A couple of weeks ago I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference—for the second time. It took place at the Hyatt Regency this year, which was a great venue. I first attended this conference about five years ago when I was writing my memoir, Confessions of a Middle-Aged Runaway. Back then it was held at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, which was also a nice venue, but a bit more limited in size and close dining options.
Because attending conferences can be pricey, I’ve been asked if I think it’s worth it. Although I’ve only attended a few conferences so far, I do think it’s worth it, and here’s three reasons why.
- Information. Writing conferences can be incredible learning experiences. Usually there are multiple learning tracks where you can improve your knowledge and skills in writing, marketing, and publication. Sometimes master classes are offered for additional fees where you may get insider knowledge and do a deeper dive into the subjects you want to learn more about. This year at the San Francisco Writers Conference the master class subjects included the craft of writing fiction, memoir, and children’s picture books; the legal aspects of writing; creating book proposals; author platforms; social media; and podcasting. Writers need to continually learn to stay relevant and improve at the craft, and conferences are a great opportunity to do that.
- Access. Conferences allow you to meet, interact with, and get advice from agents, editors, authors, publicists, and other writing professionals. Some conferences offer free, brief consultations with some of these professionals, as well as “speed dating” with agents. Speed dating gives you a few minutes to pitch your story idea to agents and get their feedback as to whether it’s something they’re interested in, or not. Networking with other authors provides a supportive community for what can sometimes be a lonely profession, and even lead to lasting friendships.
- Inspiration. It can be inspiring to spend a few days immersed in a world you love—one of writing and books. If we didn’t love it so much, we would find another way to make a living—or maybe a little extra spending money rather than a living—because writing isn’t an easy profession. Still, even doing something we love sometimes requires a little inspirational kick in the pants to get us across the finish line on our project. Attending the San Francisco Writers Conference years ago inspired me to finally finish and publish my memoir. Publishing my book opened up a whole new world for me. I’ll always be grateful for the experience.
The cost varies greatly among conferences, but if you have a writing business, you may be able to deduct the costs of attending on your taxes. Check with your tax professional on that one (I am not a tax professional).
What you get out of writers’ conferences depends entirely on you. If you’re willing to put yourself out there and meet other people (something difficult for introvert writers to do), it may just propel you upward to the next level in your writing career.
What did I get out of the conference this year? I learned so much, and will continue to learn. I can watch the videos for all of the sessions I wasn’t able to attend—for free—a new perk this year. I socialized with current friends and met some really nice people that I’ve been in contact with since this conference. Yay for new friends and business contacts! I pitched the idea for my psychological thriller in progress at the speed dating with agents. A few of them want me to contact them when it’s finished—which isn’t a guarantee they’ll want the manuscript, but it’s a positive step in the right direction.
One thing I will say is that I was exhausted after the conference. All of that learning, socializing, and networking can be very tiring, but definitely worth it.
6 thoughts on “Writers’ Conferences—Are They Worth It?”
I am glad that it was a productive investment of your time and money. I also got the same benefits out of photography conferences with the added benefit of being able to see the latest photography equipment demonstrated and ability to purchase it there.
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Conferences can be very beneficial for a variety of reasons–and just plain fun. Most writers conferences also have vendors and a store with lots of books to buy–another bonus!
I believe the learning, contacts, and morale boost all make it worthwhile.
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Definitely–I’m glad you agree!
Hi Heidi, I met you when I sat at your table at an AAUW Literary Women’s luncheon in Pleasant Hill a few years ago when your first book “Confessions…” has just been accepted for publication. I really enjoyed your book and have recommended it to quite a few people. So happy to hear that you have another book in the works and look forward to reading that one as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about writers’ conferences which I will pass on to my friends who write. Linda Robbins
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Hi, Linda! I remember you well. Thanks so much for recommending my book to others–it’s so helpful to us unknown authors. I appreciate your comment, also. It’s nice to know someone is still reading my blog posts. I hope you’re doing well!