A popular mystery writer once said that her agent told her she could either be a “conference slut” or she could pick one or two conferences to attend each year and spend the rest of her time at home, writing. She chose the second course, and it certainly hasn’t hurt her career.
I remember her words when I see a newly published writer struggling to attend as many conferences as possible and still get the next book written.
As I wrote last week, mystery conferences are fun, and they give us a chance to see friends and take a break from the isolation of writing. But the number being offered is staggering. Some are strictly for fans, with published authors trying to be entertaining enough in their panel performances to send the audience first to the book room, then to the signing line. Others are aimed at aspiring writers who want to learn from published writers – and again, the authors participate in the hope of selling some books and making themselves better known.
In virtually every case, writers have to pay their own way. A lot of mystery writers out there, especially first-time authors, are spending their entire advances and much more on travel and conference fees. It seems to make sense – after all, if you don’t get a rave review in the New York Times and your publisher won’t buy big splashy ads for your book, you have to get the word out somehow, don’t you?
But does it benefit the average writer’s career if she turns up at half a dozen or more conferences every year? Will she sell many books at those conferences, or will she always sit at her signing table, twirling a seldom-used pen and watching the bestselling author across the room autograph tall stacks of books? I don’t know the answers, not even for myself, since Malice Domestic and Bouchercon are pretty much it for me.
I’d like to hear from other writers – and fans – about this.
If you’re a writer, how have you chosen the conferences you attend? Do you think those appearances have given your career a boost? Do conferences take you away from your writing?
If you’re a fan, do you feel as if you see too many of the same writers year after year, or do you look forward to seeing familiar faces? Have you discovered any new-to-you writers at these events?
For both writers and fans: Which conferences are on your must-go lists, and why?