Saturday, September 28, 2013

Find the Right Conference for You

by Sharon and Bill Hopkins

Our guests this week are husband and wife writers Bill Hopkins and Sharon Woods Hopkins. Sharon is the author of Killerwatt, Killerfind, and the just-published Killertrust. Bill is the author of Courting Murder and River Mourn, also a new release.

We have gone to many writers’ conferences for the last five years. There are different kinds of conferences and good ways and bad ways to attend them.

Let’s start with the different kinds of conferences. Some do not allow independent writers to sell their books or appear on panels. If you fall into that category, check the information about the conference carefully before you spend your time and money.

 Fan conferences (such as Malice Domestic and Bouchercon) are great fun because you get to meet your readers! Usually these gatherings have a bevy of famous authors who are interesting to chat with and listen to.

Workshop conferences (such as Sleuthfest and Mystery Writers of America University) are mainly for writers. You’ll be doing workshops, exercises, and perhaps receiving critiques or talking to agents or pitching to publishers.

At study conferences (such as Killer Nashville and Writers Police Academy) the lessons and information are so intense and exciting that you’ll wonder how you ever did without such a source.

State or local literary or book festivals are mostly oriented toward authors selling their books. Some are friendly to self-publishers (Missouri Writers Guild and Mississippi Writers Guild, for example), and some prohibit self-publishers altogether.

Regardless of what conference you want to go to, we suggest you go to at least one per year. At every kind of conference, you must not be shy! Writers from the most famous to the brand new ones are friendly and interested in talking with you. We always attempt to make several new friends whenever we go to a conference.

A final note of encouragement. We heard at one conference that mystery writers could benefit from participating in Romance Writers of America activities. Neither of us writes anything remotely romantic, but that group is probably the strongest writing group in the whole country. Those people know how to market and how to teach writing.

Jodie Renner has compiled a list of gatherings that you should go through:
If you know of a conference that should be on there, please let Jodie know AND thank her for the hard work she did in compiling this.

Please write us if you have any questions:
Sharon Woods Hopkins
Bill Hopkins


Steven M. Moore said...

Hi Sharon and Bill,
Conferences are a mixed bag. They're also often used as ways to make money off unsuspecting newbies. After one of my writer friends had a good experience at a conference two summers ago, I decided I'd give it a try this summer (it was driveable and we could combine it with a short vacation). I signed up for their mailing list. But they didn't make a list of participants and topics available until it was too late and we were already committed elsewhere.
I realize that many conferences, book fairs, and the like are organized by volunteers, but the phrase "organized by" is all too often loosely interpreed in practice. Maybe I'm just an old curmudgeon and/or spoiled by science conferences where talks are clock-controlled and things march along smoothly during the months leading up to a conference and during the same. However, writers' conferences might have something to learn there--if you want me to take your conference seriously, make sure you do too!
BTW, I'd personally resist the romance writers. Romance is the most popular genre and I have many writer friends who write the stuff, but as a mystery, thriller, and sci-fi author, I can't speak their language...and, if you can't speak the language, you can't communicate at a conference.

Sharon Hopkins said...

Hi Steven, thanks for your post. I find I get my money's worth at any conference I go to because I love networking with fellow authors and meeting fans. And if I learn something, that's a bonus. I hope you can find some that are in a reasonable area for you and that you give another conference a shot. You didn't mention whether or not you are tradi or self pubbed. Some conferences don't encourage self published authors, which I personally feel isn't keeping up with today's publishing world. All best to you.

Jodie Renner said...

Thanks for the link to my list of Writers' Conferences, Bill and Sharon! Which reminds me -- I recently heard of a few more, so I need to go and add them to my list!

And I'm so glad I went to the Killer Nashville conference in August, where I had the pleasure of meeting you and Sharon! :)

Sandra Parshall said...

I've been puzzling over the value of conferences and what's right for me, so thanks for this and for the link to Jodie's list. And thanbks for being our guests this weekend! Good luck with your new books.