Survey Says: Counting the Cost of Writers Conferences

Friends Teri, Pat, Edie and Melissa (the 2010 Frasier winner).

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a survey on writers conferences. Specific question: Why do you attend writers conferences?
Today’s question for discussion:
What are your major concerns when preparing for a writers conference?
Possible answers:

  • Paying for the conference, the travel, and the lodging
  • Pitching my book to an editor/agent
  • Choosing which workshops to attend–to many to choose from
  • Other

You hear lots of talk about the writerly angst involved with pitching–going eye-to-eye with an editor or agent and hoping your passion for your story outweighs your nervousness. But, despite all that, the 32 respondents to the survey didn’t list this as the top anxiety producer. Nope. Most of the writers (62.5% or 20 out of 32 respondents) said they were most concerned about paying for the conference, the travel, and the lodging.

Can you relate?

Of all the reasons writers don’t attend a conference, cost is the most common “why not” that I hear.

Let me give you some specifics. I’m attending the ACFW conference next week. Here’s a run down of my costs:

  1. ACFW conference registration (early bird) — $540
  2. Reservations at the Hyatt — $600 (4 nights, but this will be divided three ways w/ my roommates. Oh, and all those crazy extra taxes aren’t included yet. You know what I’m talking about.)
  3. Airline ticket — $199.40 (I’m flying Southwest because they don’t charge one of those obscene baggage fees. And their flight attendants are so, so entertaining.)
  4. Shuttle reservation from the airport to the Hyatt and back again after the conference — $34
  5. MBT Pizza Party (a must-attend event!) — $25
Subtotal: $1398.40

OK, that’s a bit of an Ouch!

Now here’s why it’s a subtotal: What if I want to go to the Early Bird session? (Add $85, if I registered early.) Or the MBT Pitch Scrimmage, so I’m ready to pitch my book with professionalism and poise and an inspiring hook? ($65)

Paid critique? ($35 I’ve invested in this kind of feedback.) Purchase the conference CDs? (~$99–and yes,  done this too.) If you drive, add parking.

Adding in those other costs (and assume I exert extreme control and don’t visit the bookstore (yeah, right):

Total: $1682.40

(And yes, I realize there is no clothes budget added in.)

Is a conference worth that kind of change?

I say yes. I am, after all, a writer. A professional writer. Even when I was a beginning professional writer, I had a goal in mind: publication. And attending conferences is an absolute must to achieve that goal. Face to face interaction with both editors and agents, as well as other writers, is vital.

Let me put it in perspective for you: Last year I attended ACFW. Pitched my novel, Wish You Were HereThat book will be published by Howard Books in May 2012.

Does attending a writers conference guarantee publication? Unfortunately, no. But that personal interaction with an editor allows you to sell your book with passion and personality.

In Your Words: Have you had to pass on a writers conference because of the costs? Any tips to manage the expenses?

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