The answer depends on what you are looking for, of course. In my experience, there are essentially two types of writers conferences: those that focus on fans and writers meeting-and-greeting, and those that focus on the craft of writing.
Virginia Festival of the Book is an annual conference for fans that lasts a week, cuts across genres, and most events are free! Bouchercon and Malice Domestic are two examples of fan conferences for mystery writers and fans. (Romance, fantasy, Sci-Fi, horror—all genre writers—have similarly dedicated conferences.) Bouchercon rotates worldwide (New Orleans in 2016), but Malice Domestic is always in the greater DC area. They spotlight big-name writers who address plenary sessions, receive honors, are interviewed, and sign books. Selfie opportunities vary. Lesser-known writers present panels and sign books. Everyone on the program has a book-signing slot. Lots of books get signed. There’s an area for exhibitors, everything from Sherlock Holmes deer-stalker hats to clothes and jewelry. At a conference such as this, I rode in the elevator with Sue Grafton, met Nevada Barr, and honored Dick Francis. They can be quite fun.
The annual James River Writers Conference (always in Richmond, Virginia) is of the improve-your-craft sort. Although awards are given and books are signed, the focus is on helping and supporting writers at all levels. All genres are welcome. JRW develops tracks so that attendees can easily identify related presentations over the two-day conference (e.g., Diversity in Writing, Poetry, Writing as a Career). Presentations are informative. Besides connecting with (relatively) local writers, there are options for meeting with agents, and learning to make more powerful first impressions.
Whether you are a writer, a reader, or both, there’s a conference out there for you!
Updated October 20, 2015.