Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Indie Tuesday—Are Writers' Conferences a Waste of Time for Indie Authors?

by Charity Tinnin @CharityTinnin

For traditional or hybrid authors, attending a writers' conference is a career requirement. Having the opportunity to meet one-on-one with agents and editors can give these writers an edge for their next project. However, this is not an essential step in the process for authors who self-publish. So are writers' conferences a waste of time for indie authors?

Definitely not. I think there are at least four reasons indie authors should attend a conference like the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference or participate in an online version such as IndieRecon:

In the beginning, you'll want to soak up as much wisdom as possible so that your debut can really shine. To remain competitive as an indie author, your books must become stronger over time. Workshops on craft, marketing, and the state of publishing in general will not only make you a better writer, but also a better businessperson. And a great workshop will benefit you for years. Just this week I advised a critique partner using a concept Steven James taught me at Blue Ridge four years ago.

A writer’s life is often lonely, and since their team is smaller, indie authors can experience an extreme case of isolation. Attending a conference allows you to talk to real live humans who don’t think you’re crazy for talking to imaginary ones. Which is a win-win for everyone. Plus, you may not be pitching your work to an agent or editor, but indie authors still have to answer the age-old question, “What’s your book about?” This is a good chance to perfect your answer and win potential readers at the same time. 

Whether you’re searching for critique partners or want a professional’s opinion on those all-important first pages, you can often find both at a conference. And once you do, you're one step further down the road toward providing a higher-quality product for your readers (which gives you a better chance of turning one-time customers into faithful fans).


At conferences, I have this really bad habit of staying up until two or three a.m. The reason? Someone in my group mentions their idea, and before you know it, we’re brainstorming motivations and plot points. There’s nothing quite like extended time away from your routine with other writers to get that creativity flowing again—especially if you're currently mired in the middle of a series like me.

For these reasons (and a couple more), I'll be attending Blue Ridge next week. If you're going to be there, I'd love to meet you and find out what you're working on.

In the mean time, what about you? Are you planning to attend a conference this year? If so, which one(s)? Why are they an important facet in your career?

Are writers' conferences a waste of time for indie authors? #IndieTuesday with @CharityTinnin via @EdieMelson.

.@CharityTinnin offers 4 reasons indie authors should attend a writers' conference. #IndieTuesday #indiepub 

Charity Tinnin’s fascination with dystopian lit began in high school, so it's no surprise that her debut novel, Haunted, would be a YA dystopian. Now, she mentors high school students at her church, works as a freelance editor, and lives in the foothills of North Carolina. When she’s not editing for a client or working on the State v. Seforé series, she spends her time reading YA and discussing the merits of fictional heroes online. Speaking of the Internet, Charity loves to talk about YA lit, TV, and State v. Seforé. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, or her website to continue the conversation.


  1. Interesting thoughts, Charity! For me, cost has always been a very prohibitive factor, and yet the chance to meet my writing peeps in person has always been the strongest motivator! I'm encouraged that indies are talking about ways to have conferences, even online, so we can continue to grow as writers and business people. But I've heard such good things about Blue Ridge and hope you have a great time!

    1. Heather, I know cost is a factor for many indies, which is why I love IndieReCon's online version. They offer great info by industry professionals for free! And the archives stay online for reference. Incredible, right? For those who want that in-person interaction but can't afford it, I suggest applying for a scholarship. Most conferences offer a small number of them for exactly this reason. I know Blue Ridge and ACFW both do. And I'm sure there are other free online options and physical conferences with scholarship offerings; these are just the ones I'm familiar with.

      As for Blue Ridge, it's hands down my favorite conference. I've personally found the classes to be better than ACFW's and that was before they added the self-publishing track this year. I can't wait to soak up all the goodness. Don't worry though, I'm going to find some way to pass it on!

  2. I'll be attending Blue Ridge so hopefully I'll get to meet you! Thank you for reiterating the loneliness aspect of writing. I'm usually happy being alone, but I have absolutely no one to talk with about my characters and that makes me sad. Conferences are vital to me so that I don't get discouraged and quit.

    1. Writing friends as so necessary. Who else will listen to you talk about how your characters are ruining your plot outline and not think you're crazy? I hope you'll be able to soak up all that support next week and meet one or two others who can "fill you up" in between. Count me as one of those people already! I'll be on the lookout for you, and you do the same :)