Several weeks ago, I guest posted on my friend and fellow author, Marian Allen's blog about Conferences & Conventions. When I wrote that post, I used the terms interchangeably, which apparently they aren't. Honestly, I don't know the difference, other than one might be larger than the other. So, if you know what the difference is, please leave me a comment below and explain. For my post today, I'm using both terms to mean the same.
On Marian's blog, I spoke mainly about one conference that I have attended, which also was my favorite, Magna cum Murder Crime Writing Festival. It's held every October in Muncie, Indiana. If you want to read about it, click on the Marian's blog link above. The photo on the left is from the 2010 Magna cum Murder and is me, and authors T. Lee Harris and Marian Allen.
Today, I want to talk about conferences and conventions in general and what you should expect from them. First, if you have a chance to go, do it. I have had so much fun at all the ones I have attended and have learned so much from them. You can usually find vendors selling books about writing, but also books to use for research in a variety of topics, and of course, authors that are attending will likely have their books for sell and will gladly autograph them for you.
There will also be workshops or panels that you can attend. Workshops could be about craft, marketing, research, or just about anything pertaining to writing. If the convention is specific to a particular genre, then the workshops and panels will be that also. At Magna, I attended a workshops about poisons given by a pharmacist, one about the history of SWAT and Hostage Negotiations, and my favorite one was Broken Bones, Ballistics and Backdrafts.
At a small romance writers convention that I attended once, they didn't break out into workshops or panels, but instead had panels for the whole group. One thing, that some conventions do is have agents or editors attend. You can sign up to a 5-10 minute pitch of your book to them. I did that and the agent actually asked me to send her the first three chapters. It was my first manuscript and she eventually rejected it, but the experience I gained from talking to her for that short time was priceless for me. I eventually met my current publisher at a conference last summer.
Some things to think about when considering a conference or convention is cost. Will you be spending the night at hotel, how much is the registration fee, and how much are you able to spend on buying books. One conference I attended cost me around $200 with hotel, meals, and conference registration. It was close so I could drive to it, but some conventions farther away might require a flight, which really runs into money. Of course, if you're someone who is making money from your writing, all costs for attending are tax deductible, so keep those receipts.
If flying in for a conference, you might want to check on the dress code. Will it business casual, or just casual and will there a dinner that you need to dress up for? There's also the trip from the airport to the hotel or conference center that you'll need to make arrangements for.
Two important tips I was given before I attended my first convention, 1) don't wear a lot of perfume or powder. The scent may overpower the person, agent or editor sitting next to you. 2) If you are going to give a presentation or pitch your book, don't drink a carbonated beverage right before you're going to speak. And, one tip I have for presenters that will be wearing a wireless microphone, make sure it is turned off before and after your presentation. We don't want to hear your comments about the person in the back that fell asleep, or your bathroom habits.
Finally, the goal is to learn and have fun. I can't express how much fun I have had at the ones I've attended. I've met some great people, both authors and readers and I can't wait for the next one that I attend.