What Are the Benefits for Writers Who Attend Writers Festivals?

What Are the Benefits for Writers Who Attend Writers Festivals?

August 17, 2023

Question: Would I give up treats, subscriptions, and random purchases, get Nonna into respite care, organise pet care, shuffle the kids and other work commitments – plus take on extra work – to put myself in a position to attend a writers’ festival or writing conference again?

Answer: After a recent long weekend at the 2023 Byron Writers Festival (held in Bangalow on Bundjalung Country), the answer is a wholehearted ‘where do I sign!?’

And if you asked the question of the Australian writers who attended the Romance Writers Australia (RWA) Conference in Sydney on the same weekend, they’d give you the same enthusiastic reply too.

The benefits of going to writer’s festivals are immeasurable and include:

  • Discovery of new writers, authors, works and creatives.
  • Camaraderie, connection, and conversation.
  • Expansion and deepening of writing community contacts.
  • Renewed commitment to your own writing project/s.
  • Artistic and professional inspiration.
  • A better understanding of how other authors approach writing craft and the writers’ mindset.
  • Immersion in a wide variety of ideas and insights.
  • The opportunity to get books signed by your favourite and new-favourite authors to give as special gifts to friends, family, colleagues and yourself (oh my gosh…I now have unique gifts for so many special people in my life…as well as extra muscles from lugging them all around!).
  • A chance to chat with, ask a question of, or share with an author how much you loved their book.
  • Improvement of writing and author marketing skills.
  • A deeper knowledge of the publishing industry and current publishing trends.
  • A break from the grind and day-to-day.
  • Time to mull and focus.
  • A-ha moments offering short-, and longer-term impacts.
  • Fun, food, good times, and great memories.

Going to a writer’s festival is also:

  • A great way to generate fresh and interesting content for your socials, newsletter and author website (ooh, like I’m doing with this blog post!).
  • The perfect way to catch up face to face with writers whom you’ve previously connected with online. At Byron Writers I was able to have fun catch ups with opinion piece guru Vivienne Pearson and environment and sustainability writer Justine McClymont, writers I’d originally met online through Rachel’s List.
  • And, it’s also a wonderful work trip/holiday you can take with friends.

There are a huge range of writers and readers festivals around Australia, from the big city writers’ festivals such as Sydney Writers Festival and Melbourne Writers Festival to smaller regional festivals – I’ve compiled a list of Australian writers’ festivals, state by state here (and there will be updated pages on the website for 2024 and beyond). There’s also a huge range of writers’ and readers festivals around the world to explore!

And I get it, when you have family, caring, work and financial commitments like most of us, often getting to a writers’ festival can seem like a far off, bucket-list dream.

For me, Byron Writers Festival is just the second festival I’ve been able to attend, in person, in five years, the other was Lake Macquarie Writers Festival where I gave a presentation on publishing pathways (fyi: this is now available as a co-hosted mini course with Nadine Davidoff here).

What I’ve found more economical (financially and time-wise) –– has been attending a scattering of online festivals and hybrid writing conferences. Sure they don’t have the buzz and extra benefits of being there in-person, but it means you don’t need to completely miss out. In this vein I soaked up the last two years of the research-rich Small Press Network Independent Publishing Conference where I also presented on the Ultimate Timeline Guide for Self-Publishing (you can benefit from the extended online course I originally created for this here).

I also enjoyed the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) SelfPub Con and ran a great panel about marketing ideas with Australian authors Annie Seaton, Philippa Nefri Clark and children’s author Adam Wallace who generously shared some of their author and book marketing ideas.

This year I’ll also be attending online the 20Books Vegas conference but going in person to the Content Byte Summit for Freelance Writers in Sydney where I’ll be listening and learning from other writers as well as appearing on a panel with Ed Ghandia, Kim Kerton, and Rachel Smith of Rachel’s List.

The combination of attending these festivals has helped grow my understanding of the publishing industry, improve my craft, inspired me with further ideas for best practice author marketing and generally given me a personal, professional, and publishing boost.

But wait – ‘it’s too expensive/I can’t afford to attend writers’ festivals/I’m a carer/Who would look after the kids?/I have a full-time job and no time,’ you say. I hear you and feel you.

If getting to a writers festival seems financially unviable, you might be able to apply for a grant to attend (see Amra Pajalic’s course on how to apply for Australian Grants for Writers here and Melissa Addey’s course on crafting a writer’s resume and writer’s statement here). If you’re writing as a business (rather than as a hobby), your expenses for attending are likely tax deductible – but check with your accountant on that. With regards to kids and family commitments, hopefully you can find a way to ask for help from others – or band together with other writers for a nanny for the weekend.

But also, ask yourself: Is there anything else I can give up – or any extra work I can take on – to put myself in a position to attend a writers festival?

If so, attending a writers’ festival might make all the difference to your level of energy, insight, contacts and writing future. They do that for me!

If there’s a writing conference or festival in your future, I’ll be following this blog post up with some more thoughts/posts including:

  • How to Make the Most of Your Time at A Writers Festival (because whether you’re attending as a writer or author, you want to get the max from it as possible!
  • How to Get a Gig/Be Featured as an Author or Writers at a Writers Festival

Hope this information helps you on your writing and publishing journey. Other blog posts in this series on writers festivals include:

Best – Anna Featherstone