I know what you’re thinking: I’m in college, or I’m in that recent post-grad demographic: how on Earth am I going to save up to go to a writers’ conference? What’s the point? Don’t bother.
Admittedly, a lot of these writers’ conferences seem to be under the odd impression that aspiring writers have money, which actually, these days, they can, if they’ve managed to establish themselves in good day jobs, are retired and living off retirement benefits, or they simply don’t have to support themselves for whatever reason. This was why it didn’t surprise me when I found myself to be one of the few young people (not to mention probably one of the youngest who had traveled as far as distance as I had done) at the writers’ conference in San Diego, hosted by San Diego University at the Double Tree Hilton in Mission Valley, San Diego. Indeed it cost me a pretty penny, but I had some money set aside.
At the same time, there are a few things you ought to consider when considering these writers’ conferences. In the first place, these days, you really can’t afford to break into publishing without attending them. I managed to gather the value of my experience in San Diego in just that one weekend, which is why I’m on my way to another conference in Connecticut, the Unicorn’s Writer’s Conference. The most valuable tools such conferences offer are advance readings of your manuscript by editors and agents of the business, as well as critiques on query letters and book synopses (for proposals, etc.). That is certainly a good value, for what you’re charged, especially when you consider the price that some manuscript reading services charge WITHOUT the benefit of a writer community atmosphere, which is another plus of going to a conference (it’s like the high class version of what you used to get living as a poor American artist-writer in Paris in the 1920s).
Writing is a business, and with business, comes networking. You have to do it, even if you’re not business-oriented, but showing up is half the battle. As for cost, you have to answer the ultimate question: how far are you willing to go to make your publishing dreams a reality? Even if you decide to go the ePublishing route, going to one of these conferences is an experience you CANNOT miss out on if you want to break into publishing. If that means you have to scrounge, economize, and make a few sacrifices (like pay for the fees and whatever accommodations and transport and pay for the printing of your business cards that you have to arrange for yourself rather than buy an XBox, not to mention live off Ramen noodles for a month (cheese Ramen for you veggies like me)) then so be it.
How much does it mean to you to reach those goals? I firmly believe in the old adage: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And writer’s conferences are everywhere, you just have to know where to look to find one close to you.
Who knows where it could land you?