Michael as usual turned in a thoughtful piece yesterday on the pluses and minuses of conferencing. There's not a whole lot more to add... (however, I'll think of something as my fingers fly over the keyboard!).
It's true that a financial analysis of conference attendance—the costs balanced against any book sales—just don't pan out. I can't imagine even a big name like Lee Childs or Sue Grafton actually selling enough books to cover the costs of attendance. Think: If one sold, say, 100 hardcovers (which is a heck of a lot of books to sell at a conference, I believe), and the royalties are such that the writer makes $2.50 (~10%) per book, said writer would make a grand total of $250. Soooo can anyone show me a reasonable business model that includes writers attending conferences? .... <pause for hysterical laughter>
Okay, so let's agree that the benefits of going to a conference are the more "intangible" hard-to-measure ones, such as the opportunity to unglue oneself from the desk chair, leave off staring at the monitor, and get out INTO THE WORLD for a bit. Meeting friends, fans, booksellers, and other writers. Having a chance to connect with folks who are as excited about books and mysteries as we are. And (one of my favorite reasons) grabbing the sort-of-reasonable excuse to visit a part of the world that one could never justify visiting on a whim. In other words, a sort of "mini-vacation" from daily life.
This last benefit is the one that can often get me to pull out my checkbook and write that registration check for conferences in (for instance) Toronto, Anchorage, Bristol, and Cleveland (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!). And then, there are the places that are not new to me, but which I am happy to return to, such as New York City, Santa Fe, Denver, Washington, D.C. ... the list goes on.
If not for my conference-going mania, I never would get to half these places, I am sure of it. So, in addition to conducting a bit of "business" (and keeping up with what's going on in mystery publishing) I get to see a little more of the world.
And, in the case of the recent Bouchercon in New Orleans, a chance to find out what alligator really tastes like (Answer: rather like chewy chicken), tour the city's oldest cemetery, hear some really amazing jazz, make new friends and reconnect with old ones, and hand out chocolate and thanks to the participating booksellers. And, oh yes, make a somewhat expensive stop in an antique store to indulge in my love of 19th century objects (more on that another time!).