For a couple of months now, I've been flirting with the idea of going to the Mystery Writers of America's Edgars Symposium tomorrow in NYC. I attended a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. But I was ambivalent, primarily because of the money, and I procrastinated about registering. Today I clicked on the site again, and somewhat to my relief, I learned it's sold out, but that I can order a CD or DVD of the entire day to peruse at my leisure and at a fraction of the price.

In terms of marketing - I'm so glad Daniel opened a Schmooze Lounge where it's politically correct to talk about this - it would probably have been a waste. I have beautiful new postcards promoting my book, but they direct the reader to my website, which is not yet operational. And the panels are packed so closely together, I doubt there would be much time or opportunity to schmooze with the many well known authors.

Malice Domestic, on the other hand, looks extremely friendly to new authors, with several special events designed to showcase our work and our selves. I'm psyched, and I'm so glad I reserved in time to be on my first national panel. As often happens, my unconscious had a valuable hand in guiding my actions or lack of same. And I solemnly swear I'll have my website up and running by then!

What do others have to say about the value of conferences, especially for new authors? Which are the most valuable?

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In my experience, most conferences have been disappointingly superficial when it comes to learning how to write fiction (workshops are better for this but there are pitfalls with them, too). Conferences are especially good for gossip, politics, and can be somewhat inspiring for new writers if you can manage to keep your own voice and not step into the heroworship mentality since success has made at least a few authors I know unbelievably tryannical and rudely egomaniacal (won't mention names here), but then again, that's exactly why a lot of people go to these things in the first place, right? To dominate, "get inspiration" from the downers in other people's lives and otherwise, to toot that bestseller horn? Fundamentally - unless you're a collector or serious fan, you'll probably benefit more from active reading or god forbid, practicing the craft of writing, which is presumably what you came for.
I come from a sales background and have attended various conferences for work as well as for my writing. Since my books aren't released yet, I can probably speak as a new author and what I've gotten from attending many--from national writers' conferences to smaller more regional ones.

You will get from conferences what you are willing to put into them. (I wish I could underline this) Meeting people is NEVER a waste of time.

Sometimes the strides you make are not immediate, but you lay the groundwork for networking and name recognition. I think you have to put yourself out there, force yourself to meet new people and not just hang with your friends. I swap business cards and sit at different tables for lunch/dinner so I can meet other writers from across the country. I've been fortunate enough to meet agents and some editors too, establishing contact with follow up later if it made sense.

A writer friend actually got me published, so I am a big believer in making face time at these events and others. Plus, after I sold, I had other authors offer cover quotes. My editor is extremely happy over this.

During my first year or two, I attended craft sessions but soon switched to attending business related workshops. It's hit or miss if these will be any good, but I do invest in the CDs to have as backup for those I couldn't attend. And the keynote speakers and workshop sessions with well known authors is definitely inspirational and valuable. And if you get an opportunity to pitch your work to an editor or agent (if you still need to), it's always good to practice your skills with that.

Bottom line, if it fits into your budget, pick one or two that work for you. And don't rule out the smaller events too. They are sometimes even more fun with less stress. But make up your mind to get yourself out there and make those contacts. You might surprise yourself and have a good time, even if you're an introvert like I can be sometimes.
I just returned from the Mystery Writers of America's Sleuthfest. It was in pricy South Beach, but a great investment to me. I made a sale, and got hugs from some pretty well-known scribes...
The value of conferences all depends upon why you're going. Name recognition is important, but if you are published but just starting out, you will do better at some of the smaller conferences and conventions. Having said that, you can have fun at any of them. There is a difference between a conference and a convention though. Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Malice, Mayhem in the Midlands are really conventions for mystery fans--with panels that feature authors. Writing conferences are about the learning the craft and business of writing.

I just returned home from the Public Safety Writers Association conference--probably the smallest of all I've ever been too and a real plus because everyone got to know everyone. PSWA is for anyone in the public safety field or writing fiction or non-fiction about same. The speakers ranged from the Coroner of Clark County NV, an editor of a law enforcement magazine, a publisher of fiction, presentations on contracts, working with editors, and all sorts of bare bones information about craft and promotion. It was educational and lots of fun. If you'd like more information about joining, visit http://www.policewriter.com

Marilyn
I'm glad someone started this thread, because I've been wondering the same thing myself. I was planning to do my first Bouchercon this year, but it's looking more and more pointless, since it seems as if almost no one is going. Then I wonder if it will be worth doing 08, which looks like it'll be a jam packed madhouse, what with so many people giving this year a miss.

Jury's still out at the moment, but it's great to read other people's thoughts on the subject.
The 2007 Bouchercon conference will be in Anchorage Alaska this year and a big treat for me since I used to live there. It is shaping up to be a smaller more intimate group which should be fun. And there are plenty of names I'd like to meet, many on this blog. I'll be taking some vacation time and enjoying my old stomping grounds.
Christa I'm going to Bouchercon this year as a fan. When I first realized how small it was going to be I was discouraged, no doubt, but now I'm wondering if that's just going to make it easier for me to have a chance to meet people and say hi. The thing is-I've seen a couple of names that I don't remember seeing on last year's Bouchercon list too. So that's also a plus, who knows who else is coming that may not normally come?

And I think you're right about next year-everyone is already talking about how they're definitely going to be there in Baltimore since they're not going to Anchorage. I think Baltimore will be a complete frenzy. That's why the moment I get back from Anchorage I plan on starting to save for Harrogate. Well, that and I'm fairly certain they won't let me keep taking time off from nursing school to go to conferences to rub elbows with authors.
I'm glad to learn the 2008 Bouchercon will be in Baltimore - I'll definitely be there, especially since I've just reserved a surprisingly cheap nonstop flight from Albany to Baltimore for Malice. (Getting to Crystal City will be the next challenge.) I did attend a Bouchercon several years ago and found it somewhat overwhelming. I agree with people who've been saying the smaller to mid-size conferences can be more enjoyable and productive. Crimebake in the Boston area is a good example.
As others have said, the worth of a conference is all in what you want to get out of it. For instance, there are plenty of fans who don't miss a single one of the major conferences. Bill Crider goes to many. He enjoys them. But if you're asking about as a writer, I think attending can be quite valuable. Even a place like Crimespace can't duplicate the free flow of ideas you get from a face-to-face conversation. You meet readers and reviewers and editors and publishers and other writers. You meet people who want to profile you or invite you to speak at their library or contribute to an anthology. Essential networking for the new writer (as well as though of us who have been around a while longer).

B'Con, even in Alaska, is probably the most valuable one for a new writer in general, but there are ones that are better for cozy writers, others that are better for Thriller writers, and others that are better for noir writers, etc. If money is an issue (usually is) then choose wisely. I find the list provided by Mystery News very helpful for planning.

This year, it will be B'Con (most likely) and Thrillerfest (almost definitely) for me along with either NE Crime Bake or Cape Fear Crime Festival.
My experience of 'mystery' conferences/conventions is limited to attending Adelaide Writers Week and the Melbourne Writers Festival, as a reader. I have been able to choose a mystery/crime strand in these. At these I have enjoyed hearing writers speak and have bought books by new-to-me authors. I would be sad to hear that authors that I have heard such as Ruth Rendell, Shane Maloney, Andrew Taylor, Val McDermid, Barry Maitland, Reginald Hill, and Minette Walters thought such events were a waste of time or money. I have booked for LCC in Hawaii in 2009 though and I am looking forward to being able to get to it with great anticipation to a whole convention devoted to the genre, a luxury not afforded to those of us 'down under' as far as I am aware.
Just got back from Sleuthfest (full report today at www.reviewedbyLiz.com) where I spent several hours chatting face to face with my editor, signed a few books for new fans, distributed about twenty chapbooks to potential readers, and made half-a-dozen new writer friends from my one panel and hanging out at Murder on the Beach's inhouse bookstore. I was introduced to the owner and talked with her about my new mystery novel. I listened to two fascinating lectures by forensic and law enforcement experts that will become part of future novels. My wife and I spent three days of quality time. Sleuthfest wasn't cheap, but for my marketing and personal budget, the conference was successful and well worth the cost. I'm also going to Malice, Murder in the Grove, Hardboiled Heroes & Cozy Cats, and Deadly Ink for the reasons Jordan and others stated.

But, Miss DaMeaner makes a valid point. These conferences are also full of ego-maniacs and borderline narcissists. It is important not to suffer fools and to pick and choose your activities.
On the face of things, conference and conventions aren't worth it. They're gonna cost you about $1000 on average. But they are great venues for networking (sorry I didn't mean to say the dreaded word). You don't have to plow through a con like a bull in a china shop but you meet people. I've signed 2 different book contracts as a result of conventions. I usually leave with requests to speak or to submit a short story. So many opportunities have presented themselves through conventions.

I hope that helps...

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