insightful post, Rachelle!

    This year I am planning to attend the Great Lakes Get Away with teacher/author Colleen Coble for craft training and ACFW for networking, editor/agent appointments as well as craft workshops.Can’t wait! See everyone in Dallas!

  5. Jeanne says:

    Looking forward to my first ACFW in Dallas. 🙂

  6. I like how you stressed the importance of putting our families first, Rachelle. Couldn’t agree more.

    Excited to attend ACFW in September. Looking forward to seeing everyone! 🙂

  7. Great post, Rachelle. I’ve wondered what the benefits were once an author was agented/published, so thanks for spelling it out.

    I’m thrilled to be attending ACFW for the first time this year. I’m looking forward to the workshops and agent/editor appts, but mostly, I can’t wait to meet in person all of the wonderful writers I’ve become friends with through the online writing community.

  8. Tiana Smith says:

    I really need to go to some writer conferences, but I’m waiting until I’m done with my current WIP. Even the networking online is amazing, so in-person is always more fun.

  9. Gloria Getman says:

    Great post. I’ve been attending writers’ conferences for years, and I never fail to glean a few pointers from the workshops. And I’ve met some of the most interesting people who have had lives that would fill a book. I leave every conference filled with enthusiasm about writing and my own projects. I return home renewed. Thanks.

  10. We have attended several writers’ conferences and have always found them to be worthwhile.

    In 2010, I wrote this blog about conferences: http://bit.ly/bVcK7X as a guest with Zetta Brown.

    We continue to find interacting with industry professionals stimulating, and we always learn something new.

    There are lots of conferences available for every genre. You can find the one(s) that are a good fit for you.

  11. Rich Gerberding says:

    My first thought about continued attendance at conferences regardless of success is to pass on the encouragement and advice to others.

    Without Paul Coughlin I would not have gotten started, and without his and others’ input I probably would not have kept going.

    Even in my current role (agented, unpublished) I’ve had great conversations from people who want to write/have written but had no idea of the next steps.

    When I look back years from now, whether my writing impact is large or small, I would hope that I can honor those who helped me by helping the next wave of authors.


  12. After attending the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference for ten years, this year I was invited to attend as faculty. I LOVED the opportunity to pass on the knowledge and encouragement I’d received in the past. What a delight!

  13. Keli Gwyn says:

    I’m attending the local Write to Inspire Conference in the Sacramento area July 20 & 21, where Chip MacGregor will be the main speaker and I’ll be signing my debut novel. I’m also attending the ACFW conference in September, where I’ll get to see my awesome agent. 🙂

  14. I’m going to ACFW again this year. Met lots of wonderful people last year. Brandilyn Collins would call them “non-normals.” I call them friends who get it … and don’t look at me wierd when I talk to myself, or worry that I plot out how to sabotage elevators.

    • Jean Huffman says:

      From one of your friends who is “non-normal,” I wholeheartedly agree. It’s worth going to a conference just to meet and network with other Christian writers (which is whole different breed of writer than most secular writers I know).

  15. Wonderful post, Rachelle. I enjoy conferences when I can swing it. I highly recommend the Muse Online Writers Conference. It’s all online and free, though donations are accepted. Ive always been skeptical of free things, but in this case, it’s been worth it. Some of the workshops can overlap, but overall I learn a great deal.

    The other conference I attend is WriteAngles at Mt. Holyoke College in October. It’s small and local. Since I do most of my networking online, I get a chance to meet local writers this way.

    My goal is to be able to afford a Christian writers conference within the next couple of years.

    Thanks for these great reminders about how valuable conferences can be.

  16. I just attended OWFI, a local writer’s conference, and it was excellent. The sessions were great, but what I loved most about it was the fellowship with other writers. Though it wasn’t a Christian conference, there were plenty of us there, and I made some great new friends.

    I’m attending ACFW this September for the second time and looking forward to it.

  17. Cara Putman says:

    Really looking forward to attending ACFW again in the fall. So far, other than the occasional retreat for published authors, that’s been my only conference, but it’s served me very well!

  18. Rachelle, as you know my first book is being published soon. I have felt the need to go back to a conference as a way for others to see that real people can get published. (Does that sound pompous? I hope not.)
    In the past I have needed to know that actual flesh and blood people publish books. I need to see they have zits, and funny outfits, and are just regular folk like me.

  19. Karen Junker says:

    I put on the Cascade Writers workshop and I’m always looking for ideas for classes which will be of value to the more advanced or published writer.

    We welcome families at our events and we try to work with people who wish to attend by taking small monthly payments if they can’t pay the registration all at once.

    Any ideas about topics for classes would be most welcome!

  20. I attended my first conference last weekend
    (Pennwriters) and had a blast! Met lots of interesting and great people. Learned a lot! Felt the support of new friends. But realized there is a lot of competition out there which makes me want to work harder.

  21. Laura Hickman says:

    How do I find conferences in my area and aren’t they always expensive to attend? $$$

  22. I’ve met some of my most supportive and loyal friends at the San Francisco Writers’ Conference, which I attended both in 2011 and 2012. And, I’ve been challenged there in ways that force me to get better. Yeah, a conference or two per year for the rest of my life is about right.

  23. Sarah Sundin says:

    I totally, 100% agree with all your reasons. The writer friends I’ve met through Mount Hermon and ACFW have become some of my best friends period, and conferences are where we can hang out. And I always, always learn something new – usually so much my brain hurts.

    Another reason to attend now that I’m published is the chance to give back. When I was starting out, I benefitted from the wisdom and encouragement of those ahead of me on the journey, and now I’m thrilled to encourage those at earlier stages of the journey. Teaching, praying, listening, offering advice, sharing my experiences (happy and sad) – these have become my greatest joy at conferences.

  24. I always attend the Northern Colorado Writers Conference (spring) and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference (fall). Left Coast Crime 2013 will be back in Colorado in March, so I’ll attend that one as well.

  25. Emily says:

    I went to a conference and my roommate was a pubbed author. It MADE my conference experience. She was awesome and generous and so sweet. She took time to personally help me work through a few kinks in my MS and ask me some really hard questions that led to breakthroughs for me. We still keep in touch and I am so glad I got to meet her.

    Yes. Pubbed authors should go to conferences, if only to help out newbies like me!

  26. Donna Pyle says:

    Number 2 is a home run. Writing can be such a secluded venture. Attending conferences is a great reminder that it’s not all about the manuscript right under our noses.

  27. David Todd says:

    I attended part of the Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc. Word Weavers Conference in Oklahoma City earlier this month. This was my first general market conference. Having young grandchildren in OKC made attending this one a no-brainer.

  28. Sue Harrison says:

    Your posts always make me think, Rachelle. Thank you for that!

    I won’t make it to any conferences this year. Like you said, sometimes family has to have priority, and my mother is not well enough for me to make costly long-term plans.

    I’m learning to love spur of the moment ideas for get-aways, and this year I have the privilege of an author tour in Michigan with numerous other Michigan authors that will at least give me a few days of interaction with other writers, all of us writing short material for university presses.

  29. Lisa says:

    This spring I attended my first conference, The Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. This conference takes place every two years. I would highly recommend it.

    Also, I would think as a published author (I am not yet..) that a conference would be a great way to engage new readers through friendships made. I discovered many new authors through meeting them at the conference. I have began following their blogs and reading their work. These are authors and their books that I might not have known about otherwise.

  30. Julie Sunne says:

    I’m attending my first conference in July: She Speaks in NC. It is exciting yet somewhat scary, especially since I’ve signed up for my first publisher meeting! Hopefully, I’ll be ready. Thanks for your great insight, Rachelle, and for stressing “family first.”

  31. Peter DeHaan says:

    I try to attend two writers conferences a year.

    For this year, I have one done (a spring conference) and one to go (a fall conference).

    In addition to the items you mention, writing conferences help me keep a healthy perspective on my writing and help me to grow as a writer.

  32. Dianne Scott says:

    Just to throw in some Canadian content, I went to the Ontario Writers Conference last month. Great readings, lots of talk about new platforms for books. It was the casual chat at the workshop tables with fellow authors that really got me stoked and inspired. Well worth it!