In Others' WordsIn Others' Words

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Survey Says: Writing Conference Concerns

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 Here.
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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At 8:40 AM, Blogger Jeanne T said...

Wow, Beth. Thanks for outlining the costs. I'm not going this year because of costs, but I'm planning ahead for next year. Some ways to manage costs you've already mentioned--sharing costs, when possible. I am also budgeting (and getting my DH used to the idea of me coming next year) for it throughout the next year. Also, I plan to sign up for everything early that I can to save money. Kayak and other websites also list deals on flights to certain places.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger Melissa Tagg said...

This is such a good, practical post, Beth. Though, truthfully, I have avoided adding up all my costs...I'm happier in oblivion...hehehe...but seriously, I actually sat down with my wonderful mom earlier this year and she helped me work on my budget. (I like numbers like Oscar the Grouch likes smiles...yeah, not so much.) As part of that process, I came up with a writing budget - each month I set a certain amount aside just for writing costs...I also plop my tax refund and my paychecks from those couple months of the year when I receive five paychecks instead of four into the writing budget.

Of course, even though I work at a nonprofit and don't make all that much, I do have an extra degree of freedom at this point in my life - no hubby to win over when it comes to spending the money! :) I think that will probably need to be a requirement when I DO get married... "By marrying me, honey, you do promise to support my writing habit, right?" :)

At 2:59 PM, Blogger Edie Melson said...

I don't know anyone who doesn't have to budget for writing conference costs. And I used to feel horribly guilty about attending year after year.

But my darling hubby finally put it all into perspective for me when he pointed out that writing was my second career. He said that he wouldn't think twice about financing a college degree for a career and he saw writing conference costs exactly the same as college costs.

Wow, if you think about it, $1700 for a semester of college is dirt cheap! And for those of us who've finished college (metaphorically speaking) I've seen the cost of his required CEU credits to keep his engineering license and the cost of two conferences a year isn't out of line at all!

At 6:51 PM, Blogger Catherine West said...

Because I'm pretty isolated as far as belonging to a writing community here at home, I have made the ACFW conference a Priority in my year. We know it's coming, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, I am usually able to go. My wonderful hubby adheres to this motto: "Happy Wife, Happy Life." Ha. But I really feel for those who for whatever reason can't go, and really feel like they're missing out. It's tough staying home. I did it once and it was really hard. But there's always next year. Sometimes God wants us elsewhere.

At 12:54 AM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

The cost of a conference is all perspective.
Well, it's cash or check or charge, really.
But, what I mean to say is you have to put it in perspective.
We are writers. We need to network. We need to learn our craft. We need to pitch.
That's what conferences are for. All of that.
And conferences cost money.
Local ones, of course, cost less because you can skip the air fare and the lodging--although I've stayed at the hotel even when I've attended a local conference. All that driving back and forth is exhausting.

At 6:12 AM, Anonymous Miranda said...

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