Will I Make Money by Attending a Conference?

When thinking of going to any conference, most authors need to consider expenses. A question friends and family might ask is, “Are you making money by going?”

I wish I had a firm answer, but the fact is, you may never know.

Granted, you might go to a conference, meet an agent and then sign with the agent. Then the agent presents your work to an editor. Soon you receive a contract worth much more than the conference cost to attend. You might even be able to calculate your earnings to the penny and say, “I cleared $40,986.12 by going to the conference.”

Sometimes the events progress in such a linear fashion. More often, they do not.

As an author, you could make the following discoveries at a conference:

  • Craftwise, my book is nowhere near ready to submit to editors or agents.
  • I missed my targeted market.
  • The book is too long/too short for the market.
  • I don’t know the market well enough to present my work yet.
  • My platform isn’t nearly as strong as I believed it to be.
  • The book’s slant is wrong for the market.
  • My chosen topic has too much competition.
  • I wrote too much “Christianese” for the market.
  • The Christian world view isn’t strong enough in my work.
  • I’m not ready to make a decision about an agent.
  • The editors weren’t as enthusiastic about my work as I thought they would be.
  • I don’t want to write for this market after all.
  • I don’t want to be a professional writer.

If the above turns out to be your experience, don’t despair. The conference has proven to be a learning experience for you. If you make any one of the above discoveries, you have learned more in several days than you might have learned during several years of referring to lists of agents and editors and submitting cold by trial and error. That alone could be considered money in the bank.


Your turn:

What did you discover during your last conference?

Did your last conference encourage you to improve your work? How?



40 Responses to Will I Make Money by Attending a Conference?

  1. Diana Derringer June 22, 2017 at 3:58 am #

    Thank you for the reminder.

  2. Janine June 22, 2017 at 4:28 am #

    You mentioned “the market” several times. Could you recommend any suggestions of resources that educate new writers about the Christian/inspirational genre?

  3. Tamela Hancock Murray June 22, 2017 at 4:43 am #

    Janine, Christian Writers Institute is a good place to start for resources: https://christianwritersinstitute.com/

    Also, read, read, read! Read the type of books you would like to write. Be sure to read the most recent ones you can find.

  4. Kayleen June 22, 2017 at 5:48 am #

    I’ve attended writing conferences in Indiana, OH, Illinois, California, MD, FL. At none of them did I come home with a firm contract or sale of anything I had written. But I still attend conferences because of so many other benefits.

    1. Networking. It’s a great place to meet editors – I met Dan Balow at Taylor University’s 2016 writing conference and hence, I subscribed to this great blog! During our one-to-one time, he gave me an idea for a new take on my written interviews with WWII vets.

    As for new writing friends, in 2006 I attended a writing conference at Sandy Cove, MD and met another attendee, Shirley Brosius from PA, a dear writing friend whom I’m still close to today. We’ve shared writing advice and visited in each other’s homes (I live in Indiana).
    2. While attending Mount Hermon in the early 2000s, I attended a children’s writing class taught by Dandi Daley Mackall. Today, I’m the author of 15 traditionally published children’s books and I’m helping Dandi with her newest book about WWII, With Love Wherever You Are. I also met Cecil Murphey, attended Karen Ball’s worship sessions and heard Ted Dekker as the keynote speaker.

    3. Another huge benefit for me at Mount Hermon was attending a late-night workshop on writing for newspapers. I had always wanted to do that and went home with a clear idea in mind of how to contact editors. Since then, I have been writing columns at two area newspapers, which definitely has paid for the cost of the conference.

    I’ve since shared much info about conferences with writers in the two Christian writing clubs I attend and encourage them to attend conferences as well.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray June 22, 2017 at 8:43 am #

      Thanks for the input, Kayleen! I think our readers can benefit greatly from your comments.

  5. Sarah Hamaker June 22, 2017 at 6:49 am #

    For me, the most valuable part of attending a conference is the connections you make–with fellow authors, with agents, with editors, with readers. You never know how God might use those meetings/friendships for your future writing or life.

    They say (whoever “they” are) that it’s not what you know, but who you know. Conferences give you an excellent chance to build on the “who you know” part of it. You might not have a concrete number to take to the bank, but you might encourage another writer, meet a future editor or agent, or find a good friend.

    Of course, we should be wise with our financial resources and sometimes, that means foregoing conferences if money is tight or allocated for other things. Attend when you can and remember that it’s likely those intangibles that will make a difference.

  6. Nicola June 22, 2017 at 6:56 am #

    I own a small company and can write off expenses if I have a ‘reasonable expectation of income’. If I get at least one editor to ask for my manuscript at a conference, I can prove there was professional interest. This makes pitch sessions even more nerve wracking.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray June 22, 2017 at 8:45 am #

      This encourages me to ask to see manuscripts! Seriously, it’s hard to evaluate in a 15-minute appointment unless the genre is totally not something I represent. This is a good tip for writers!

  7. CJ Myerly June 22, 2017 at 7:31 am #

    I’m hoping to attend my first conference next year. Until then, I read everything on conferences that I can. This post is so helpful. I love that you can walk away with more understanding of where you are in your writing career.

  8. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 22, 2017 at 7:48 am #

    I would love to go to a conference, but it won’t be happening.

    Even if I could gather enough strength (and money!) for the trip, and have someone along to assist me…I’d really rather y’ll see me in my thumbnail photo, remember me that way, rather than see what illness has wrought.

    It’s pride, sure.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray June 22, 2017 at 8:46 am #

      I know you would find love and support in person, too, Andrew. Never worry!

    • Sheriena June 22, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

      I’m sorry to hear that you suffer from a debilitating illness, but after attending a conference two years I know you would be welcome and find friends.
      I got the courage to attend spring of 2016 and went back this last spring. I’ve met some interesting people and some have become friends. It has been a great experience.
      As I begin my life as a senior citizen I’m also beginning the step out of my comfort zone. I don’t attend these for monetary gain, but for connecting to other writers. As for the cost – last year it was less than $200 total – cost of conference, gas, and motel room.

  9. Loretta Eidson June 22, 2017 at 7:58 am #

    During my first conference, I learned that I still had a lot to learn. Since then, I’ve attended several more conferences and soaked in a lot of great teaching on how to write. The last conference I attended I learned that while I am learning, meeting new friends, networking, and talking to editors, that I should always be on the alert for those who need encouragement in their writing journeys. I sought out the loners and tried to make them feel welcomed and connected. As the Bible says, “Give, and it shall be given to you…” that doesn’t necessarily mean money.

  10. Carol Ashby June 22, 2017 at 8:40 am #

    I went to two conferences last summer (one ACFW chapter with a national presenter, one regional with many national presenters). Both were worth every penny and the 400-500 mile one-way drives.

    I didn’t get inspired to improve my writing because I’m already compulsive about working to make it the very best I possibly can. What I did learn was a lot of very practical information about how to increase discoverability and some effective approaches to platform and marketing that are so essential for the business side of being an author.

    I also met some great people (some I’d already “met” here at this blog), and I had a wonderful time talking with folks who totally understand just how fanatical we authors are about our writing.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray June 22, 2017 at 8:48 am #

      Carol, you make a good point about different aspects of the business you can learn. An author can write the best book in the world, but if it’s not marketed, then very few people get to read it. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D June 22, 2017 at 10:00 am #

    Tamela, I have gone to many conferences in my professional career but I found the ACFW conference in Nashville to be key to my growth as a writer. I learned that my novel was not yet ready for prime time, but I learned what I needed to do to make it so it is. I was able to sign with an agent as a result of my conference attendance because I met him (and a lot of other great folks) while I was there. It was most definitely worthwhile.

  12. Janet Ann Collins June 22, 2017 at 10:35 am #

    I’ve only had a few short things published as a direct result of attending a conference, but the things I learn at those have made me a better writer so my work has been published elsewhere.

    Writers are communicators, but writing is a solitary job. When we get together we bond in ways “normal” people don’t understand. Other people spend money on vacations to distant tourist attractions, but I’d much rather have my “vacations” at writers conferences.

    Besides the possibility of selling our work, those conferences provide three things – education, inspiration and communication – for the single price of attending.

  13. Robin E. Mason June 22, 2017 at 11:10 am #

    networking. hands down, #1!! and i met Edie Melson and gleaned MUCH on blogging and “presence.” also, follow her blog.
    sorta kinda goes with networking, but the friends i’ve made! perhaps one day i’ll venture from my “safe little” indie nest, but meanwhile, conferences and writers groups are a gold mine of learning my craft!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray June 22, 2017 at 11:11 am #

      I think it’s fun to follow blogs and learn from friends, too! You have a deeper connection when you’ve met someone.

  14. Stacy T Simmons June 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

    Thank you for writing this Tamela. It’s a wonderful reminder of what merits lie in attending a conference. Last year at ACFW, I met some of my favorite authors, learned a lot from the classes and was able to find my mentor as well as make many new writing friends. To me conference attendance is an invaluable way to network and grow as a writer.

  15. Damon J. Gray June 22, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

    Echoing the sentiments of many above, the most valuable time at any conference for me has been what happens in line at the food truck, or across the picnic table, or while walking from session A to session B. Many of those relationships have continued, and I expect they will survive and blossom for years to come. How can I put a price tag on that?

  16. Sherri Wilson Johnson June 22, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

    I attended the Christian Writers Guild conference in North Carolina way back in 2003 after taking their writing course. I met lots of interesting people and learned how to prepare for agent/editor meetings. I didn’t really realize at the time what the difference was between an agent and an editor. In 2016, I attended ACFW in Nashville. It was the most wonderful experience I’ve ever had as far as the writer’s world is concerned. I received a request for a full from an editor and just sent the book in a few weeks ago after having an editor look at it and after entering it into a contest for feedback. Meeting FB friends and then making new friends was the highlight of my time there. I love to network, so that was fun too. Spending time with people who have mentored me along the way is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m still unagented, but that’s okay! I may not have made money from attending ACFW (yet), but it was well worth everything!

  17. Jerusha Agen June 22, 2017 at 4:29 pm #

    Great insights, Tamela. At my last conference, I learned one of my manuscripts garnered less interest in the current publishing climate than a new manuscript I’d just begun to pitch. This was a helpful realization to show me what to focus on going forward.

  18. Angela Carlisle June 22, 2017 at 8:32 pm #

    I attended my first writer’s conference this spring at Mt. Hermon. What an amazing experience! The connections I made, mostly with other writers, was worth every penny, and that’s without mentioning the workshops and everything else.
    I learned quite a few things during the conference. Manuscript length was definitely among them. Although I already knew my novel was on the short side, I realized that it was in the too-short category rather than just on the borderline.
    I also learned that I need to work a lot more on my “pitch” (despite my research, I wasn’t able to pin down what made a good pitch before I needed to make one). Thank goodness for agents that have patience with a newbie!

  19. Joyce Dunaway June 23, 2017 at 5:43 am #

    At Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference in May, God confirmed His calling on my life to write.
    He also humbled me and impressed on my heart that my writing is not about me. It is about helping others and giving Him the glory.
    I came back home with a new attitude about my writing journey.

  20. Melissa Ferguson June 23, 2017 at 8:03 am #

    Conference is the place where standing next to a girl in line for appointments becomes casual emails together about WIPs, which becomes phone calls of rejoicing in times of celebration and phone calls of encouragement in times of need, which becomes sharing tips on marketing and the craft, and eventually face timing in Italy while we make plans for her visit to my home next month. Directly or indirectly, attending a conference is like signing up to receive four shots of espresso in your mug each morning as you sit down to write.

  21. Samantha Evans June 28, 2017 at 7:54 pm #

    The connections made at a conference are invaluable. I talked with one publisher that is looking at and interested in my work. He has also written one endorsement for me and was willing to be a reference for a speaking event application. I received amazing advice and encouragement and brilliant ideas for marketing, PR and social media. A marketing consultant has fielded random questions for me via email since leaving the conference and has graciously responded to every one of them with genuine interest in my success. I received a free, brief but effective, website consultation and I am so excited about the changes I have made. And, one author invited me to write a devotion book with him so the two of us are pursuing that as well.

    All the energy generated from the conference (Colorado Christian Writers Conference) was well-worth the nearly $1,000 it cost to attend the event (airfare, lodging, registration etc.).

    Before the conference I would sometimes think, “I just need one person to believe in me, to give me a chance.” I found that there, an more than I ever could have imagined.

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