I’ve been asked this question quite a bit lately -- partly because summer is the season for writing conferences and partly because I used to be the Executive Director of the Writers’ League of Texas which puts on the biggest agents conference in central Texas (perhaps in the southwest).
I resigned as E.D. in 2005 and WLT’s Agents conference, like most conferences, has been going up in registration cost. And people wonder why.
The basic reason is that it’s expensive to put on a conference. WLT’s conference brings in a lot of agents and editors. I believe I counted 19 this year. I have no idea of the current arrangements, but when I was E.D., we did not pay the agents and editors anything. But we did cover the air flight or travel expenses. And the hotel. And their lunch on Saturday, and dinner Friday and Saturday nights. Speakers usually weren’t paid, exceptions being a big name who came in from far away. Each year, WLT’s conference gets bigger, with more speakers, more attendees. That means WLT has to pay for bigger rooms or more rooms for the workshops, a larger room for the Saturday lunch with more waitstaff to serve and clean up. More coffee, juice and pastries for the two mornings and more cookies and drinks for the afternoon break for attendees. More agents mean more attendees equals a bigger room to hold pitch sessions. Bigger conference means more volunteers, who don’t get paid, but may be comped for lunch. Exciting conference with more agents mean more of the Board members expect to have dinner with the agents on Friday evening and to come to the conference, comped. More people, bigger evening receptions with more food, more bar staff and wait persons to be paid, bigger room.
The list goes on and on. Plus WLT, like any organization putting on a conference, aims to make a profit. But wait, you say. WLT is a non-profit. They’re not supposed to make a profit. Au contraire. They are. They have to in order to support all the other programs they do year round, pay staff and operating bills, provide scholarships, etc.
And that’s why conferences cost so much.
But there’s a way to reap some of the benefits of a conference without even going and without paying anything. I’ll talk about that next week.
5 months ago