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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You Don’t Have The Money? Sorry, I Don’t Believe You

For years I told myself I was willing to do whatever it took to be an author.

Like go to a conference.

Not a half day workshop or a gathering of writers at the local library. A full-out writer’s conference with editors and agents. Where I’d have to pitch. Show my work. Risk rejection. Try to make the dream become more than a dream.

I had a specific conference in mind, but every spring when the time to register smacked into my calendar I started dancing the rumba.

You know, the conference fence dance where I wasn’t sure if I was going or not.

And every spring I landed on the wrong side and promised I’d go next year. (For seven years.)

Deep down I didn’t think I was ready to go, wasn’t good enough to go, and I was scared. But I didn’t admit it to myself then. The excuse I used was money; that I didn’t have enough.

You’re not using that one are you? Because that’s all it is. An excuse. Before you lambast me, listen to my logic. By the time the final cha ching fades on the cost of a major writing conference you could shell out anywhere from $500 - $1,200. (Conference cost, hotel, airfare, CDs, etc.)

Yes, that’s some serious coin of the realm, but you have the money. Really.

• Three lattes per week: $5 each x 4 = $60 x 12 = $600
• Monthly cable bill: $50+ x 12 = $600
• Monthly dinners out: $50 x 2 = $100 x 12 = $1,000

“But I gotta have my lattes, Jim!” Uh huh. “I gotta have my cable!” Really? Okay, then have it. But don’t say you don’t have the money to go to a conference.

Say, “Cable TV and lattes and dinners out and new clothes (and whatever else you spend non-essential money on) are more important to me than going to a conference and taking this writing thing seriously.”

My friend Roy Williams says, “The risk of insult is the price of clarity.” I realize I’ve risked insulting some people with the above. That’s not my intent and I am fully cognizant of writers who want desperately to go to a writing conference and have already cut their budgets deep into the bone.

My intent is to reach the people who are like I was. Scared. Feeling unworthy to come. Allowing the dream to stay only a dream. Using the excuse of money to hold them back.

I want to tell them all published authors were once where they are. I want to tell them if they’re serious about writing they’ll make sacrifices to be able to take action. And without question, if you’re intent on being a writer, going to a major writing conference will take your aspirations beyond the next level.

Yes, it costs a lot to go to the Super Bowl, but there’s a vast difference between watching the game on TV and being in the stands.

Yes, it costs a lot to go to a conference, but there’s a vast difference between reading about the publishing industry in a book or magazine and being there live.

So if you can skip a latte or two, laser in on a conference you’ve wanted to go to and commit. If we wind up at the same one, the first Starbucks run is on me.

James L. Rubart is the bestselling and award winning author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. He’s the owner of Barefoot Marketing and lives in the Pacific Northwest with his amazing wife and two outstanding teenage sons. More at: FB- James L. Rubart Twitter @jimrubart


  1. I hope you go broke on latte, Jim. True that! :-)

  2. I didn't this year, so I found things I could sell. It's amazing the things you don't really need to keep. I had an antique that held no sentimental value. I took it to be appraised and voila! That and a wonderful friend who God nudged, I'm registered!!

    So I think if you want to go badly enough, you CAN find the way. Another thing I do is always pay in dollar bills and put the change in a jar. I saved close to $100 this year that way alone. That will pay for the conference tapes or the EB class. :)

  3. I do understand the spirit in which this post is intended and I think we can all save money here and there, but such posts always make me cringe a little because we tend to ignore the fact that there are people out there (even people who want to write and sell books) for whom lattes, cable TV and eating out have already been chopped out of their life due to economic necessity and surviving another month.

    In a society where we think nothing of paying $90 a month for a fancy cell phone and plan, we tend to overlook this.

    But that's also cause to give a shout out to the many generous people in the writing community who contribute to providing scholarships, maybe provide transportation, or even buy a meal for a hungry writer.

    But economically, one size does not fit all for writers, or anybody else.

    BK Jackson

  4. You're right of course, BK, but that's why ACFW has a scholarship fund. :) So for those who truly can't find another penny to stretch, they can apply for scholarships!

    And those who CAN afford it, please give to the scholarship fund!!! Go to

  5. That's ACFW dot com, not acfe. Sheesh!

  6. I don't do lattes. I don't have cable, never have. And we go out once a month--5 of us, for about $50.

    If I have $600 for a conference, the money will be going to my kid for a trip.

    For me, money is not as much an issue as time. I've gone to one in Chicago; it was awesome. But my husband had to take off work so I could go. I cannot do it again. I appreciate his sacrifice but right now, I cannot ask it again.

  7. Although there ARE those of us who are trying to put a child through college ... and having to cut way back to do that. But this does give me hope that maybe I can figure out a way to go next year ...

  8. I think this posted needed a "STEEL TOED BOOTS NEEDED" warning. Stepping on toes will naturally draw out criticism and fangs. I admit this post was hard to read. Yeah, I could mention the fact that in the last two months our family has had to replace two sections of our fence, repair my husband's truck, put my daughter's in for two repairs, pay for the A/C to be fixed which broke in the middle of the brutal Texas Heat Wave (that just broke this week, thanks to the storms from Irene), and paying for our daughter's college. . .


    Jim's right. There are ways to save. I've always wanted to attend Mt.Hermon. But I've choked at the cost every year. I'm feeling inspired. Does it mean I'll have it all saved up this time? Nope. But I am going to work on it.

  9. Perhaps the real difference between wanting to go to conference lies in the planning. We are on a shoe string that's about to break budget but had I looked at the cost of conference and broke it down to 12 month increments perhaps it would have been doable. I'm not sure. A recent conference had a moment of wasted time. I met with a representative who wasn't taking new clients, so why was she there? That frustration and others would make me reluctant but perhaps I should start saving just in case I get over it.

  10. I agree, Gina!

    So cool,Ane.ACFW wouldn't be the same without you.

    Chris, you make a great point. We all have priorities. Yours are your kids at this stage of life, writing comes second. I get and respect money priorities. (My wife and I decided to forgo a 25th anniversary trip to be able to send our son on a school trip instead.)

    BK, thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate it. As I hoped to make clear in my post, I realize there are folks who have already cut their budget severely so I'm not addressing those who are in extremely dire circumstances financially.

    I'm appealing to those who (when we get to the real issue) are held back by fear as I was. And those who say they're committed to becoming authors but aren't willing to make sacrifices to become one.

    Love to see you there, Stacy!

    Whoops, you're right, Ronie, I should have handed out steel toed boots at the top of the post!


  11. I love this post! I can't go to conference this year for other reasons outside of $$. But money the last two years was definitely a factor. I HAVE chopped out lattes - I couldn't chop out cable (outdoor channel being priority for the DH), so I got another job. Yep. A photography job where I booked gigs through the summer and paid for every penny!! And trust me, once I earned every penny I stopped booking gigs so I could write again ... just saying, where there is a will, there is - typically - a way. Love it, Jim! :)

  12. I think it's a good idea to look at scholarships. I wanted to attend a local conference, but didn't have the money after a move that cost more than anticipated and plans for a 50th anniversary celebration and trip for family. So, I didn't think I should ask for a scholarship. I did ask, if I could help. (So, I could just be around writers). I paid for a full-day add on and after a full day of volunteering, the organizers let me attend a half day of workshops. I enjoyed it. Next year, I hope to attend the full event and if they'll let me - volunteer again.

  13. Oops. Forgot to mention. This year, I also attended An online, free conference with live chats, video and written posts that served as workshops. Really an exceptionally event, plus I attended some in PJs and didn't have to hire a babysitter.

  14. I had sold many articles and short stories before attending a writers conference. Still, I had to set aside $10 or $15 a week in a secret envelope in order to attend my first one. However, I learned that someone who is truly serious and constantly striving to improve at the craft of writing can leverage conferences into increased income. I've met magazine editors who were looking for articles I could provide, which led to post-conference sales. When I file my taxes, I also claim writers conferences as writing expenses, which further cushions the blow.

    Not everyone who considers being a writer will actually sit down to write; however, a person with a writer's heart deep down inside will truly benefit from the the inspiration, information, and synergy that is found at a quality writers conference.

    Thanks, Jim!

  15. Wow...I so needed this today as I wage war on going to conference in my neck of the woods. Thanks!

  16. Another option for helping pay for that first writer's conference is an individual artist's grant. I have a writer friend here in Minnesota that has financed several conference trips through grant requests. They'll usually require you pay a percentage yourself, and you usually have to apply several months ahead of time, but it is an option. Of course, Minnesota's known for its great support of the arts and may have more of this type of funding available than other states.

  17. We'll miss you this year, Jamie!

    Stacy and Rick, great ideas.

    E. Arroyo, war on!

    Kathy, I'd never thought of that. It's an idea that most people won't try, so the odds are strong for those who do.

  18. As a new novelist, I didn't think I could afford ACFW AND I was afraid to enter a room full of authors. I went for one day -- and realized how essential conferences are for improving craft and getting to know others on this writing journey.

    Many people are on "shoestring-about-to-break" budgets these days (love that description!). When money's scarce,books and audio classes help me a lot.

    Also, regional conferences require less travel, cost less and often have fantastic programs.

    One last thought: No matter how much money you have, pick and choose conferences carefully or they can eat up all your writing time.

    Thanks for opening this discussion and for all the great comments. Extremely helpful! Judy Christie

  19. I don't have cable (or television, period), don't eat out, don't have a cell phone (gasp!) and barely know what a latte is. Further, both my spouse and I work only part-time. The conference I went to last February ended up costing me $2000 (flight from Canada, and a pricey room. I could have saved some money by asking for a roommate, but opted for my own room and SLEEP.) I could do it because I saved every cent I'd earned from writing opportunities to use exclusively for writing opportunities, NO MATTER WHAT ELSE CAME UP. I realize lots of people aren't earning any writing income yet, but for those who do-- it's surprising how those little payments can add up. It was my first conference. Worth it? You bet! Thanks for the post.


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