The Reason Writers Conferences Are Worth It by @K8Tilton

conferences, Kate Tilton, Rachelintheoc, Rachel Thompson Every time after a convention or writer’s conference, you’ll see posts going up about how the convention has taken a downturn and isn’t worth attending anymore. So many people seem disappointed in their experience and vow to skip the next convention in favor of something else. And I get it, I really do. In my profession (working with authors as a service provider) I see many people attending multiple conferences a year. Multiple BIG conferences. Multiple EXPENSIVE conferences.

Early on in my business, I decided I wouldn’t follow the pattern. I would do events that offered greater value than the overall cost, even if I really wanted to go. Less fun, but overall it has been one of my smartest business decisions.

So why BEA (BookExpo America)?

When deciding if an event has more value than overall cost, I make a list. For BEA 2015, the pros column:

  • Cost is minimal (Travel: $150 for roundtrip train ticket and ~$30 for a subway pass, Room: free stay with a friend who lives in the city, Ticket: ~$150 for a bloggers pass). Total: $330 to attend one of the largest publishing events (aka, cheap!).
  • Best friend lives in the city and I’ll get to see her.
  • UK client AD Starrling will be attending.
  • AD Starrling won an award and the award ceremony will be held in NYC during the BEA conference days after show hours.
  • Major publishing names will be in attendance.
  • Free ARCs, free books are always a plus.

And cons:

  • Will require a few days off (meaning a tighter work schedule during the rest of the month).
  • Will cost ~$330.
  • Will require travel to NYC for business (this is less fun than it sounds).

With that in mind, and considering this will be the last year I’m close enough to take a cheap train into the city, I had already decided BEA would be a worthwhile conference to attend.

And then something unexpected happened.

I started a Twitter conversation with a member of the board for the BEA blogger conference. In that brief Twitter exchange, I was invited to speak on a panel.

To speak on a panel at one of the largest publishing conventions.

And I said yes.

Now realistically, not everyone will end up becoming a speaker at every convention they attend. But it can happen. My client AD Starling also was invited to speak at UPublishU, something that never would have happened if she hadn’t attended.unsplash, kate tilton, rachel thompson, badredhead media

Why It Matters For You

BEA 2015 was the right option for me this year, but maybe it wasn’t for you, and that’s okay, but never dismiss a conference because it wasn’t right for someone else. Only you can decide what is worthwhile for you. Only you know the goals you want to achieve.

Are you looking to learn how to self-publish your books? Well, look at conferences with a strong self-publishing focus like IndieReCon.

Are you trying to learn the best ways to publish? Check out Pubsense Summit (formerly PubSmart).

Are you looking to connect with people in the industry? Try BookExpo America.

Are you looking to learn more about blogging? Attend BookExpo America’s Blogger Conference.

Be clear about your goals. I picked BEA for convenience, the mix of industry and book collecting, and to connect with those in publishing I couldn’t connect with online. I didn’t attend the conference looking to take home suitcases full of books or to gain a whole new group of clients. In the end, I got exactly what I was looking for and more. I was able to connect with people in the industry I couldn’t reach online. I was able to connect in person with those I know online. And I was able to get up on stage and share about what I love (and hopefully helped all those who came to the panels).

Publishing events and conventions ARE worth it, as long as you know what you are looking for.

Speak back: What conventions have you attended? Did you go with a goal in mind and were you able to achieve it?


pictures courtesy of unsplash


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  2. Deb Atwood on June 29, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Good advice, Kate. I just signed up for your newsletter. Which conferences do you feel provide good agent pitch sessions and exposure?

    • Kate Tilton on June 30, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      Thank you, Deb. I am not an author so I haven’t personally looking into conferences for connecting with agents. My advice would be to look for a conference that has a focus on agent pitch sessions. Often I hear horror stories of authors passing their manuscripts to agents without their consent (I heard one author did this to an agent while she was in a restroom, aye!). So if your goal is to meet with an agent to talk about your book you want to look for a conference where they have a pitch session set up for that, and as a main part of the conference. I hope that helps!

      • Deb Atwood on July 2, 2015 at 7:42 am

        Ah, I’ve heard the restroom story, too. Yikes! Thanks for your reply, and Happy Thursday.

        • Kate Tilton on July 3, 2015 at 8:23 am

          Yes! Could you imagine being that agent? Yikes is right. Best of luck to you in your agent hunt!

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