I have decided to go to my first mystery conference this year. There are a lot of them to choose from, and as I am a total newbie at this, I am confused as to where to start.

If you have been to one, or two, (or more even!), would you please post here and tell me your experience and help me choose?

I am not worried about the costs, either.

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Malice Domestic is the biggest fan convention I attended last year. More fans, more big name writers, more great panels for newbie writers than the others. I also attended Sleuthfest, Left Coast Crime, Deadly Ink, Hardboiled Heroes, and Murder in the Grove. This year, I'm adding Love is Murder and Bouchercon, which lots of people say is the best.
Kim, before you decide which conferences and/or conventions to attend, you have to consider your particular needs. If you have one or more books out, you might want to focus on the big fan cons, such as Malice Domestic if you write traditional mysteries, Thrillerfest if you write thrillers, Bouchercon, and Left Coast Crime. If you are working on your first manuscript, you might prefer writers' conferences such as Sleuthfest and the MWA Edgars Symposium. If you have a completed manuscript and want to connect with agents and editors, some conferences, Sleuthfest, for example, have pitch sessions built into their programs. You also need to consider your personal comfort level. Bouchercon is enormous: some writers find it stimulating, others overwhelming. Some love the intimacy of smaller conferences, like Murder in the Grove or Mayhem in the Midlands. Others prefer maximum exposure and unlimited networking. All the cons have websites, from which you'll get a lot better idea of each gathering's strengths and flavor.
Thrillerfest is overpriced and overhyped. Wait until they climb down off their mountain and move the conference out of NY. And whether you can afford it or not, its just too expensive for what you get. ITW started out as a great idea and great organization, but after the success of TFest 1, they started patting themselves on the back so much, they turned into elitists. They have become exactly what they were against when the idea was hatched in Toronto. Sad.

Left Coast Crime has consistently been the best run and friendliest of the cons I've attended. It's never too big, nor too small, the panels are always a nice combo of education, and pure entertainment. And the chosen cities always seem to be interesting. Also, unlike Malice - which is genre-specific - LCC seems to be open to anyone regardless of cozy, mystery, thriller, etc.

Bcon was horrible for a while, when the people running it were more interested in pocketing money off the con, rather than doing a good job. But they are gone now, and I hear good things about the upcoming Bcon in Baltimore - which is a great writers city.

As for smaller cons, I have never attended but have heard positive things about the New England Crime Bake every November. I'm thinking about going this year.

I'm attending my first LOVE IS MURDER con this year, and am looking forward to it, because other authors have told me how much fun it is. But there is a nasty rumor going around that they are actually going to have a fanfic panel - promoting it as a legit endeavor. If that's the case, this will be my first and last LIM. Can't respect a conference that doesn't respect itself.
I love both Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon, and am sad not to be going to either this year. LCC is smaller, but not too small. There are plenty of readers and authors. Bouchercon is about 2 or 3 times the size and can be a bit intimidating. If I see someone I know in the hallway at LCC I feel I can give them a wave and know I will see them later. At Bouchercon, I might see them once and never see them again for the whole weekend because of the size of B'con. Both are well worth going to. As Paul says, this year's is being organised by some great people, as was the one in Alaska last year. I have some great memories from Alaska, and from the LCC earlier that year in Seattle.

I've never been to any of the other US conventions, although I wish I could go to Noircon since I love noir. I've heard mixed reports about Thrillerfest. (Mostly good about the first one, mostly bad about the subsequent one. Friends who go to the small one one in Muncie Indiana absolutely love it.

And then there are 2 in the UK. Harrogate Crime Festival which has been going for a few years and which is good. There is one panel track and I believe that being on panels is by invitation but I'm not sure. There's a new one in Bristol this year called Crimefest, which is being run by the people who hosted Left Coast Crime there in 2006 and which will be more similar to a LCC than to Harrogate.

I think it really depends what you are looking for. In my view, you can't go wrong with Left Coast Crime which has the best of all worlds. And now I'm making myself depressed because I can't go!
It absolutely depends on what you want out of the con. B'Con is the Big Daddy/Grand Poohbah of mystery conferences (fan run, fan oriented, and ginormous). If you're looking to push a new book, maybe not so great. Wanna meet a ton of other peeps, both writers and fans, probably a great opportunity.

It also depends on what you write - Noircon...well, that's obviously for the darker end of the spectrum (yay, dark!), while cons like Malice Domestic are on the softer side. ThrillerFest speaks for itself, though a wide range of authors have jumped on the thriller bandwagon. I've heard nothing but good things about Left Coast Crime and Harrogate.

Basically, just look up the biggies and see what would be the best fit for what you write and what you're looking for in terms of a con experience.
Have you done Killer Nashville (www.killernashville.com)? Since you live in TN, you might want to check out a local one first. The first mystery convention I ever attended was almost literally in my backyard, which helped ease me into the mystery world--a parallel universe, for sure!
I've been to most of the conferences at one time or other, and nearly always have a good time. But I see them as being social functions. I'm not there to promote anything.

The first question to ask yourself is what you hope to get out of it. Because that will help direct you.
Everyone else has piped in with great info here, so I won't add to it, especially since I've never been to a con before.

But I will say that I plan on hitting up Bouchercon in Baltimore this year. So that's one vote for that con.

Also, the resources section of this site has the major cons listed by month (and I've just noticed I should add a few more).
A few of "us" (as in Australian 4MAers) are also planning a blitz on LCC Hawaii. It's going to be a bit of a different sort of conference it seems - but most of us are going for the fun of meeting everyone from our favourite Mystery Discussion email list.
Thanks for the link to the conventions! I was unaware of it.
Another Aussie? We'll be taking over soon! Daniel, I'm going to Baltimore too and I reckon we'll easily be able to pick out each other's voices in the crowd. I haven't been to any other cons except Bouchercon, and this year will be my third, so it definitely has my vote.
Fran from Tassie
What fabulous information you all have given me!! I didn't even know about Killer Nashville, and I think since I am a newbie, first-timer, I will have to go to something smaller, more intimate to get my feet wet. I would love to meet some of you though, so if you are going to a con this year, post here!!


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