Disclaimer — I did attend one recently.
I attended my first writing conference recently, the Dallas Forth Worth Writers Conference in Hurst, Texas. (DFWcon) I put off registering until the last minute, typically I try to talk myself out of any public event where I might be called upon to introduce myself as a writer. (See Impostor Syndrome) In case you’re wondering if a writing conference is for you, here are some handy excuses you can use to talk yourself out of attending.
There will be other people there.
You will be mingling with dozens of strangers, all of them asking what sort of writing you do. Many of them will try and exchange business cards with you, in the hopes that you might actually want to follow up with an email or Twitter follow to stay in touch. (I think they call this networking, or supporting other writers) It is much safer to stay home. If you do attend try and hide behind a large pillar or potted plant. Do not make eye contact, many of the attendees will be agents or editors and they might ask about your novel.
I hate parking garages. Most conferences are held in large convention centers attached to parking garages. I arrived early at DFWcon, just so I could navigate the parking garage and have time to pick up my registration packet. I could have avoided the parking garage if I had booked a room at a hotel close enough to walk to the conference, but see Cost below.
I packed a half empty bag of potato chips the first day of the conference, then realized that snacks were provided to attendees. I had to choose between a healthy assortment of fruit and the crushed, stale chips I’d brought. The second day they offered ice cream! Four different kinds! I used up most of my break time deciding between the ice cream sandwich and the chocolate taco. Lunch was provided also, including dessert. I had to sit at a table of strangers and watch them ignore the slices of carrot cake and strawberry topped cheesecake. Had they been friends I could have asked “Are you going to eat that?” before sliding the extra servings over to my plate.
People will try to teach you things
I tried to lurk in the back of a limited seating workshop along with four other people clutching their free tote bags but the instructor spotted us and cleared room at the conference table.
Don’t let the friendly smiles fool you, those folks leading the workshops are determined to lure you away from the snack bar.
You Don’t Have an Elevator Speech
The Elevator Speech is the short pitch you give when someone asks you to describe your work in progress. There are agents and editors at writing conferences, and elevators. Chances are you will encounter at least one of these during your visit. At most conferences you can even sign up for a one on one encounter with an agent and pitch them your book. If this doesn’t appeal to you, do like I did and sign up for a conference at the last minute when all the pitch sessions are booked. And take the stairs.
Too much cool swag to carry home
There were notebooks, t-shirts, books by indie authors and guest speakers, and give-away items from vendors who had booths set up in the main hall. (Near where the snacks were set up) I had to bring a larger backpack the second day in order to carry all the goodies.
A writing conference costs money and you’ll just want to go back the next year.
As soon as this year’s conference was over I found myself bookmarking the DFWcon website. I have decided to cut my own hair this year and put that money aside toward the 2019 conference. If I register early I can save a little of the cost, maybe after five or six haircuts I’ll sign up.
There are other options to save money on conferences, most offer a one day ticket. (Try and find out which day they are serving ice cream at snack time) You can also look into writing contests and scholarships. The conference you’re considering might have free admission as a prize.
I drove to the conference I attended, so I didn’t have to pay for a hotel room. But next year I might convince some writer friends to go with me, and split the cost of a room near the conference center. This will give me more opportunities to practice hiding behind a pillar to avoid networking with out of town agents.
If nothing I’ve said here has discouraged you from trying out a writing conference, you should check out Erica Verrillo and her wonderful lists:
And if you’re interested in the conference I attended: