Should I Go to the Conference?

Authors want to be good stewards of time and resources so when considering whether or not to attend a conference, many factors apply. You may want to consider, in no particular order:

  • How much will my attendance inconvenience myself and those around me?

1. Will my day job suffer?
2. How will my family cope?
3. Can I easily get to and from the conference?

  • Have I budgeted enough funds to go to the conference?
  • Does the mix of editors and agents make sense for me?

1. Are editors and agents on faculty who are interested in my type of writing?
2. Realistically, how many agent and editor connections can I make at this conference?
3. If I donโ€™t attend, am I able to contact the agents and editors in another effective way?

  • What classes can I take?
  • If Iโ€™m seeking a mentor, is this a good place to find one or to grow a mentor relationship?
  • Am I able to take advantage of professional critiques?
  • Does this conference have the potential to help me strategize my career?
  • Will I make new author friends and strengthen existing relationships?

Even if your main reason for attending is to have fun and socialize, that can be a valuable and worthwhile break. But as with any decision that will consume time and resources, itโ€™s always a good idea to have a plan before you set out on your journey.

Your turn:

Did I miss any questions?

What conference tips can you provide?

46 Responses to Should I Go to the Conference?

  1. Avatar
    Cathy Krafve June 15, 2017 at 5:20 am #

    There are so many from which to choose. i was hoping you would list your top 5 by sections of the country.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 15, 2017 at 5:50 am #

      I don’t have such a list but the agency lists conferences here:

      As for myself, making such a list wouldn’t be useful to writers on an individual level. Each writer is different and has different needs and reasons for attending a conference. I’m hoping my guidelines above will be helpful for authors trying to decide. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Avatar
        Cathy Krafve June 15, 2017 at 10:03 am #

        Thank you. I loved the title of the blog and immediately hit on it. Your thoughts are helpful and I will study them thoroughly as I narrow down my options for late summer, early fall. In fact, the link narrowed down my list substantially, so thank you for that as well. The internet can be daunting with so many options.

  2. Avatar
    Damon J. Gray June 15, 2017 at 5:22 am #

    Conferences are pricey, time-consuming, and at times even overwhelming, but they are essential. I would even go so far as to say “imperative.” Find a way to get there. I’m not even saying “if you can.” Make it happen.

    No new questions to add, but perhaps a tip. The classes are always good, and you will glean good information from them. The keynotes are always inspiring. But the real gold is what happens over the lunch table, and walking to and from breakout sessions. It’s the relationships you build roast s’mores over the campfire in the evening, or on the early-morning walk. I have established friendships at conferences that will endure for years to come.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 15, 2017 at 5:52 am #

      A good point! Authors who go should make sure to interact as much as possible and not just confine themselves to attending classes and speeches. Introverts can interact, then withdraw to their rooms for a time to re-energize. Just plain tired? Take a nap! Seriously!

  3. Avatar
    Melissa Henderson June 15, 2017 at 5:23 am #

    I hope to attend more writing conferences in the future. Thanks for the tips. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 15, 2017 at 6:27 am #

    Not likely that I will ever attend a conference. Wish I could, but circumstances are against me.

    Used to go to professional conferences in another field, and enjoyed them. I guess my only advice would be, Don’t Be Shy.

    Everyone there is so worried about the impression they make that they won’t notice the impression YOU make.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 15, 2017 at 7:21 am #

      Great advice, Andrew! And your welcome and devoted participation on this blog is the next best thing!

  5. Avatar
    Jeanine Lunsford June 15, 2017 at 6:47 am #

    Thank you for sharing your godly wisdom on this, Tamela. I was just pondering this very question when I saw your post (especially the stewardship aspect of it).

  6. Avatar
    Lynn Blackburn June 15, 2017 at 6:50 am #

    I *LOVE* big conferences, but it’s important not to overlook the smaller, local conferences available all over the country. These are often offered by local writing group chapters or small groups of published authors and tend to be cheaper (yay!), easier to manage with busy schedules, and more intimate, allowing for the kind of relationship building that can be tricky to pull off at a huge conference. You might not have access to editors and agents at these events, but you’ll be able to focus on your craft and networking without the pressure of pitching.

  7. Avatar
    Martha Whiteman Rogers June 15, 2017 at 7:41 am #

    I would not be where I am today as a writer if not for conferences such as ACFW, Mount Hermon, ACW and TCWC. This is the first year I will miss ACFW since we started having them back in Kansas City.

    I met you in Kansas City, Tamela, and from there you became my agent. I met so many editors who have become friends and so many authors who are now friends. The money spent was well worth the cost for the invaluable information I gained to improve my writing.

    Like Lynne said, there are conferences all over the country that may be just one day or two and are less expensive than the larger ones. We have one in Houston in August for both fiction and non-fiction.

    Thanks for all the great questions. Going to miss everyone this year.

  8. Avatar
    Cindy Fowell June 15, 2017 at 7:51 am #

    Thank you for the tips and questions. The questions help me see I really am not quite ready for the big conferences yet. However, I have attended two small writer’s conferences offered here in Montana. The networking, brainstorming, and teaching were great. And connecting, knowing I’m not out there by myself is huge. And you never know who is in your state to encourage you.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 15, 2017 at 7:56 am #

      Cindy, I’m sure you’ll be ready to take the plunge to the bigger conferences soon. Perhaps arrange to go with a friend or two so you’ll have an anchor. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Avatar
    Judith Robl June 15, 2017 at 8:18 am #

    In 2009, a friend and I drove from central Kansas to the Greater Philadelphia conference hosted by Marlene Bagnull.

    Imagine, two 70-year-old ladies headed east on I-70 at 70 mph! We sang, talked, and listened to about 10 minutes of one of the CDs we’d taken with us to pass the time.

    At the conference, we went our separate ways and made some very good friends, met up with people I’d met only on line, and was privileged to have an agent interview with someone named Tamela. (grin)

    All this to say, you’re never too old to go to conference – and you’re never too young, either.

    But make sure you have a purpose and goal. Then leave time for divine appointments. They are the best part.

  10. Avatar
    Joey Rudder June 15, 2017 at 8:33 am #

    Thank you for this post, Tamela. I’m so up-and-down with this. I pretty much ruled out the ACFW conference this year due to some of those reasons you listed above (family and budget).

    But when the semifinalists for the Genesis contest were announced (and I fell down in the living room crying) I thought, “I need to be there.”

    I prayed and asked God to open those doors. My husband is amazing and told me to go. But those obstacles are still there, and I can’t ignore them.

    So I’m waiting on God and praying for His will for this whole situation…

    Again, thank you for such a timely post. God bless you.

    • Avatar
      Katie Powner June 15, 2017 at 9:31 am #

      I can relate completely, Joey. I spent many days in agony before deciding whether or not to attend ACFW this year. Would it be fair to leave my husband with three young kids for four days? He has to work, you know. Could I justify the expense? I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I don’t earn any of that money coming in!

      In the end, the decision was made between me, God, and my husband, and I am at peace with it. Praying for you to find peace also!

      • Avatar
        Joey Rudder June 15, 2017 at 10:37 am #

        It sounds like you and I are in a very similar boat, Katie! I’m also a stay-at-home mom and my husband is the only one with an income…and I wondered (and agonized too) about the expense and leaving him to take care of our daughter while I’m away. (At least this year there will be no carpooling involved for him to worry about…but still…he has to work!)

        I love how you wrote, “In the end, the decision was made between me, God, and my husband, and I am at peace with it.” (That’s great and I’m glad you have peace!! Praise God!) I really needed to read that. Thank you!! And thank you so much for your prayers. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 15, 2017 at 10:26 am #

      Amen to finding peace, regardless of your decision!

  11. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson June 15, 2017 at 8:37 am #

    Everyone should attend a conference at least once a year. It helps to motivate you and energize your writing. I learned after attending my first big conference that I’m not expected to participate in ‘every meeting scheduled.’ I can go at my own pace, relax, and enjoy the learning experience, meet new friends, and be selective with appointments.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 15, 2017 at 10:27 am #

      Loretta, you make an excellent point not to overstress. I think it’s easy to get excited and think you have to grab every opportunity. When you plan to go once a year, you know you’ll have other opportunities next year. That’s a good plan if it’s workable.t

  12. Avatar
    Kailee Diaz June 15, 2017 at 9:09 am #

    For me, conferences have been a wonderful learning tool, but sometimes cost and other factors do attribute to my ability to attend. It’s wise to save toward these events when possible, but it’s also good to know our heavenly Father has full control when circumstances are to the contrary. If the money doesn’t come through or other factors prevent our attendance, it isn’t the end of our writing career. Agent blogs, critique groups, and social media also provide wonderful outlets for those unable to engage with fellow writers in person.

  13. Avatar
    CJ Myerly June 15, 2017 at 9:20 am #

    I haven’t been able to attend a conference yet, but I’m hoping to next year. I’ve heard so many great things about them and I can’t wait to connect with other writers.

    Since I haven’t been able to attend conferences, I’ve invested in classes that are lower cost so that I can still learn. I don’t think it takes the place of the conferences, but I’m learning so much.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 15, 2017 at 10:28 am #

      Classes are definitely a great way to go. Feel to recommend some of your favorite sites.

      • Avatar
        CJ Myerly June 15, 2017 at 1:37 pm #

        Currently, I’m enrolled in Susan May Warren’s
        Novel Academy.

        It’s only been a few weeks, but I’ve learned so much. I love that every Thursday night, she does a peptalk with so much information that you can interact live.

        I’ve taken a few with Celebrate Lit. They normally announce on their facebook page when there’s a new one.

        Then, I also took a course through Jerry B. Jenkins.

        I also plan on taking some of the ones through the Christian Writer’s Market, but I haven’t yet.

        • Avatar
          Cathy June 17, 2017 at 9:26 am #

          This is a great, practical list, CJ. I am cutting and paisting now, so I can check out these links. Thank you.

  14. Avatar
    Jaime June 15, 2017 at 9:46 am #

    Perfectly timed post, as I was just discussing with my husband the idea of saving up to attend one next year. Living in northern Canada, travel will be the greatest cost. But I am thankful to have a husband who believes in me and trusts that God is leading me.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 15, 2017 at 10:29 am #

      I couldn’t have had this career without my supportive husband. Yay for supportive husbands — and wives!

  15. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D June 15, 2017 at 10:15 am #

    Go to conference, go to conference, go to conference. You may quote me.

  16. Avatar
    Carol Ashby June 15, 2017 at 10:24 am #

    The first writing conference I attended was the Colorado Springs ACFW chapter conference. Cost for early registration was less than $90, and it was driving distance away. I had a turning-point conversation with the featured speaker during a break that answered my biggest question about whether to go traditional or indie, given what my most important goal was in publishing.

    If a big conference that will run you close to $1K and several days to attend is out of reach, do go to that nearby 1-day conference if you possibly can!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 15, 2017 at 10:30 am #

      So many professional organizations have regional chapters, that opportunities abound. Good advice, Carol.

  17. Avatar
    Edward Lane June 15, 2017 at 10:28 am #

    Hi Tamela,
    Are any of your group going to be in the Dallas area in the upcoming months? Thank you.

  18. Avatar
    Jerusha Agen June 15, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

    Great tips, Tamela! I especially like your point about considering whether or not the mix of editors and agents at a conference is a good fit. I just discovered a conference to attend this year that I hadn’t heard of before, thanks to seeking a place to meet with that right mix of industry contacts. I’m looking forward to the new potential possibilities there!

  19. Avatar
    Natalie Hidalgo June 15, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

    Hi, I’m going to the Oregon Christian Writers Conference in Portland this August. Frank Peretti is the key speaker and this will be my first time going. I was thinking of going to Reno in July to hear Ted Dekker and the choice was hard to make. I worried that I made the wrong decision since not many of the agents seem to match the speculative fiction I’m writing. My book is very much like Peretti’s Piercing the Darkness, but I also include a zombie theme. I will trust God that I will meet the right agent. I like your questions. It gives me things to pray about.

  20. Avatar
    Jennifer Deibel June 15, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

    As a near off the charts extrovert and classroom junkie, the idea of a writer’s conference is like heaven to me. However, for the first few years of my writing careers I was unable to attend any becuase we were overseas.

    Now we’re back but I find money a huge issue. I cannot be unfaithful to my family’s needs to go, though I know I really need to go. So, I’m going to start putting money aside and planning ahead to try to get to at least one in the next year.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 15, 2017 at 2:46 pm #

      A wise decision, Jennifer! I’m sure the Lord will bless your careful and faithful stewardship.

  21. Avatar
    Glenda June 15, 2017 at 8:55 pm #

    God-willing, I’ll be attending the Taylor Professional Writer’s Conference in August.

    Listening and learning and meeting other like-minded new friends my top three priorities.

    (Though I am sorry I missed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference you and DiAnn Mills recently returned from!)

    Time and resources vital considerations, for sure.

    Thank you for another engaging post! ๐Ÿ™‚


  1. Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-22-2017 | The Author Chronicles - June 22, 2017

    […] When you become an author, you open yourself to the public, whether you like it or not, and you need to decide how you want to interact with the public. Helen Sedwick discusses how to choose and set up a pen name, Dana Kaye has 3 steps to crafting your public persona for author speaking engagements (or really anytime you appear in public), and Tamela Hancock Murray shows how to decide if you should go to a conference or not. […]

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