The Benefits of a Conference from Somebody Who Benefited

So the story continues, and like I said, the doorway out of Act 1 crept closer. I don’t think I would have reached it without going to a writing conference. To read my journey up to this point, check out My Writing Journey: Part One, and My Writing Journey: Part Two.

So what did the conference do for me, exactly?
It picked me up out of the slow lane and plunked me on the fast-track toward representation. Here’s the thing. Agents get about a bazillion queries a month. I imagine they all start to sound pretty much the same once they hit the triple digits.

Here’s how the ACFW conference benefited me:
– I met Rachelle face-to-face. I sat down with her and showed her a sample of my writing. She gave me some very helpful, specific tips for improving my manuscript. Would she have had the time to email me these tips had I been one more proposal in her inbox? Probably not.

– She told me to polish it up. Go through one more draft. Then send her the full. Would she have been so patient via email? Not sure. Either way, my chances of getting a rejection at that point would have been high.

– I met with an editor face-to-face. She asked to see a sample of my writing, liked what she saw, and asked for the proposal and six chapters. Would I have had this opportunity without going to a conference? Definitely not.

– I was able to tell Rachelle during our appointment that an editor had expressed interest in my work. I have to believe this helped.

– When I left Denver, Rachelle knew my name. She knew my face. She knew an editor liked my writing. I wasn’t query #349023845. I was a writer who invested money and time into a conference. Evidence that I’m serious about this writing thing.

So, what will a conference do for you?
That’s hard to answer. Because really, it all depends.

Here are some questions to consider:
Have you spent a considerable amount of time honing your craft?
Do you have a story you are proud and confident and dying to show an agent/editor?
Do you find yourself thinking, “If I could just get somebody to take a look at this dang thing, I know they’d like it”?
Have you gotten objective, positive feedback on your writing?

If you can answer yes to these questions, then a writing conference might be just the ticket you need to catapult your quest for representation into super sonic speed (or at least somewhere out of slow motion).

Disclaimer: I’m a strong believer in timing. Even if you can answer yes to all these questions (and I know people who can!). Even if you’ve been to several conferences with polished, stellar writing. Sometimes, for whatever reason, the timing isn’t right. Don’t let this discourage you! Think of all the connections you are making. Think of all the stuff you are learning. It will all be worth it in the end, when the timing comes together like a perfectly played chord in the midst of a song.

But what if you can’t answer yes? What if you just aren’t at that place yet? Is a conference still worth the time and money?


If going to one won’t put your family on bread and water for the next several months, then I strongly suggest finding a conference to attend. They are a wealth of information. A wealth of connections. A wealth of encouragement, inspiration, and excitement. And of course, a wealth of friends. One of the best parts of the conference was meeting so many of you.

I’m already exited for next year’s ACFW conference in Indianapolis!

So now I’m entering Act Two of my writing journey and I have no idea what’s in store. Representation does not equal publication. All the answers don’t just magically fall into place on this side of representation. There’s a lot of work to do. So much more to learn. So many more stories to write. God’s done amazing things in my life this past year and I’m eager to see what He’s got planned for the future.

Questions to Ponder: Have you gone to a writing conference? Was it worth the time and money? If you haven’t gone, why not?removetweetmeme

37 thoughts on “The Benefits of a Conference from Somebody Who Benefited

  1. Kelly H-Y

    What a fabulous and uplifting post! I'm just so excited for you and your journey!

  2. Devon Ellington

    Conferences are great, especially when you go in with a positive attitude and have done the work ahead of time. Every time I've gone to a conference, I've reaped benefits literally for years after.

  3. Jeanette Levellie

    Katie: I am so proud of you! Mary DeMuth said in a class I took of hers that 90% of writers who are asked to submit proposals at a conference NEVER follow through. You did, and it paid off. YES! for you.

    My experience was similar to yours. Two conferences changed my writing from a hobby to a career, and opened the door for my wonderful agent.

  4. Jennifer Shirk

    I have been to three writer's conferences but every time I've gone, I've had nothing finished to submit. πŸ™‚
    But I'm a big believer in timing, too. God has a way of laying the path for us even though we don't see it as we're walking on it.
    I agree that you got some wonderful feedback that you might not have gotten via mail. Great story!

  5. Rosslyn Elliott

    Hearing people talk about going to ACFW this coming year makes me want to go, even though I had not planned on it. (Indy is a lot farther than Denver from my stomping grounds.)

  6. Shelli

    i totally agree. YOu should try to go to the LA one in the summer. Its what you had magnified πŸ™‚

  7. Diane

    Hoping to get to a conference next year! God's timing is perfect. :O)

  8. Susan J. Reinhardt

    Hi Katie –

    Although I've seen your comments on other blogs, this is the first time I've visited yours.

    I'm glad I decided to stop in tonight. I've become a Follower. πŸ™‚


  9. Amy DeTrempe

    I've been to two Romance Writer's of American national conferences and don't plan on ever missing it again. I have not had the opportunity to go to the ACFW conference, but I plan on trying to get there next year. So far, from my experience, the conferences are well worth the money.

  10. ElanaJ

    I have been to several writing conferences, and they are always worth the time and money. If nothing else, you get to surround yourself with people who are just like you — writers.

  11. V. S

    I would like to experience a writing conference one day, sounds interesting.

  12. Jaime

    Once I got over the fact (and wiped the dazed look off my face) that Tracie Peterson – my writing hero – was teaching ME a class … I also saw the OTHER benefits of the conference. The networking a definite YES! The opp to talk to an agent and editor, both with positive feedback, and the fresh fruit trays in the morning at breakfast? Totally worth it! πŸ™‚

  13. Natalie

    I haven't been to one yet, but my writing group is going to SCBWI in NY in January. I have an agent already, so it will just be about learning and spending time with other writers. It's going to be fun.

  14. Tamika:

    Katie I revel at hearing your journey. Thank God dreams do come true! My tongue would probably have stuck to the roof of my mouth sitting in front of Rachelle!

    I plan to attend my first conference next year, after I really polish my work and save a bit more.

  15. Shmologna

    I went to the Blue Ridge Writer's Conference in 2004. I believe the conference WAS worth it, especially since there were some pretty big names in attendance. Sadly, I was young and nervous and didn't make any connections. I did learn a few things about craft though.

  16. Patti Lacy

    Katie, are you exited for the conference (already out the door with suitcase in hand) or trembling with anticipation? LOL.

    This old court reporter/English teacher/writer couldn't resist.

    What I love most about conferences is soulmate yakking with soulmate writers and pulling new writers under my mother hen wing. It soothes that teacher itch in me that writing has kinda dominated!


  17. Erica Vetsch

    I've been so several conferences, and after each one, I feel like I've grown as a writer. The workshops, the networking with industry professionals, the encouragement from the worship and keynote addresses, and the new friends and reconnecting with old friends…ah, I can't wait for Indy 2010.

  18. Patti

    I think conferences are worth it, just to learn and get to know others who are in the same situation as you. It's all about support.

  19. T. Anne

    I've gone to the BEA and was not as fortunate as you! Although I really would like a Christian literary agent so it was not a loss. I love reading about your journey, keep the stories coming! And as for next year, I hope I'll be at that conference in Indianapolis. It'd be nice to meet some blog buddies πŸ˜‰

  20. Cindy

    Katie, you make some great points about the benefits of conferences.

    I've never been to one before and even if I thought I was ready in the past, I don't think I was. I definitely wouldn't have had the courage. But I am seriously considering ACFW this year and have a manuscript I would LOVE to pitch!

  21. Kristen Torres-Toro

    I guess I'm kind of hoping ACFW will make its way South sometime in the near future. Right now I can't even consider it because of finances. I would love to go. Conferences are so fun. And I know it would be incredible. But like you, Katie, I believe in timing. I know God will get me to one when I'm supposed to be there–even if it isn't (if it is) my time.

  22. Heather Sunseri

    I have enjoyed reading about your journey, Katie! I am studying and editing and rewriting. I hope to see you in Indianapolis next year! Wahoo!

  23. CKHB

    I haven't gone to one. I've already submitted to all the agents I can think of, so I'd be most likely to encounter agents who (1) already rejected me, (2) don't represent my genre, or (3) have been sitting on my partial for months. It didn't seem like meeting any of those categories in person would benefit me…

    I do attend events through a local writers' workshop for networking purposes (and they teach GREAT classes). Maybe I'll go to the next conference they hold!

    (Come wish me a happy birthday on my blog if you have time today!)

  24. abouttothunder

    I have atteneded a local writer's conference annually for the last three years. They were all worth it. I've learned some things, I've done a little bit of networking, and they've been inpirational and affirming. I have some names of agents that are looking for character driven stories, so when I'm ready to submit, I know where to start directing my queries.

    I do hope that I can scrape together the money for a freelance editor later on, but I just don't know yet if that will be possible.

  25. Robyn Campbell

    You made TOTAL use of the conference. I have been to one big and one little. I don't know if I was ready or not.

    I would love to go to New York for the SCBWI conference one year. My dream. But mostly, I think I'd rather stay here and write and get ready. For the BIG call. πŸ™‚

    I do feel if I could JUST get someone to look at this DANG story, I know they would absolutely love it. And the cost is a factor right now. Plus the hospital visits with my son come first. But someday soon. πŸ™‚

    Great post, Katie. πŸ™‚

  26. Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought

    Working hard on my MS to pitch at the ACFW conference. Excited to meet you and others there. I think I'll feel like I'm meeting family in a very strange, but real way.
    Family = people who love to write.
    ~ Wendy

  27. Shelby

    I have not gone to a writer's conference, but I have been seriously thinking about that very fact for the past couple months. Do you have a recommendation for one?

  28. Sarah Forgrave

    I didn't get to go to the ACFW conference because of a family wedding, but it will be in my backyard next year! I look forward to going (assuming I can adjust to Baby #2 by then). πŸ™‚
    I went to a small local conference in November, and it was valuable. There weren't many agents there though, and there wasn't much of a focus on fiction. That's why I'm really hoping to make it to ACFW in 2010.

  29. Eileen Astels Watson

    The networking and education alone keep working for me. So, yes, if you can afford to attend conferences, go for it!!

  30. Terri Tiffany

    Ive been to two small ones and left so excited and happy to have been part of it., Still need to go to a bigger one–praying I get the opportunity to go to ACFW.

  31. Katie Ganshert

    Sherrinda – I hear you. The cost is definitely super high! I think Jody is right. If we're looking to improve our craft – there are definitely better uses of our money. But if we're looking to make connections and get our name out there, then a writing conference is the way to go. πŸ™‚ I hope I get to meet you in person at one one of these days. πŸ™‚

  32. Katie Ganshert

    Tabitha – the ACFW is geared toward fiction writers. But I think, since your are writing a memoir, that many of the techniques and stuff you'd learn about be beneficial. Don't quote me on that, though! So cool about getting to mee the editor of the magazine your work for!

    Jody – a big part of me definitely agrees with you. I don't think I got much out of the workshop classes that I couldn't have gotten from craft books. And hiring an editor or writing coach would be a HUGE benefit and would definitely (I agree 100% on this) benefit a writer's craft more than a conference would. I think where conferences come in handy is networking. Big time. Even if a writer isn't ready to submit, meeting other writers, making your face recognizable to editors/agents is a huge benefit. And obviously…I'm biased toward confernces, since this one helped me out so much! πŸ™‚

  33. Jessica

    It was definitely worth it for you. πŸ™‚ You're totally right about the personal touch, imo. I briefly introduced myself to an agent who'd had a partial of mine for like eight months. I knew she was busy so I just said hi the first night. Didn't talk to her again. But two days after I got home she e-mailed and requested the full, and said thank you for introducing myself. LOL I had no clue she'd even remember. So that was really cool and I don't know whether meeting her upped my chances or not, but I do think it made the request speedier.

    A conference can be worth it for just meeting other writers and learning craft, I think.

    Great post, Katie! πŸ™‚

  34. Krista Phillips

    I have gone… and they were beneficial, although I haven't YET got that elusive agent or book contract out of it. *sigh* But… I did get a request for a full… and got to, however briefly, meet the other agent that had already requested my full. No response yet, but here's to hoping:-)

    But conference is more than just getting face time with agents and editors (but admittedly that's the reason most of us go…) it's about networking with writers, people who UNDERSTAND us, it's about learning the craft and honing out skills.

    IF you can afford it… I'd highly recommend one!

  35. Jody Hedlund

    Wow! The conference was totally worth it for you, Katie!! It might have been the best money you ever spent! The thing I'm seeing is that every writer's journey to publicatioin is SO different! What works for one, might not for another. But I definitely think that going to conferences is an excellent opportunity for those who are ready. (Key–ready.) Otherwise, I don't think it's a wise use of money. The money could be better spent hiring an editor or coach to take your writing to the next level!

  36. sherrinda

    I haven't been to a conference, mainly because I am just getting started and my work is not ready yet. I know it would be beneficial to go anyway, but the money involved is HUGE and I can't justify it right now. Someday though….

  37. Tabitha Bird

    I went to my first and very small writing conference here in Brisbane a couple of weekends ago. I met (face to face) the editor of a magazine I write for. We chatted for ages and really clicked. Now I am not just the girl who sends her work all the time, now I have a name AND a face. I like my chances of being accepted for future articles even better.

    I also met the head of a local publishing house. One I am thinking of sending my work to when it is ready. She already has me on her email list because I have submitted work to an anthology she is producing. Nothing beats face to face connections. I am all for them.

    Q for U katie. Is ACFW only for fiction writers? Would writers of other genres get anything good out of it? (being that Rachelle does rep other genres and so do many agents.)


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