Why Attend Writer’s Conferences


Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 9.32.57 amI recently returned from the CYA Conference in Brisbane, and it was fun filled, inspiring and fruitful.

Fun filled because I got to catch up with so many wonderful writer friends, and make new ones. Networking and making industry connections is invaluable for a writer. It helps you find out about opportunities and provides great support when your confidence is flagging.

CYA was also inspiring because I picked up tips about writing, publishing and marketing from the speakers at the conference, and because hearing about other writer’s successes and projects is so energising.

CYA Success stor

CYA Success stories

But just as important, because conferences cost money, it was fruitful. I had the opportunity to present my work to publishers and agents and even without all the other added benefits, this alone made the trip to Brisbane worthwhile.


The advantages of presenting your work to a publisher or agent in person can’t be underestimated.

  1. When you send a manuscript to the slush pile, you rarely get feedback. The feedback I received at CYA came in different forms – some written on the manuscript itself – some verbal – all useful.

I found out for instance that one publisher liked my writing but the project I submitted clashed with one they already had on their list. A slush pile rejection probably wouldn’t have told me this – I would have been left wondering if the rejection was because either the writing or project weren’t strong enough.

Face-to-face feedback gives you so much more to work with. Although the project I submitted prior to the conference wasn’t of interest to a publisher, I had the chance to speak with them about another project I was working on, and received a request for that project.

  1. You have the opportunity to make a connection with that publisher or agent so you get some idea of what it would be like to work with them, and they are able to make the same assessment about you.
  1. You have the opportunity to make a positive impression on a publisher or agent so that when you send work in they know who you are – you’re not just one of the anonymous thousands who submit manuscripts to them.
  1. You have a chance to talk to publishers and agents about their views of what’s hot or what’s not. This can help you decide whether to shelve a manuscript for the time being or whether now is the right time to bring one out of the bottom draw and revive it.
  1. It makes you realise that in spite of any doom and gloom about the state of the publishing industry …

… Publishers are still looking for great books and new authors.

Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 9.33.28 amWHAT IF I CAN’T AFFORD TO GO TO CONFERENCES?

Conferences cost money so they can be difficult to get to. Here are some things I do/have done to make them affordable.

  1. Be a conference volunteer. This usually means that you don’t have to pay the conference fee – and you often get to meet the presenting authors and publishers during the course of the event so it’s a great networking opportunity. You will need to pay for any pitching sessions.
  1. Interview the presenters and write articles for magazines or online publications (preferably ones who pay). Years ago I funded my Reading Matters Conference fee by interviewing international authors, Meg Rosoff, Jacqueline Wilson and John Boyne and getting articles about them published. Apart from the financial benefits it was a fun and very inspiring experience.
  1. Apply for funding through organisations like CAL (Copyright Agency Limited) and SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators)
  1. Try and put aside $10 a week – even if it means sacrificing a favourite weekly treat, pedicure, dog shampoo, takeaway coffee etc.
  1. At Christmas, Birthdays etc, if loved ones want to give you a present, ask for money to put towards a writer’s conference.
  1. Have a market stall and sell things you don’t need/want. E-bay’s another possible avenue for fundraising.
Post conference dining with writerly friends

Post conference dining with writerly friends


Having young children or other dependants makes it very hard to get away for a weekend conference.

So start small. I recently went to a Literary Speed Dating Event at the Victorian Writer’s Centre. It cost $30 and went for two hours. From that event I received requests for materials from two publishers I would love to work with.

I hope you’ve found my conference tips helpful. If you have other tips, please feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Hope to catch you at a conference somewhere sometime soon πŸ™‚


Thanks to CYA for a great conference and for use of the photos – and to Peter Allert photographer extraordinaire





15 thoughts on “Why Attend Writer’s Conferences

  1. Dear Dee, Terrific article! I am happy to pay you $30 for one-off use in Buzz Words or to give you a one year subscription (worth $48) in lieu of payment. What do you reckon? Di x

  2. Dear Di,

    Glad you enjoyed the article. I’m happy for you to use it in Buzz Words. As far as payment goes I’m happy for you to use whichever method works for you.

    Dee x

  3. Great article Dee! Wish I had more time to chat and get to know you some more. I agree with every word you wrote. Hope to see you again soon! Kat x

  4. Hi Dee. This is really interesting. I was wondering, how useful are conferences to unpublished authors and how do you find out what conferences are happening and when?

  5. Hi Wendy,

    The first few conferences I went to were as an unpublished author. In fact Letters to Leonardo was published as a result of a conference I went to where I got to pitch it to a publisher.

    The thing with any conference whether you’re published or not, you need to have goals. So if say you have a particular manuscript you want to pitch then you research which publishers are likely to publish that kind of book and you try to arrange pitch sessions with them.

    If you’d like me to, I’d be happy to do a blog post about preparing for a conference when you’re an unpublished writer.

    Happy writing:)


  6. Hi Dee!!! Chatting with you at CYA was fantastic.

    I also have a book getting published as a result of a pitch session – but my pitch session was free with attendance to Conflux in Canberra (a spec-fic con that happens every year).

    The Sydney Free-Con doesn’t have pitches, but it’s still a great conference, especially for spec-fic fans. Both are in Spring this year.

    Felicity Banks

  7. Hi Felicity,

    Thanks for dropping in πŸ™‚ Great to catch up with you at CYA too. Congratulations on the new book and thanks for the tip about Conflux and The Sydney Free-Con. That’s really great to know πŸ™‚

    We’d love to know more about your book and when it’s coming out.

    Dee πŸ™‚

  8. Thank you. I’ll definitely tell everyone more about the book when it’s closer to the release date.

  9. Thanks, Kat,

    I know, isn’t that amazing? I feel like I have known you so much longer too. Loving seeing your beautiful books that have been published since then πŸ™‚

    Dee xx

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