Writers Conferences for the Independently Published Author
by Andrea Walker
Writer’s conferences, depending on their content and professionalism, can be helpful to writers at any stage. Many conferences offer both writing courses as well as additional classes aimed at either the independent author or the author seeking to publish traditionally, and on the rare occasion, both. However, since each conference is run by a different group who may each have their own ideas as to what people want, they can be helpful or a waste of time to the independently published author.
The main things to look for when deciding to attend a conference are: the information offered, who will be teaching the classes and presenting the keynotes, reviews, price, and location. The order is important. For instance, if the conference is held in your area but is aimed primarily at those seeking traditional publishing, you will just waste your time and money. A conference farther away may be a better choice, but you will need to budget for rooms and travel as well as tuition.
You will want to research your conference choices carefully. Many conferences offer discount pricing if you register early. However, if the group does not upload or send a proposed schedule until the discount has expired, it can be hard to determine if the conference is right for you. Other types of research can be beneficial. Note that if a conference seems to highlight a list of agents available for free or paid sessions, it is likely aimed at those seeking traditional publishing. Other conferences have writing as their main focus, or may be specific to one particular type of writing, such as nonfiction. This is where conference reviews come in handy. Look for them; don’t limit yourself to the information presented on the conference’s website or advertising material.
I have attended two different conferences that were relatively close my home in the Phoenix area. Both had excellent information to offer, as well as their challenges. I would recommend either of these choices to authors looking to publish independently if it suits their goals.
The first I attended was the American Night Writers Association (ANWA) Conference, which was held in Phoenix in September 2018. ANWA describes itself as “a unique professional organization for LDS writers.” The conference is open to the public; you do not have to be an LDS member to attend.
The best part of this conference was the wealth of classes and information for the independent author. I received more information during two days at this conference than I have at any other event, class, or gathering. There isn’t an independent publishing stone they didn’t overturn. There were classes comparing independent publishing venues such as Smashwords or Amazon, finding book cover artists, and intense sessions on marketing, just to name a few. I came out of that conference with enough information to feel confident about publishing my book. Furthermore, the information was accurate and up to date.
The main issue with this conference was its popularity. From past experience, this conference fills up quickly, and your best bet is to register far in advance. Registration for the 2018 event opened in May of the same year. I was lucky enough to reach the top of the waiting list and secure a spot just a couple of weeks before the conference. Do not be afraid to put your name on the waiting list, as it will give you a chance of attending. The current price of the 2019 conference is listed at $240, not including hotel room or food.
The second conference I attended was through the West Coast Writers Conference, held in Los Angeles. I have been to this conference twice, once in October 2018, and more recently in March 2019. The October conference had more to offer the independent author. More classes and consultations were directed at indie authors, compared to the March conference, because it was paired with a “digital author conference.” Unfortunately, the event listed for August 2019 does not seem to offer the digital conference pairing, and no conferences are listed for October 2019 at this time. Although March held fewer classes for independent publishers, the teachers were wonderful, quite helpful, with real-world advice to offer. Furthermore, this conference offers free consultations with editors and agents, most of whom also teach the offered classes. You do not have to be querying or seeking traditional publishing to schedule a consultation. The people who organize this conference are amazing and helpful as well.
The main drawback to the WCW conference was the sparse class offerings for independent authors at the second conference. You may wish to research this conference fully before deciding to attend, especially if the distance is a concern. The different conferences throughout the year have different focuses. Conference price can vary considerably, as steep discounts are offered for early bird registrations. Walk up registration is $449 for the August event, which does not include hotel, but does include a meal. However, this conference offers no-interest financing and has been known to offer free or reduced-price admission to authors who are down on their luck.
Depending on the conference, attending can be highly beneficial for the independently published author, or it can be a waste of your time and money. Your best bet is to research before registering, checking to see that the conference offerings are right for you. Check reviews, talk to people who have attended, and share your own views for others seeking similar conference info.