The Value of Online Writer’s Conferences

WANAConBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

If you were to pull out the laundry list of things writers are supposed to do to be successful, one of the items you’d be sure to find is attend writer’s conferences.

And everyone who included that on their list would be right. I wouldn’t be writing to you now if it wasn’t for the writer’s conferences I attended when I was first starting out. I gained the inspiration I needed to keep going. I learned invaluable lessons on craft and platform building. I developed the network of contacts that earned me my start as an editor.

On a lot of levels, I am where I am because of the writer’s conferences I attended in those early years.

But what’s often devalued when we talk about writer’s conferences is just how difficult it can be to actually attend one.

I probably don’t need to go over the reasons this is so, but I will anyway.

Reason #1 – Cost

The least expensive conference I’ve been to cost over $400 in registration, plus the money I spent on gas to drive the four hours round trip and the two nights in a hotel. I’ve been to conferences across the country where the registration fee was over $900, and that was without factoring in airfare and gas to reach the airport (two hours from my home).

Conferences are a major investment, which means they can be a major bone of contention if you’re married. And, sometimes, the money just isn’t there and there’s no responsible way to get it.

Reason #2 – Need to Travel

In the past I was blessed with the freedom to travel because I don’t yet have children, we were a two-car household, and my husband’s schedule was flexible enough that he could juggle the care of our home and pets while I was away.

But things are different now. With my husband back in school, we’ve gone down to a single car and he needs it seven days a week between classes and work. He has no flexibility in his schedule. Leaving our Great Dane in her crate for 12-hours straight while he’s away isn’t an option.  It’s much more difficult now for me to get away.

If you have family or job commitments that make it difficult or impossible to travel, you know that I’m talking about.

So where does that leave us?

It leaves us with the internet’s gift to writers—online training.

For the past two years, I’ve been involved as both a teacher and a student in online classes for writers and writer’s conferences. It’s been a fantastic experience that I wouldn’t trade.

Are they the same as live conferences? No way.

Are they a great solution for those of us who can’t go to live conferences? Absolutely.

And that’s why I wanted to take today’s post to tell you that WANACon is coming up on February 21-22.

WANACon is a 100% online writer’s conference. I’ve attended and presented at WANACon before, and in February I’ll be teaching a session called Putting Your Inner Editor to Work – Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

WANACon is only $149 (but if you use the code EarlyBird by January 31 you’ll receive an additional $30 off).

Even better, WANA International is giving three lucky attendees free admission. After you sign up for WANACon, complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win.

Registration includes all sessions and all recordings.

Along with my class, you’ll be able to learn social media and organizational skills like Blogging for Authors from Kristen Lamb, An Introvert’s Guide to Twitter from Jami Gold, OneNote: One Solution to Organizing Your Work with Jenny Hansen, and Building an Author Website without Getting Burned with Laird Sapir.

You’ll also get lifestyle classes like Write-Amin: Eat Well, Write Better with August McLaughlin, and craft classes on Creating Compelling Characters with Shirley Jump, Backstory with Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (of Emotion Thesaurus fame), and Writing in Deep POV with Lisa Hall-Wilson.

That’s just a sample. You can see all the presenters and class descriptions at the page I linked above.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I hope to “see” you at WANACon, but even if you’re not able to attend, I hope you’ll give online training a try at some point in the future. We all need help growing as writers, and the online training that’s now available gives us an advantage that writers in the past didn’t have.

Have you attended online training sessions before? What did you think?

Not able to attend WANACon, but still want to try out online training? On February 8th, I’m teaching a class called Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction. The cost is only $45, or you can get a WANA2Fer of my class along with Lisa Hall-Wilson’s How to Write in Deep POV for only $70 (that’s $20 in savings). Click here to check out the 2Fer.

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Are Online Writers’ Conferences the Way of the Future?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I know I said I’d talk to you today about when you should tell rather than show, but I had to interrupt our regular schedule for a special announcement instead.

WANACon Online Writers' Conference

Yesterday Kristen Lamb announced the first ever WANACon, a completely online writers’ conference. While I don’t think online conferences will ever replace offline conferences any more than I think ebooks will ever completely replace paper books, I do think we’ll see more and more online conferences in the coming years.

The reason is simple—we can attend from the comfort of our own homes.

No Need for Travel

If you’re a parent or you work a full-time job, you can’t always leave for three days to a week to attend a conference.

And a lot of us can’t afford the airfare, hotel, and other related travel expenses that come with an out-of-town conference.

Lower Conference Registration Costs

I’ve paid from $400 to more than $1000 just to register for regular conferences. Because online conferences don’t require their instructors to travel to the site of the conference, they don’t need to charge as much to attendees. WANACon is $125 to attend both days, and $75 if you only want to attend one day.

Flexibility for Attendees

For most conferences, you have to be at a session to benefit from the teaching. If you miss it, you’ll have to pay extra to buy the recording. With online conferences, a limited-time recording of the sessions is often included as part of the conference fee. This means you can “attend” even if you have to be at work when the session you desperately want is running or if you get called away by the needs of your kids.

If you’re a jeans and pony tail kind of girl (…or guy) like me, you’ll appreciate not having to pull out your dress clothes and try to figure out a magical way to keep them from getting so wrinkled in your suitcase that you look like a hobo. (If anyone happens to know the trick to wrinkle-free travel, please tell me in the comments.)

Aren’t There Drawbacks to An Online Conference?

Certainly. One of the biggest benefits of conferences (aside from the teaching) is the chance to pitch to agents and network with other writers and industry professionals.

Networking will always be tricky, but with today’s technology, online conferences can handle “in-person” agent pitches as well as an offline conference. (And, in fact, WANACon is doing just that. You can sign up for one-on-one agent pitch sessions.)

For more on WANACon, and on the creative ways they’ve found to allow attendees to network (including a pajama party on Sunday morning), make sure you read Kristen’s post “And Now for Something Completely Different! Redefining the Writing Conference.”
You can see the complete schedule for WANACon 2013 here. On Friday morning (Day 1), I’ll be teaching Twitter: Ten Essentials Every Writer Needs to Know.

Click here to register for both days.
Click here to register for Day 1.
Click here to register for Day 2.

How do you feel about the idea of an online writers’ conference? Will they ever fully replace offline conferences? And are you planning to attend WANACon?

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