Getting your money’s worth out of a conference is like getting your money’s worth out of a vacation; it takes careful selection and advance planning and preparation.
Begin by selecting a conference best suited to your needs. Decide this by asking friends in your local writing club about the conferences they have attended and by writing to several conference directors for free descriptive brochures. Usually, by figuring in advance how much money you will have to spend on travel and tuition, you will be able to narrow the choices rapidly. Study their programs for quality content (plenty of lectures by reputable instructors) and emphasis (some conferences offer something for everyone, whereas others focus strictly upon inspirational writing or poetry or journalism).
Don’t be too hasty to rule out a conference several hundred miles from your home. If you are a working writer—even a beginner—your conference expenses are tax deductible. Furthermore, you might be able to sell travel features to your hometown newspaper about the out-of-state location you will be visiting. Many conferences also provide full or partial scholarships, or they provide cash prizes through writing contests.
The most important consideration is to get the kind of help you need for your particular writing interests. The extra money spent in travel will come back to you once you learn how to increase your manuscript sales. So, invest a little, plan a lot, and expect a good return.
Adapted from Writing for Profit by Dennis E. Hensley (Thomas Nelson, 1985; revised 2003). At Taylor University in Upland, IN, Dr. Hensley teaches students in the Professional Writing Major how to choose conferences that advance their publishing goals. © 2011 by Dennis E. Hensley. All rights reserved.