Monday, March 10, 2008

Conferences - the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Vicki, back from Left Coast Crime. I've been mulling over the value of conferences. Are they worthwhile or not? Some conclusions.

Bad:

• Expense. I used my credit card reward points to buy the air fare so that only cost me about $120 in taxes. Nevertheless the total cost of the weekend was over USD 1000 (that’s about CAD $999.99)

• Time: Not so much of an issue for me as I don’t have to work, but still two full days of traveling for two full days of conferencing isn’t much of a return on investment.

• Meet people who are doing so much better in their careers than you are.

• Long way to go, lots of money to sell a handfull of books.

• Expense: Did I mention the expense?

• Not a good way to see the area. So I’ve been to Denver. Hurray! I didn’t see anything outside of the downtown core and (Denverites stop reading here) it isn’t very attractive or interesting.

• Expense: Did I mention the expense?

Good:

• Opportunity to buy a wide variety of books that you don’t always see in the bookstore. I bought The Silk Train Murder by Sharon Rowe, among others, and am looking forward to reading it.

• Meet new and interesting people. I spent quite a bit of time with Sharon Rowe of Vancouver and got to know her. Sat at the dinner with an ATF agent who had been on course with the O.P.P. and thought they were so funny theyway they said 'eh?' all the time.

• Meet up with good friends. Such as Julia Pomeroy (Cold Moon Home, Caroll and Graff) that I only ever see a mystery conferences. And it is nice, as Julia said, to have the opportunity at our age to meet a whole new group of people.

• Mix with writers. As has been said many times before writing is a solitary activity and even when we venture away from our computers to go on tour we only meet readers (if any show up!) and book store employees. It is necessary, sometimes, to get that inspiration that only comes from talking about writing with people who really get it.

• Good way to see a city. As you know, I always prefer to drive rather than fly. I drove to Anchorage because I had the time. So although the fly in, fly out trip to a conference isn’t worthwhile in the way of visiting a city, if you have the time to explore, it’s a great opportunity.

• People coming up to you and saying “I love your books!” (And they hadn’t even mistaken me for someone else.)

Ugly:

• Me when I got up at 5:15 AM to catch the plane home. And that was really 4:15 AM as the clocks had changed the night before.

• Me when I realized that instead of driving four hours to Kelowna, flying to Calgary, and catching another plane to Denver, I could have driven two and a half hours to Spokane and got a direct flight to Denver.

Indeterminate.

• Promotion. Who can say if someone you met will remember you? Who knows who’ll run home and tell all their friends about the great new author?

I'd be interested to know what other writers think of conferences. Worth it?

6 comments:

Jared said...

Well, I'll tell you, Vicki. I haven't attended a conference as an author yet, but I knew your name from this blog before I met you at Malice-Go-Round last year, and familiarity breeds sales. And I can think of at least 3 other authors that I didn't start reading until I met them at conferences. So, you're probably right that the cost/benefit ratio is skewed. But I also think it's impossible to measure. Particularly during the post-conference let-down.

Vicki Delany said...

Thanks Jared. You make me feel a bit better!

Picks By Pat said...

Hi Vicki

I had a fear of conferences, since I was a new writer. Finally decided to go to the Love is Murder conference in Chicago this past February, since it is close to where I live (Kansas City). Well, I loved it! I went to as many panels as I could, & met many writers whose work I had read (some of them I read just before the conference). They were all nice and willing to answer questions. I signed up for some picthes and received a lot of encouragement and interest.

Some of the writers I had never heard of, but have since begun to read (and buy!) their books.

That convinced me. I'm going to two more this year, Bouchercoun in Baltimore and the Manhattan Mystery Conclave, both in the fall, and since my first novel is being published in June, I'll get to go as an author (now that's scary!)

Charles benoit said...

I've often wondered what would have happened if instead of attending a conference I used that money to buy my own books to give away to people who might just influence other sales (book store owners, book club members, chatty baristas, teachers, local actors...) It cost roughly $1,300 to do a conference right (flights, registration, conference hotel, drinks, dinner, picking up the occasional round, buying books from other authors) Assuming a discount on trade paperbacks equal to that enjoyed by bookstore owners, I could give away about 170 copies of my books. If each one of those spurred just 1 additional sale, I'd do far better than I ever did at a conference. Hmmmm...sound like an experiment is in order.

Donis Casey said...

Now, that is a great idea, Charles. If you try it and it works, you may create an entirely new method of promotion. I find conferences most useful for making human connection and meeting other authors, but I have trouble affording as many as I would enjoy attending.

I think with prices heading in the direction they are, promotional creativity is going to become more and more important.

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

It's great to see opinions by Pat and Jared. I have mixed feelings on conferences, too--the same sentiments that Vicki eloquently expressed. Still, meeting other writers is worth a trip once or twice a year. Perhaps I'm starved for company? Colleagues who share the same frustrations?