Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A Writer's Dollar Wisely Spent

by Cindy Sproles @CindyDevoted

Writers live on pennies. If we’re lucky – dimes. So when conferences roll around it’s our eyes that roll at the pennies we spend. No one will argue that attending a conference is expensive. It is but it is also the one place you will latch on, not only to your dream but to the necessary learning needed to excel as a writer. 

The more you dive into the writing industry to more you see dollar signs raise and at times it’s hard to know when or where we should spend our money. The expenses of being a writer are like a scene in the Mary Poppins movie. The one where the old woman sits on a bench feeding the birds. She sings, “Feed the birds. Tuppences a bag.” (Two pennies). If only tuppences were what we were looking at, right?

It’s important to address some of these expenses and help you decide if this something you need now, or later. As a conference director, I get the importance of this question. Since we are launching into a new year, let’s look at expenses writers can incur.

Writing Expenses

Conferences: A conference costs from $100 - $1200. There are tons of variables included in this cost. The venue, time of year, length of the conference, number of faculty. Writers have to look at the options available and see what is right for them. A conference should be the number one thing you invest in your career. At conferences, you learn the craft of writing, network with other writers, meet editors, agents, and publishers. You’ll learn about the business of writing and attending a conference will bring you a refined look at your writing career by helping you find your calling, set your goals, and receive encouragement. Individuals have to look at their finances and decide how much you want to invest in their career. It’s a personal decision, but I have yet to regret spending any money to attend a conference. The payback is immediate. **** 4 stars

Conference CDs or MP3s: This is the purchase of extended learning and keeps on giving. If you attend a conference make every effort to come home with the recordings of the classes. You will have this learning forever. Conference recording costs will vary from $1.99 per class to $200 for the entire conference and everywhere in between. I have recordings from every conference that I continually listen to in my car, at my desk, on my phone. My skills continue to grow because I purchased and use these recording over and over through the years. ****4 stars

Paid Critiques: Those 15-minute appointments are great for you to meet and network with editors, agents, and publishers. If you are on a tight budget, it’s not something you have to have unless you have work that is ready to be pitched. If you have a solid piece of work that is completed or near completion, then a paid critique is great. You can choose the person whom you may want to pitch the work to, let them look over your work, spend some in-depth time with it, and then with you. This is when a paid critique pays off. You have a prime opportunity to allow a professional to take a look at your work. Not only do you learn from it but you might catch a break on publication or at least submission. ***3 stars.

Mentoring: For those who have a strong work in progress and you need some guidance, mentoring is valuable. Mentors are generally well-seasoned authors or editors whose ability and information is well worth your time and money. If you have a work in progress that has some chops, and you have a teachable spirit, a mentor can be the icing on the cake in helping you cut through to a publisher or agent. Their years of experience will help you with tricks of the trade you will only find in this one-on-one situation. Mentoring costs from $50 -$600 ***3 stars. 

Editing: Before I send anything to my agent or publisher, I invest in a content editor to go through my manuscript and be sure it is as clean as it can be. The less work the editors and publishers have on a project translates as money saved for them and a great reputation for you. Editing falls under your work ethic and how much you are willing to do to make your work as “publishable” as it can be. Be responsible and do your homework. Editors are a dime a dozen but reputable editors are found through resources such as Christian Pen or via conference faculty, agents, or editors. Spend your money wisely by choosing an editor with a solid background. Do your homework. ****4 stars

Self-publishing: This is a luxury not a necessity. Spend your money learning the craft then publish. Who knows, you may land a traditional contract. *1 star

Contests: Contests, unless they are national book contests, translate into a nice pat on the back. Good encouragement. They rarely, if ever, bring an unpublished writer a contract. A published author will get name recognition and that is worth the sales generated from a contest. Choose a couple, enter, and learn to present your work. ***2 stars

There is an old saying, “If a person wants something, they’ll find a way to get it. And it’s true. Begin by saving $5 a week. Just take it out of your wallet and drop it in a jar. $5 a week. Oh, and drop that loose change in there too. We once saved all our loose change and paid for a week at the beach. Those dimes and quarters add up quickly. Give up Starbucks two days a week and save $10. The point is, save. Plan. Take a small portion of your income tax return (if you get one) rather than wasting it. Invest in yourself. It’s a good habit that will pay in the future. 


Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and the executive editor for christiandevotions.us and inspireafire.com. Cindy is the lead managing editor for SonRise Devotionals and also Straight Street Books, both imprints of LPC/Iron Stream Media Publications. She is a mentor with Write Right and the director of the Asheville Chrisitan Writers Conference held each February at the Billy Graham Training Center, the Cove, Asheville, NC. Cindy is a best selling, award winning novelist. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.


  1. Excellent information, Cindy and Edie.

  2. Cindy,

    Terrific insights in this article for writers. Thank you. Another consistent investment for writers is how-to write books (many different types: nonfiction, fiction, marketing, etc). I've read and learned from many of these books for years and it has built a great deal into my life in publishing.

    author of 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed

    1. Absolutely. I lost count of how many I have including yours!

  3. This is excellent, Cindy! I attended my first writers' conference in 2006 and am still reaping the benefits. It resulted in several book contracts, magazine writing, and eventually beginning my own editing service. I honestly cannot count the ways attending that conference (and others) has paid off.

  4. I invested in a smaller professional writers conference at Taylor University a few years ago and it has been helpful in so many ways. Fortunately I had relatives living close by, so I saved money on overnight accommodations. I'm glad I attended, met other writers, made valuable contacts.

    1. I love the Taylor conference. I've served as faculty a number of times.

  5. Great article and useful information, Cindy. Thank you so much for writing and sharing it.

  6. What a wonderful message Cindy! Thank you.

  7. All of your posts highlight important aspects of the writing business. I enjoy your writing.

    One of my pet peeves involves the use of the term spend when invest is so much more active, and productive. You do end with invest, and I appreciated that.

    And what a great headshot on the CCWC faculty page!