Why You Should Attend a Writing Conference

Written by Emily Harstone | December 4, 2014

Writing conferences are one of the only reasons readers, writers, publishers, and agents all meet in the same building. Because of that, they are a unique opportunity to network, learn, and enhance your career. Writing is a solitary profession for the most part, so writing conferences might seem a little counter intuitive, however they offer many opportunities for writers that are not available elsewhere. If you have never considered attending one, you should.

Writing conferences are one of the few places where you have an opportunity to pitch directly to literary agents. Many conferences have agents you can sign up to consult with for free. Others have less formal events where you can mingle with agents. Now, not all writers conferences offer this option, so you should do your research first. But most conferences will have at least one or two agents in attendance, so even if you don’t have the opportunity to make a formal pitch you can make an informal one, and you can get to know the agents better. Even if an agent is not interested in your work, they might know another agent that is, or they might give you good advice on how to make your work appeal more to agents.

Also, most writing conferences have a book fair, a place where large, local, and independent publishers sell their books. Many of the smaller publishers and even some of the larger publishers have booths manned by the editors themselves. This means that you can talk to potential publishers directly. You can also get a much better idea about what kind of books they are interested in publishing, just from looking at the material on the table. Usually, literary journals have tables at these events as well.

The panels and lectures at most conferences itself are educational and cover a variety of topics. Some are lead by established writers, others by publishers, editors, and professors. You can learn a lot from these lectures about writing and the publishing world. A lot of the information you learn here is much more up to date than print publications and even internet articles.

You have a lot of opportunities to meet other writers at conferences. Some focus on meeting famous writers and collecting autographs at sessions such as these. I am much more interested at meeting other writers at my level. I really love the opportunity to have so many literary conversations. If it is a local conference, then it is a great opportunity to meet other writers who might want to start a writing group with you.

Speaking of local conferences, when you are first starting out, it can be best to attend a writing conference in your area. You can save a lot of money by doing so and you are more likely to connect with fellow writers in your area, as well as local art organizations, regional publishers and local agents. Some of these conferences will be very small, but sometimes the smallest conferences still offer a lot of opportunities.

The biggest writers conference is the AWP (the Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference. They rotate their location every year. This year it will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Thousands of writers attend every year.

I encourage you to look for writing conferences in your area and then if you find the experience educational, consider attending a larger conference such as AWP.