Tuesday, March 25, 2008

To Conference or Not to Conference?

I went to the Left Coast Crime Conference March 6-9, and I had a fabulous time. I met new authors, was on two great panels, hooked up (not in the Biblical sense) with old friends, and made connections that have led me to begin setting up my first ever West Coast Book Tour. I also learned the following:
  1. How to tail a spy in a big city. It's hard, but it's a lot of fun to wear a hat and Jackie O glasses and surreptitiously take digital pictures from behind a newspaper you're pretending to read.
  2. I never want to read a medieval mystery. It's just me, and I think it has more to do with the disappointment at finding out there are not wenches and swords in them as much as anything.
  3. Midnight Ink has a great line-up of authors, and a fantastic team all around (everyone I meet loves the covers!).
  4. I automatically take people with British accents more seriously because they're smarter.
  5. According to a panel I listened to, death is not funny, but people are funny. I would like to add to that that sex is funny, but dead people having sex isn't.
  6. All mystery writers are nice, except for the three assholes, and everyone knows who they are.

For me, this was the first mystery conference I've attended that reaped enough rewards to justify the $1000+ required to fly there, register for the conference, pay for the hotel, and eat out for four days. What made it worthwhile was the connections I made with fellow authors that have led to the West Coast tour, though I gotta tell you, seeing a stranger sitting on a couch reading May Day was a close second for thrills (there is a human being not related to me who reads my books!).

Other than that, the mystery conferences I've been to have not paid off. I spent the others I attended feeling like I was in a big high school, wandering around and trying to get noticed, but I had the wrong hair. I always have the wrong hair. So that brings me to Bouchercon, the granddaddy of all mystery conferences, coming up in October. To conference, or not to conference?


Mark Combes said...


In my mind, conferences fall under the same category as marketing. Meaning, I can't really tell what works and what doesn't. I guess it all works to some degree - but to what degree is the real question. And that's the question you are asking - is it worth it?

For me - and I can only speak for me - I think the medium size events/conferences are better for me - a newbie. Easier to meet folks and you don't get lost in the masses. But again, that's just me.

Joe Moore said...

When they asked Willy Sutton why he robbed banks, he said, “Cause that’s where the money is.” Why should we attend conferences? Because that’s where the writers are. Writers need to see and be seen to make contacts for future blurbs, advice, sales, fans, agents, editors, publishers, but most of all, friendships. And Bouchercon is one of the best to do all of the above.

Wilfred the Author said...

I'm asking the same question. I've limited my conferences to local events. But since my first novel is being released in a month or so, I'm going to budget for at least one big conference.

I would have gone to LCC, but my day job had me in Los Angeles that week.

I'm looking at Magna Cum Murder in Indiana or Bouchercon or both.

Keith Raffel said...

I don't think it does a lot of good from a marketing perspective, but I've met some great people! There's nothing like hanging out in the bar late at night and sharing the highs and lows of our profession.


P.S. I was so sorry to miss LCC, but the fact that I wasn't there means I can't be a suspect for being one of the three assholes! Whew.

Mark Terry said...

I'm a total skeptic, but have enjoyed some of them when I went not with the intention of marketing, but with the intention of hanging out with writers and lovers of books. If you go simply to market, it's not cost-effective. (Hell, it's probably not cost-effective by any definition).

Nina Wright said...

I've been to a number of major conferences, but I don't know The Three Assholes. Sure, I've met a few conceited writers here and there--never the biggest names at the show. But now I gotta know. At least give initials! C'mon, Jess!

G.M. Malliet said...

Bouchercon can be a bit intimidating at first and it may not really be cost-effective in terms of marketing...there are so many different types of writers represented at B'con it's a bit of a free-for-all. Definitely not a genre event.

But I ended up having a blast the one time I went. I talked with Ian Rankin(!) in the bar - he is, by the way, an extremely nice guy. That pretty much made the trip worthwhile, right there.

paul lamb said...

I've never found a conference to be useful in a substantive way. I think the hob-knobbing and meeting/greeting might be worthwhile, but I still remember the opening words of some wit at some conference: "So you want to be writers? Then what are you doing here? You should be at home writing!"

I think I can spend my time better with my head down, writing and writing.

Jess Lourey said...

For the record, none of the three assholes were at Left Coast Crime. I think you'll need to go to Bouchercon to meet them. :) But I'm not giving any initials.

Felicia Donovan said...

Jess, so glad you had a good time and didn't have to spend time with the "Big 3." Inquiring minds want to know, though...

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I've been to all the major conferences. My least favorite is Bouchercon. My favorite is Malice Domestic, followed by Left Coast Crime. As for bang for buck, I don't think they are worth it, but when you are first trying to build name recognition it is important to go to them.

I'm not attending a single conference in 2008 and don't feel it's going to affect my sales in a negative way at all. But I have placed an ad in the Malice program. In 2009 I will be attending a couple of conferences in order to kick off my new Granny Apples series.

And I totally agree about the importance and fun of networking with other authors at these conferences. It's the highlight of them for me.

Bill Cameron said...

You go for personal and existential reasons. You meet people, hang out with friends, and maybe get to chat with a few readers. Beyond that, everything else is gravy.

Is it worth it? From a nickels and dimes standpoint, hard to say. So don't go for nickel and dimes reason. Go because you want to, because you'll enjoy it. It's a tax deductible vacation that may or may not sprout practical marketing results.

I'll be a B'Con, and if I sell books there, great. But mostly I'll be there to be with the tribe, and that alone makes it worth the trip.

Jess Lourey said...

Well said, Mr. Cameron.