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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Simon the dreaded word is a fact of life no matter what business you're in-I learned a long time ago, it's not what you know, it's who you know. I've even gotten a few jobs that way.
I think conferences are definitely useful. They are expensive, but they are great for several things. I'd choose among them and definitely look for the ones with lots of readers. Sleuthfest, which I just attended, was great for meeting other authors and up and coming writers (pre-published was the euphemism du jour) but it's not a big fan con. I think Bouchercon (huge but powerful) and Thrillerfest are great. Malice, I've heard, is wonderful for traditional mysteries. Various regional cons are good, too.

I think for authors, the goals at a conference are 1. meeting new readers 2. meeting booksellers 3. meeting colleagues and authors who can blurb your books and exchange ideas, news, etc. 4. meeting reviewers and 5. spending every evening in the bar!
I love going to conferences. Writing is such a solitary business that it's wonderful to get out of the house sometimes and hang out for a couple of days with like-minded people. I approach them all as both a writer and a reader. I get inspired by the panel discussions and by talking about common problems. I discover lots of new authors to read and end up with a suitcase full of books to take home.

I do think it's important to note the differences. A writer's conference (such as Sleuthfest, which I just attended, along with several others here) has a focus on writing. Workshops and panels address craft, marketing, and technical elements. A convention, such as Bouchercon, is about mystery lovers getting together to talk about books. Author panels are a chance for fans to hear from us as much as for us to meet and greet each other.

I am off to Malice in two weeks and am totally psyched to see friends from across the country and many people I only know from online chats. To me, these experiences are worth the money for the enjoyment factor alone, even if I don't sell any books.
Neil, I look forward to meeting you and many others from Crimespace at Malice. I'm psyched too! I will be easy to spot - I will be wearing tee shirts with the cover of my book, MOOD SWING: THE BIPOLAR MURDERS, emblazoned on the front. I made them with an Avery iron-on kit - good way to promote yourself. Even if people find it a tad obnoxious, so what? To see what my cover looks like so you can find me, go to my site on Crimespace - I did the cover illustration (I was a visual artist before I started writing novels.)

This leads to the introvert/extrovert question. Lots of people mention the importance of networking at conferences, and I agree, but a lot depends on where you place on the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory. You have to be willing to take risks and be really out there - wallflowers don't have much luck, IMHO.

Only problem for me about wearing my book on my chest is that the latter is not a great asset, and unlike many women, I'm unused to people ogling much less trying to read it.
Hi Julie:
I'll look for you at Malice. Bring enough postcards to set out a pile or more on one of the long tables lined up in the corridor outside the panel rooms. You might run into me tidying up those piles from time to time because they sure do get messy, especially when someone comes along and plops a stack of free books on top of someone else's modest promotional piece. (As a book editor all my life, I'm a compulsive straightener-upper.) When I'm not doing that, I'll be on the most incredible panel, honored to be put on the spot by Margaret Maron, Carolyn Hart, Dorothy Cannell, and Sue Dunlap. I don't write mysteries, however; I write about them. (My book is Don't Murder Your Mystery, See ya, Chris
For those who've raised the question of conferences... This year I attended many mystery writers conferences and also visited numerous Sisters in Crime chapters to talk about publishing, submitting manuscripts to agents and editors, and ways to avoid getting tossed in the "no" pile before a first reader or other screener-outer gets as far as page 2. Here are some highlights for my colleagues looking for friendly, manageable mystery conferences. Naturally, I can't speak for what I'm sure are equally excellent events that I haven't attended. JUNE: HARDBOILED HEROES & COZY CATS, DALLAS, TX -- a delight (and not only because attendees packed my 1.5-hour session and laughed in all the right places, though that sure felt good). A overdose of rain played havoc with my flights coming and going and prevented my attending the optional tour on Sunday of the infamous grassy knoll and School Book Depository, but as long as I stayed inside I had great company to talk books with! APRIL: SLEUTHFEST, MIAMI, FL, was also enjoyable, though I got to appear only on panels, where the information I would have shared in a workshop was abbreviated to accommodate 3- or 5-minute responses to questions from the moderator. Still, I met some interesting panelists and had the pleasure of chatting with Linda Fairstein, the headliner (with whom we have New York City in common) and seeing her buy my book AND approach me for an autograph! That made my day. MAY: MALICE DOMESTIC, ARLINGTON, VA: This event draws 500+ writers and readers, and the numbers and choices of panels can be daunting. The highlights for me were getting to serve on a terrific panel with Carolyn Hart, Margaret Maron, Sue Dunlap, and Dorothy Cannell--and at the awards banquet hearing my name called as the winner of the Agatha for best nonfiction. Everything else about that conference has fled from my memory! Also, at the end of JUNE: DEADLY INK, PARSIPPANY, NJ: This is another small conference, friendly and informative, and it offers both workshops and panels. I recommend it. On JULY 19 I leave for the HARRIETTE AUSTIN WRITERS CONFERENCE on the campus of the University of Georgia, ATHENS, GA. I've spoken here many times, so it feels like old home week, though at least half the speakers will be new to me. All genres are represented. Then on the 17th-18th of AUGUST there's KILLER NASHVILLE, in TN, also a relatively small conference where each of us can get to know nearly everyone else. This is the conference's second year, and Michael Connelley is the headliner. Having spoken there last year I can definitely recommend it. A special benefit for authors is the opportunity for the general public to come and buy your books! This year I'll be doing a one-hour workshop, plus a panel, plus a luncheon roundtable and manuscript critiques. And for the first time, KN offers agent and editor meetings. This event is well worth attending. SEPTEMBER: THE GREAT MANHATTAN MYSTERY CONCLAVE, MANHATTAN, KS. I'm eagerly anticipating my first visit to this event--also a relatively small conference. I'll be doing both a panel and an intensive session, plus several other things the conference planners have lined up for me. Next year I hope to attend the events I couldn't manage to fit in this year, and I'll also be attending BOUCHERCON, as I can afford to drive to BALTIMORE, MD.
My take on mystery conferences is to be selective. My debut mystery came out a few months ago. Last year I attended two conferences with no books to actually sell, merely to talk about, which doesn't really excite people. However, the value in attending the conferences were the friends I made with other writers and readers. Two of the authors I met a Bouchercon 2006 ended up writing blurbs for my book. One actually volunteered to do it. Some of the other author friends I met have helped promote my book on their websites or mentioned me in their blogs or other interviews they've done. Bouchercon 2006 was a bit of a disappointment in some ways, because I felt like a rowboat in an ocean of big name authors, but it was a big success for me because of a small press publisher I met during a panel. I was an audience member and asked a question. Afterwards, the small press publisher came up to me and we chatted. We've stayed in contact ever since and she's been a great contact, as well as a good friend.

It's the same with other conferences. It's not so much what I learned about writing or how many books I sold; it's who I saw and got to know. As a new author having other people in the business talk enthusiastically about you is priceless. It's about spreading the word. One of the author attendees of the last conference I was at ended up buying my book then writing a glowing review about it on DorothyL. Totally unsolicited. Yet that allowed tons of other people on that forum to find out about the book.
And I should add that one of the great authors I met at Bouchercon 2006 last year was Chris Roerden, who I just noticed posted on this question. Months earlier I'd bought two copies of her book "Don't Murder Your Mystery" and was highly recommending it to author friends. And there she was sitting in front of my at one panel! I had to tell her how great I thought her book was. We've stayed in touch ever since.

If I hadn't gone to the conference that wouldn't have happened.


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