Continuing Genreality’s theme week discussion of conventions, I’d just like to throw this out there: it is perfectly possible to have a thriving writing career without ever leaving the comfort of your own home, sweatpants and bunny slippers. Being a pro does not mean conference attendance is automatically required. Nobody has ever come to take away my SFWA membership for not attending WorldCon, I didn’t lose my RT award for staying home from the Romantic Times convention, and NINC really didn’t miss me in Florida. Don’t get me started on the way people start talking about their clothes/hair/makeup for RWA’s national conference months in advance. (Didn’t anybody but me get into this writing gig in order to ditch the suits/heels/makeup routine?)
Writing conferences are opportunities to network and gain important face time, sure. They’re opportunities to see friends and people you work with from afar, to interact with and meet fans and booksellers and librarians, and yes, a pitch to an editor or an agent at a conference could lead to a new contract. They’re also very expensive. I’ve yet to price a major writing conference where attendance wasn’t going to cost around $2K between travel, hotel, food, conference fees and misc. Given the average writer’s income, that is a very significant expenditure and it doesn’t hurt to ask if it’s really warranted or if that money is better spent on promotion or a new laptop.
If conference attendance really is important to you, your budget, and your career stage, an alternative to the mass-attended national conference lies in the often more affordable, and due to the small size, more network friendly, regional conference. RWA has these in plenty, and SF regional cons also abound. For mystery writers, check out Sisters in Crime for conference opportunities galore. Pick a genre and there’s bound to be a local or regional conference near you.
But keep in mind that you can network online, you can attend writing classes online, you can order recordings from RWA’s national sessions from the comfort of your own home, sweatpants and bunny slippers. The digital age means that staying connected and current has never been easier; I often learn about publishing and genre-specific news and opportunities on Twitter long before they’re reported in any of my professional publications. It’s also much easier to lurk in an agent or editor’s Tweet stream to find out what kind of person they are than to fork over the price of an airline ticket to get an in-person pitch appointment.