With some of my fellow Ladykillers attending Bouchercon in New Orleans as I write this, I’m sure they’ll have a lot to say on this subject. I’ve traveled to various conferences several times, the farthest being to West Coast a few times. I’ve hit conferences on the East Coast, too, as well as one up in Toronto, Canada. Basically, they’re a lot of fun, but unless you have a book coming out to promote, or live relatively close, attending them can be of dubious benefit.
Breaking it down, conferences are expensive. The bigger they are, the less chance a new or midlist writer will get much attention. They’re a great place to meet people like agents, editors, and other writers, but again, these opportunities are limited. I once had an author friend of mine offer to introduce me to some important people at a Bouchercon. “Most of the good contacts come at the bar,” he said. When I explained I didn’t drink, he seemed dumbfounded, adding that I’d be missing out on some good opportunities. “Maybe I can manage to get you into a poker game,” he offered. I explained that I didn’t gamble either, and wasn’t very familiar with card games. “Well, okay,” he said, scratching his head. “Maybe we can tag up with some people here and there.” I did manage to meet a few important people wandering around.
Tagging up with people you do know is another nice aspect of attending conferences, and another reason to consider going. Our writing community is spread out across the country and the world, so the chance to gather in one place is always a good opportunity.
I should mention that I’m the program chair for the annual PSWA (Public Safety Writers Association) conference. We work very hard to make it the most informative, affordable, and friendly conference around. You get a chance to rub elbows with the people who not only talk the talk, but have walked the walk as well. We not only have writers attending, but pros who have worked in law enforcement, fire fighting, and military as well. It’s held in Las Vegas each July, and the hotel rates are unbelievably reasonable. I always ask people, where else could you stay at a high quality hotel for around fifty bucks a night? Plus, it’s Vegas… There’s always plenty to do.
The conferences I’ve enjoyed the most have been the ones where I planned well and allowed myself some extra time to see the sights of whatever city was hosting the conference. Figure out what you hope to accomplish at the event, and consider the costs. Now I’ll wait to hear all the great Bouchercon tales from the other Ladykillers. I hope it was great.