Is There Any Value to Conferences for Authors?

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jun 13 2019

Now that we’ve discussed conference fees and the inherent problem for inclusivity it’s time to discuss whether conferences actually hold value.

This came up in the first question the reader provided.

Will A Conference Get You an Agent?

Also: is there really value there for the writer —  in terms of getting an agent—?? if as you have suggested, that conferences don’t really pay off for writers –

Let me clarify something. I do think conferences pay off for writers, in a big way. I don’t think they guarantee agent representation.

If you’re going to a conference with the sole intent to find and sign with an agent you will not find value in that conference. If your goal is to learn from others, through workshops or cocktail parties, you will find great value.

Conferences can be wonderful sources for writers. It’s a way to connect with others, to get away from your desk into the writing world at large, and to learn. I’m afraid though that too much emphasis is placed on the pitch.

The pitch, as I’ve said numerous times before, is a small part of the conference experience. It’s a good way to meet one-on-one with an agent, but it’s only 10 minutes out of an entire weekend. Or it should only be 10 minutes. The rest of the time should be spent absorbing all of the great information available otherwise.

As I’ve mentioned in my first post, conferences are not the only way to dconnect with the writing community but I do think there’s something about in-person connections that can really invigorate a person.


2 responses to “Is There Any Value to Conferences for Authors?”

  1. Avatar Kate Douglas says:

    I started attending conferences before I had an agent or a NY publisher (for me, those two went hand in hand) The two big ones for romance authors and author wannabees back in the 90s through the early 2000s were the Romantic Times conference and Romance Writers of America. I think it was an RT conference, can’t recall where, at a time when I was published with a small ebook publisher and actually growing my reading audience, but I still wanted to know more about the business of writing, because I wanted more. That NY contract was everything to me.

    I walked into the hotel bar looking for anyone I might know, and saw a friend in a small group with two women I recognized as editors, though at the time I had no idea which publisher. I joined them at their table, and in that one night I learned more about publishing, editors, the writing process and business–along with some really great gossip–from two pretty amazing women–Hilary Sares and Kate Duffy, from Kensington Publishing. Kate Duffy is gone now, but she is definitely missed. If you’re a romance fan I’m sure you’ve read books she edited. Lori Foster comes to mind–mainly because so many of her books are on my keeper shelves. I believe that Hilary Sares eventually worked with Sylvia Day on her Crossfire series.

    The thing is, conferences are places where you get editors out of the office, off the phone, and in a setting that is ripe for casual conversations. Agents are working and after taking pitches all day might not be as open to sitting around and chatting with strange writers, but I’ve always found editors to be a bit more relaxed. Plus, they, as well as agents, often do panels or workshops, and it’s amazing what you can learn from someone in the business, in person.

    I’ve had a rough year as a writer with health issues and a move across the state, which is why I’ll be at RWA in NY next month. Sometimes it’s as simple a thing as touching base with other writers, relaxing in a place where you’re not the only one who lives in a fantasy world most of the time. If you can afford it, and they are definitely getting more expensive every year, I think conferences are worth the cost. Do your research–just Google writers conferences and so many come up! Add your genre and that will narrow it down. RWA is very expensive, and the fact that we’re staying at a Marriott on Times Square doesn’t help the budget, but there are lots of other options out there. Look for events in your own neighborhood. You can often find things that don’t require an overnight stay.

    Over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of editors and agents, and those are people you might need in your corner at some time during your professional life. I know I walked away from that table at the end of the night even more determined to get that NY contract. I’ve also met a lot of wonderful writers at conferences, and there’s something about sitting down with friends whose books are on your keeper shelves at home that never gets old. I have to keep my inner fangirl under control when I’m just hanging out and catching up on stuff with some pretty amazing people. Even better, once you’re published and your books are out there for everyone to read, you’ll often meet readers at conferences. They’re pretty important, too. They’re the reason you stay published.

    Sorry to be so long winded, but the important thing here is that networking is important, and never more so than in the writing/publishing world.

  2. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    Kate, I <3 everything you said. It's all those reasons why I go to conference every year – even though it's the RWAustralia conference when I write cozies. Immersing yourself in an environment with other writers, the oportunity to speak with editors/agents, meet others who go on to become crit partners and friends, finding out what is happening in the publishing industry, refreshing craft knowledge…the list goes on.

    Even though I am going to, but not attending, conference this year, I still wouldn't miss it.