I got hooked on Love is Murder in Chicago mostly because it takes in almost everything you might call crime fiction (mystery, horror, thriller, romantic suspense...) AND because there were as many fans as writers. Malice Domestic near Washington DC turned out to be mostly fans. Then I found out about the big conferences that move around - Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime and some others are in a different place every year. Recently I found Deadly Ink in NJ, and NYC's Thrillerfest started up a couple years ago. Now that I know there are so many mystery cons three big questions have surfaced:

1. Is there a comprehensive list of all these great conferences someplace?

2. How do you distinguish between the fan events and those that are mostly for writers??

3. With limited dollars for travel, which are the best???

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My husband and I used to sell his stoneware pottery at art shows, and finding out which art shows were the good ones for us was pretty much a matter of trial and error. Some we did great at, some were real dogs, and there was no way to know how it would turn out in advance. We could ask other artists how they did at a particular show, but everyone's work is different, and what might be a good show for one artist, could be a bust for another.

I think the same is probably true for writers conferences and genre-oriented conventions. You won't know if a particular event is worth your while until you go and check it out.

That said, I think if you can determine what it is you want from going to a conference - networking, or making sales, or finding an agent, or learning more about the craft, or just becoming a more visible part of the community - then you can check out particular events in advance with that in mind and at least make an educated guess as to which ones to attend.

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Thanks for posting this, Austin. I was planning for next year's travel budget so this is timely.

Here's a pretty good link from black raven press' calendar. It summarizes many mystery events and has links so you can read more about them to determine their focus.

I have some thoughts on this, but since I am such a new author, I'd prefer to hear what others have to say.
Austin, like you, I'm hooked on Love is Murder. It's got a great balance of writers and fans, big enough to attract some great writers and small enough that you can strike up a conversation with anyone (and it's got a really nice scotch tasting). Cluelass.com offers a pretty good calendar of events.
I'm fortunate to live amazingly close to the Love is Murder Conference, so it's a no brainer for me to go every year. I haven't missed one of them. Hanley does a great job of mixing fans and authors. There's a great atmosphere for networking, learning and/or just having fun. I also enjoyed Dark & Stormy, which was more author oriented. I was sad when it disbanded and joined together with Love is Murder.
Morgan Mandel
Ahemmmm - I hope lots of people are going to go to LCC2009 - because it's in Hawaii and there's a bunch of Australians on their way - or at least 3 of us have signed up that I can remember so far with others dithering around about it at the moment.

3 Australians is a lot of drinking and talking I can tell you! I'm trying to work out how many of our hard to get author books I can get in a suitcase before I go over the luggage allowance. 2 years should give me almost enough time to figure out the mathematics.
I go to any conference Emily's at...

Actually, I haven't been to that many conferences though the bank account is roughly manhandled with each conference so it FEELS like I have.

B'Con and LCC are both good for a mix of fans and writers/reviewers, et al. I went to the Cape Fear Crime Festival last year and had a very good time - also ConMisterio was great...then it died.

One way of distinguishing the purely writerly events is to look at the panels being offered. If they're all "How to..." then it's probably mostly for writers. Sleuthfest in FLorida is the only one I know that fits that bill, but there may be others.
Harrogate in the UK is my favourite - one track for events (most of the time) and everyone hangs out in the same bar. No lines between writers and readers, everyone mingles.

A lot of fun, but bad for the liver...
Wow, lots of great input here. The Mystery News Calendar (www.blackravenpress.com) does have a darn good list, althought oddly they don't mention my beloved Love is Murder or Left Coast Crime. I do wish I had the $$s to meet the Aussie writers in Hawaii next year but the cost of getting from East Coast USA to Hawaii is prohibitive - I can go to 3 closer for the same money. I wonder how many of these events most folks attend....
Austin-- Larry and I (we have a book out together right now) go to as many as we can. Bouchercon and Thrillerfest are MUSTS, although new authors are competing with very big names for attention from readers. Sleuthfest was fun but more for authors to meet each other rather than fans. We're going to Deadly Ink in NJ in June for the first time this year. We'll be signing at two separate booths at BEA. We chalked up a whopping tax write-off last year, so that was good. But it's always an equation of time and money vs. how much good will come out of it. We definitely find the cons fun, but that's not enough to justify the time/money downside. They have to give you, what? readers, blurbers, a bond with book sellers, contacts, publicity...
My favourite is Left Coast Crime. It's pretty big, with a good range of panels to go to - I like a bit of choice - but not so much that you get confused, and it's not as big as Bouchercon (which I also enjoy). With Bouchercon, if I see someone I know in the hallways I know that I have to grab them and hug the life out of them there and then because I might never see them again all weekend. With Left Coast Crime I know I will see them plenty, so it's much more relaxed.

Harrogate is pretty good (and they have some great evening events and the bar is always excellent) although I wish they had nametags. Us lowly readers like to meet each other and chat. I know that, say, Julie is going, but from her Crimespace avatar I will be looking for Ugly Betty with great taste in music. It would be easier with name badges.

I would love to go to Noircon next year as I think that will be a good one.

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