Writing conferences are one of the best resources for both established and emerging writers. Although each conference is unique in its own way, conferences typically present workshops led by renowned writers, chances to network and learn more about the industry, and opportunities to get work published. The first step to finding the perfect conference is to consider your goals as a writer.
If you’re looking to pitch a manuscript:
Writer’s Digest Annual Conference: New York City, August 10-12, 2018, $149-$499
This conference, put on by , aids writers in both their craft and business strategy. Attendees can take classes and sessions from five tracks: getting published, the business of writing, craft, genre studies, and writer’s reserve. Topics of workshops span genres and forms, covering everything from screenwriting and query letters to self-publishing and ghostwriting. The conference even features a panel of debut authors that will discuss the process of getting published. If you sign up for the pitch slam, you’ll get the chance meet agents and editors one-on-one and directly pitch your manuscript. With some luck, you may earn representation or even a book deal.
San Francisco Writer’s Conference: San Francisco, California, February 14-17, 2019, $99
The San Francisco Writer’s Conference is described as a “celebration of craft, commerce, and community.” The main goal of the conference is to help writers become published authors. With over one hundred presenters each year, this conference is popular among the book industry professionals and includes sessions on self-publishing, book promotion, social media, and author websites. There’s even a “Speed Dating for Agents” option for writers to pitch book ideas to a room of literary agents looking for new clients. There’s plenty of face-to-face interaction with literary agents and other writers, so this conference is perfect for the up-and-coming writer.
If you’re looking to connect with other writers and work on your craft:
Kentucky Women Writers Conference: Lexington, Kentucky, September 13-16, 2018, $125-$200
Launched in 1979, Kentucky Women Writers Conference is the longest-running literary festival for women in the United States. The conference was formed to showcase the talent of female writers and address issues unique to them in the publishing world. Around 800 people—both women and men—attend the conference each year to attend readings and workshops in poetry, fiction, memoir, and more. It’s a fun way to connect with other writers while developing your craft.
Bridget Burch Cooke’s Inspired Writer Retreats: Park City, Utah, Quarterly dates, $2,497
A literary retreat is a great way to really hone in on your craft in personalized setting. Attending retreats like the ones hosted by bestselling author Bridget Burch Cooke will give you the chance to connect with other emerging writers. For three and a half days, writers will get to work through the process of creating and finalizing a manuscript, from pitching to promoting, in a small group setting. Her workshops incorporate three core elements—entertainment, education, and transformation—to allow attendees to tap into their full potential as writers.
She Writes University, Online, April-May, $99-$500
This “conference” is the only online, live webinar-based writing program with a community of nearly 30,000 writers. With classes held on multiple dates in April and May, attendees can either watch classes being taught live or view recordings later. This year’s topics have covered developing a strong voice, living as a working writer, and understanding the modern book marketplace. The classes are led by industry leaders, even including authors like Jesmyn Ward, the two-time National Book Award winner. This online writing program is a must for writers looking for that community feel but who juggle busy schedules or can’t attend a retreat.
If you’re looking to learn more about genre:
ThrillerFest: New York City, July 10-14, 2018, $150-$1,235
If you’re a thriller and suspense writer or just an enthusiast, ThrillerFest is the place to be. This annual conference was started in 2004 by International Thriller Writers and brings authors, readers, publishers, editors, and more together to celebrate and support thriller writers. The conference offers a day-long master training session, smaller workshops, a pitching event for writers, opportunities to meet the best authors in the industry, and an awards banquet. The guest list for this year’s conference features some huge names, like George R.R. Martin, James Rollins, Megan Abbott, and Lee Child.
Romance Writers of America Annual Conference: Denver, Colorado, July 18-21, 2018, $490-$715
Every year, about 2,000 romance writers and industry professionals gather for a chance to learn more about writing romance, network with others, and connect with romance publishers. Hosted by Romance Writers of America, this conference presents immersive sessions, book signings, trade shows, and more. For anyone interested in writing or publishing anything romance-related, this conference is a great way to learn more about the genre and meet others in the field.
American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference: New York City, May 18-19, 2018, $75-$569
Although this conference is more focused on journalism, there’s plenty of events and sessions for nonfiction writers. This two-day conference will have over 40 instructive panel sessions and workshops as well as the chance to meet one-on-one with editors and agents. Workshops cover topics helpful for journalists and literary nonfiction writers looking to sharpen their skillset.
If you want to experience the publishing industry in all of its glory:
AWP Conference and Bookfair: Portland, Oregon, March 27-30, 2019, costs coming soon
More than 12,000 writers, editors, teachers, students, and publishers come together every year for the largest literary conference in North America. Put together by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, the four-day conference boasts a lineup of 550 readings, panels, and lectures and hosts 2,000 presenters and over 800 presses, journals, and organizations. Past guests have included literary stars like George Saunders, Claudia Rankine, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Khaled Mattawa among others. Whether you’re going to promote your book or mingle with the biggest names in contemporary literature, it’s hard to beat this conference.
BookExpo America: New York City, May 30-June 1, 2018, $100-$400
This large conference is more focused on the business aspects of the industry, but it’s still a great opportunity to learn about every role that goes into producing a book. The expo tends to focus on current trends in publishing as well as retail strategies, but this year will feature author appearances from Jacqueline Woodson, Rick Riordan, Becky Albertalli, and Nicholas Sparks. You’ll leave with more than plenty of new books, too!
Have you ever attended a conference? Share your experience with us in the comments below!