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Guest Poster Carol Preflatish on Conferences — 25 Comments

  1. I would encourage any author who can attend a convention, especially mystery authors, to do so. Conventions are different from conferences. It’s a chance for authors to come out of their dens and make valuable connections with others writing in their genre. This is especially important to unpublished authors, or self-published looking for a publishing house.

    Since my pre-published days, I’ve attended conventions and conferences and been mentored by authors such as J.A. Jance and Sue Grafton. I was put on a panel with the publisher of Ellery Queen magazine. You can’t get those opportunities by sitting at home!

    Now, as acquisitions editor for Oak Tree Press, I go to conventions to scout for talent. I don’t limit myself to pitch sessions; I strike up conversations and then reveal that I’m looking for manuscripts.

    Yes, these events are expensive, but I see them as an investment in my career. So far, it’s working for me. Plus, they are a lot of fun and so many free books are given away in the book bags that my shelves are overflowing!

    • Sunny, true, true, true! I stick to conventions and conferences around Indiana, and there are more than I can attend! Every one is an investment and a business expense, but every one is an opportunity to learn and spread the word about my work and otherwise hobnob with my fellow writers and readers. I also try to never miss an opportunity to pass on a connection I can’t utilize but that would be helpful to somebody else. And I never know where I’m going to pick up a good bar joke to add to my collection! lol!

  2. I love to attend conferences. I haven’t attended a convention though. This conversation occurred on another blog site. Another author and I share costs/driving when we go to a conference that isa ways away. If you don’t have another author to go with you, take a friend. She/he can sight see or do something to relax away from home.

    I have learned a lot attending writers conferences. I try for two or three conferences a year. Some are mystery, sometimes romance and most of them have readers attending too. I have met many friends, authors and readers alike. I’m looking forward to next years conferences and conventions.

  3. Very nice post! I’ve been to one conference, six years ago (when I was 18) and I had NO CLUE what an advantage I had at the time. I got to speak with a literary agent and learn more about the trade. . . but because I was so young, it didn’t click with me. And that was at a small conference at the community college in Albuquerque! Go figure.

    Right now, I’m working on saving the money to attend DFW Writers’ Conference. DFW is only a 3 hour drive away, I can stay with my grandmother, and there are going to be wonderful science fiction and fantasy literary agents there (sff is my genre). I’m hoping that this time I’ll be able to really use the advantage of being able to visit a conference to my, well, advantage!

    Thanks again for the post!

    Sarah Paige Berling

  4. I haven’t been to any conventions but I’ve been to two conferences: the Columbus Writers Conference in Columbus, Ohio and the Mad Anthony Writers Conference in Hamilton, Ohio.
    I enjoyed them both but there was a big difference between the two and I discovered that I preferred the smaller, more intimate Hamilton conference. It was closer to home so I didn’t have to incur the expenses of an overnight stay and I felt more like I was a part of things rather than a stranger lost in a crowd.

  5. I have attended Magna cum Murder only once to date, but it’s a terrific event, well-organized to make both readers and authors very happy. Main problem I found at the time was the lack of a central host hotel. No easy transit to conference events from lodging. Evidently Muncie doesn’t offer the type of location for this. The conference is also quite expensive, but all events offered are covered in the one price. But, since conferences are costly anyway, my husband and I usually skip the conference banquets and sometimes other options to save $$$. That isn’t an option here.

    I usually try to attend at least three conferences/conventions a year, and, like Carol, definitely prefer the smaller ones. More chance for interaction with all, including fans, no one is “lost in the crowd, and book sales for me are always much better than at huge conventions. That said, I did attend Bouchercon in St. Louis this year (within easy driving distance of my home) and, though I was one of what seemed like “thousands” of attendees, I was able to connect with many writing and fan friends. This Bouchercon was very well organized. It was smooth as silk, at least for this person.

    Since two of my favorite area conferences have recently “folded” (Manhattan Mystery Conclave in Kansas and Mayhem in the Midlands in Omaha) I may try Magna again, though it’s at a much greater distance than either of those were. One great thing about the two closed conferences–sales of my books were terrific. Much greater than at Bouchercon, or even Malice Domestic, where I’d be every year if it weren’t half way across the USA.

    A smallish conference readers here might want to Google is “Killer Nashville” in Augustl. I generally attend either that one or “Southern Festival of Books.” (A huge event, also in Nashville.) Another small one of value is “Cape Fear Crime Festival” in Wilmington, NC. There is also “Love is Murder” in Chicago, in the winter. Weather can be a big problem there.

  6. A thoughtful post. I’m trying to sort our conferences I want to attend in 2012 right now.

    ThrillerFest is a great conference because the CraftFest portion is designed for writers, but ThrillerFest itself is designed for readers. So it’s a wonderful place to meet your readers and gain new ones. Also the AgentFest portion brings in 65 agents who are looking for your work. It’s costly because it’s in New York but a great investment.

    Another good one for mystery writers is Bouchercon. Provides an opportunity to make connections, do some PR, and meet writers and readers. Definitely on my schedule for October this year.

  7. I can’t say enough good stuff about attending both conferences and conventions. Every book I’ve had published (13) has been sold at a conference to an editor I pitched to. Of course one led to two two-book contracts, but still, fiction or non fiction, there’s no better way to sell than to sit eye to eye with an editor. Small conferences that attract only one editor are still a good bet cause they’re more intimate and you get more chances to connect. My favorite small conference is Ozark Creative Writers held in Eureka Springs, AR in October. I also think the author who never connects with other writers will grow stale.
    Great post.

  8. Hit by the economy, a conference is an expense not at the top of my to-do list, but I agree that they’re a valuable networking tool and hold great possibility of finding a publisher.

  9. Marian and Carol, thank you for this post. I have never attended a convention of writers, and this sounds wonderful. You mentioned readers, wow I never thought of readers being so vital at a convention as well as a conference which makes a lot of sense. Thank you for educating us further…augie

    • Writers usually ARE readers, too. 🙂 I’ve been going to my favorite conventions for years, and it’s been fun to see someone who’s a reader/fan one year get published and become a panelist. I made that transition, myself, a couple of years ago with the sf/fantasy conventions, and this year with Magna. At conventions/conferences with a mix of readers and writers, you get a real sense of the partnership between the creator and the audience. Or, if you prefer the business model, the producer and the consumer. 😉

  10. Thank you, Carol and Marian. So much interesting information! For those of us who are working on how best to get our names out there, meet other writers and potential readers, and otherwise market ourselves, you have provided some wonderful food for thought. And there are some great comments, too.

    • Amy, thanks for being one of the great commenters! If you go to a conference or convention, be sure to take postcards or bookmarks or business cards with your author information on them. Events usually have giveaway tables where you can put that stuff for people to look at and, one hopes, take and use to buy later. Always carry something you can hand to people you meet. I always come home with scads of other people’s advertising and dedicate a day or two after I decompress to visiting their web sites and following up on suggestions that I guest on their blogs or that they guest on mine.

  11. Attending a writers conference is an invaluable learning experience. It had taken me a long time to get to one. Finally, I had to take two days off work from the day job, in order to make it work out. And that was usually the problem on getting to one ….. that plus the locatnon. The various breakout sessions were invaluable. The meetings I had with a few agents were “eye opening” experiences. The conversations with the other writers was great. I realize there are special genre conferences too, and I need to go again. At that first one, even the three days there, so much was going through my mind, I had two full size spiral pads full of notes. But, it was great. The next one I go to, I’ll know better how to handle my time.

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