One of my besties is with us today: Carol Preflatish, a long-time writer buddy. I first read Carol’s recipe-and-anecdote book, MASTERS & DISASTERS OF COOKING, which I highly recommend. Since then, she’s written and had published two romantic suspense novels, both of which have garnered much praise. The newer one, SAVED BY THE SHERIFF, has such a nifty cover that even I, who do not read romantic suspense, am attracted to it.
But here’s Carol, talking about Writing Conferences in general and one in particular.
Writers Conferences, Pro or Con
I want to thank Marian for asking me here today. I enjoy reading her blog everyday and am honored to be a part of it.
Occasionally, I’m asked about writers’ conferences and whether I think they can help a writer get published. For me, I’m definitely pro when it comes to conferences. I’ve attended only three conferences, because where I live there aren’t many close by. That means if I want to attend one, it involves a long drive or an overnight stay and as a part time writer with a full time job, getting time off from work can be difficult.
My favorite conference of the three has been the Magna cum Murder Crime Writing Festival held each October in Muncie, Indiana. Magna is not a large conference, which for me, was the appeal of it. The smaller panel sessions afford the attendees the opportunity for more interaction with the panel members, other authors, and readers.
Yes, I said readers. Many of the people attending are not authors, but readers of mystery and potential buyers of your books. However, there’s no segregation, everyone mingles with everyone for a great time. I met some wonderful authors at Magna that I had never heard of before and instantly became a fan.
Panels are held on a variety of subjects and I found myself struggling to decide which session to attend. One of the things I really enjoyed about Magna were the perpetual author discussions going on in the glass enclosed pavilion. Authors are scheduled to come and go throughout the conference.
I think attending Magna cum Murder gave a boost to my writing and the encouragement to continue writing mystery and suspense. Finally, I must tip my hat to Kathryn Kennison and her Ball State University staff who successfully put on a spectacular conference each year. I would encourage any writer to attend a conference and especially Magna cum Murder.
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Carol is from southern Indiana and author of two romantic suspense books and one cookbook. Her current release, “Saved by the Sheriff” is available at Secret Cravings Publishing.
You can learn more about Carol on her blog.
Thanks for visiting with me, Carol! Hope to see you at Magna in 2012!
WRITING PROMPT: If you could meet your favorite writer, what would you say?
M. S. SpencerDecember 26, 2011 at 11:37am
Carol–the Magna cum Murder conference sounds great–I write romantic suspense/murder mysteries too. But I was hoping you’d talk about the other conferences you’ve attended & any advice you have about going to one. Will you be writing again on this topic? Thanks and Merry Christmas! Meredith
Carol PreflatishDecember 26, 2011 at 11:47am
I’ll be putting a post up on my own blog in January about writing conferences and how I met my current publisher at a conference. Thanks.
Bob SanchezDecember 26, 2011 at 12:01pm
Magna Cum Murder sounds great, but Muncie’s a faraway place for me. Actually, I haven’t been to a writers’ conference in years.
mary montague sikesDecember 26, 2011 at 12:31pm
I love the idea of readers attending a conference with writers. Indiana is a little far for me as well, but it sounds like a good conference. Thanks for sharing!
Mary Montague Sikes
Dani G.December 26, 2011 at 12:35pm
I avoid them, although I think they are a great way to connect with other writers. Also, agents and editors. There is nothing better than a personal pitch session. However, I would rather spend my money and time in other ways. Just a personal thing, I guess.
Liz FlahertyDecember 27, 2011 at 6:06am
Nice post, Carol. I like conferences, but must admit to always being intimidated by them.
Sunny FrazierDecember 27, 2011 at 12:22pm
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!
Marian AllenDecember 27, 2011 at 1:59pm
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!
Katherine E. HinksonDecember 27, 2011 at 8:39pm
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.
Dac CrossleyDecember 27, 2011 at 9:44pm
Don’t overlook the smaller conferences either. One-day local conferences are more intimate, offer an opportunity to forge lasting friendships.
William DoonanDecember 27, 2011 at 11:04pm
Not going to miss Left Coast Crime! Good times in the big city, plus crime. I’m looking forward to talking about my new archaeological mystery – American Caliphate.
Sarah Paige BerlingDecember 28, 2011 at 8:06am
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
Patricia GligorDecember 28, 2011 at 9:23am
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.
Radine Trees NehringDecember 28, 2011 at 9:40am
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.
Don HelinDecember 28, 2011 at 10:53am
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.
J. R. LindermuthDecember 28, 2011 at 11:29am
I’ve only attended Killer Nashville–a fun, educational experience, and I got to sit on a panel with Radine. I’d like to go again. Distance and cost are the only disincentives.
Velda BrothertonDecember 28, 2011 at 12:03pm
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.
CaroleDecember 28, 2011 at 12:49pm
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.
augie hicksDecember 28, 2011 at 7:40pm
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
Marian AllenDecember 28, 2011 at 9:35pm
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. 😉
Amy ReadeDecember 29, 2011 at 2:02am
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.
Marian AllenDecember 29, 2011 at 8:39am
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.
Amy ReadeDecember 29, 2011 at 1:47pm
More great information…thank you and happy new year!!
Tim DesmondDecember 30, 2011 at 9:17am
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.
Marian AllenDecember 30, 2011 at 11:06am
Which one did you go to, Tim? Will you go back to that one, or to a different one?