Why Spend the Money to Attend Writers Conferences?

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Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days isnow available. See details below.

I attend two to three conferences per year, usually two Christian writers conferences and a secular one. I’ve been to 8 different conferences across the U.S. The list below from my experience may help you decide whether you want to spend the money to attend a conference.

  • Conferences help writers meet others in the same stage of writing or publication. The seasoned authors seem so connected, but most “grew up” together from the novice stage. If you’re in the novice stage and are serious about writing, you and your new friends will eventually become seasoned and more connected.
  • Some conferences offer scholarships to help with the cost. Conferences get creative in the ways they grow scholarship funds. They want to give out scholarships, so apply.
  • Conferences offer quality speakers. Speakers will inspire, encourage, and entertain you. I told keynote speaker Francine Rivers that she must have had the same guide I had in Ephesus for her Mark of the Lion Series. She said she’d never been to Ephesus. I walked away amazed at her research abilities.
  • Conferences are the place to ask your burning questions. Seasoned authors remember what it was like to be a budding writer. Most are happy to pay forward the help they received and answer questions. Many become official mentors and are available for mentor appointments.
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  • Conferences offer classes or workshops for all stages of writing. Once you’ve taken classes for novices, you can take classes in future conferences on the areas where you’re weak. Characterization, plotting, adding humor, self-editing, chapter hooks, endings, etc.

  • Some conferences are for fiction only, but other conferences cover a gamut of writing genres. You may write fiction, but would like to learn how to write articles to make some money while you’re waiting to hear back on manuscripts. Or when your first book is published, you can take a class on speaking, then take your book on the road. How about script writing or ghost writing.
  • Many conferences have outside bookstores run a conference bookstore on campus. You can sign up to sell your book(s) for a percentage. Some authors bring books; others have the bookstore order their books. Also, you can purchase books often at a reduce price. You’ll find fiction, children’s, writing craft, and other nonfiction books.
  • Usually, you can sign up for fifteen-minute appointments with agents and acquisition editors. This is your opportunity to pitch your book. Some conferences offer appointments with mentors or authors too.
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  • Many conferences bring in a photographer to take headshots. Their photo sessions are usually reasonably priced.
  • Publishing is about more than writing. You need to know about marketing and using social media. Classes at writers conferences will teach you how to build your platform.
  • They provide great opportunities for networking. Bring business cards. It’s not so much about schmoozing as making friends, especially during meals. You may find a critique group or partner.
  • Once you’re published, conferences give you a chance to meet face to face with your editor, agent, or publisher’s attending reps. I’ve sat with a rep from one of my publishers and talked marketing strategies.

What holds you back from attending conferences?

The Kindle copy of Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is available for pre-order. AND if you bought or buy the print copy you can purchase the Kindle copy for $2.99. See Matchbook Price. Pre-Order Kindle

Buy Link

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Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

Tips to Ensure You Have a Happy Book Signing

“I always do book signings with the same blue pen. That way, if I add a personalised message to a book I’ve already signed, it’ll be in the same colour as my signature.” — John Grisham

Chapters Bookshop
Chapters Bookshop

These tips are from research and from book signings I’ve done in small bookstores and at events. They’ll help you walk away from a book signing pleased.

 Book Signing Tips:

1. Schedule your signing as soon as you have your book’s release date.

• Schedule a face-to-face meeting with the manager, if possible.

• Give the manager one of your promotional postcards with the information necessary to order your book and contact you.

• Ask which are high traffic days and schedule your signing accordingly.

• Obtain the contact information of the person you’ll work with.

Drawing: Basket of Book-related Item
Drawing: Basket of Book-related Item

• Ask what they provide: table, table cloth, table location near traffic, press release, flyers, announcements on their website and social networks.

• Ask if you may bring such items as: banner, poster, a basket of book-related goodies for a drawing, candy, cookies, flyers, and bookmarks.


Between you and the store, provide a welcoming, customer-drawing book signing area. Click to tweet.

2. Promote your signing. Do what you can afford.

• Use your postcards as invitations to readers.

• Print flyers for the store to stuff into customers’ bags several days before the signing.

• Take your flyers to nearby businesses, such as beauty salons. Ask them to display one or keep a stack at their counter.

• Put interesting press releases in local newspapers.

2" x 3.5" Ad
2″ x 3.5″ Ad

 • Purchase a newspaper ad. Example from Calculated Risk.

• Check whether your publisher announces events on their media networks.

• Announce the signing on your website and social media networks.

• Announce the event at gatherings, such as book clubs.

• Ask friends to also do the previous two activities. 

3. Be active at your signing.

• Bring the staff doughnuts or a cake, thanking them for hosting you. Because you remembered them, they may recommend your book.

• Invite customers to an activity at your table, such as a drawing for a basket of goodies.

• Provide candy—chocolate and hard candy.

Dressed as Character from Book Cover (photo by Vie Herlocker)
Dressed as Character from Book Cover (photo by Vie Herlocker)

 • Dress as your character to start conversations. Include your headshot on your banner so customers know you’re the author.

• Stand in front of your table and hand out bookmarks. Invite customers to your table to enter the drawing, to enjoy a cookie or candy, or to take a giveaway.

• Listen to those who want to chat.


• Invite a friend to join you, one who has read and enjoyed your book. She’ll praise your book, hand out bookmarks while you’re signing or chatting, run for more books, and keep you from resembling a wallflower.

  4. Be active after the signing.

• Help clean up.

• Pay for leftover books the store would normally return to your publisher. Publishers may forbid returns if they receive too many.

• Be content with your sales. Even if you sold nothing, you’ve gained exposure. You’ve learned more about signings. You have fodder for your blog. You did the right things.

• Send the manager and staff a thank-you note.

 Even low-selling book signings can be a happy success. Click to tweet.

What tips can you share with us?