Saturday, October 23, 2010

To Conference or Not to Conference?

I spent much of the day yesterday helping out at a charity garage sale. In fact, if you’re reading this on Saturday, that is where I am right now, selling tchatchkies to bargain hunters for a second day. It’s very hard work, and I feel a bit like I’ve been run over by a truck. My sedentary lifestyle has notprepared me well for real physical activity. I spent much of last week with doctors and laboratories and the like, as well as trying to catch up with my correspondence after three days in Wickenburg, Arizona, attending the Women Writing the West annual conference. I’ve been very busy and gotten a lot accomplished this month. Except for writing. Sometimes I wonder what I think I’m doing trying to have an actual writing career at this particular point in my life.

The conference was very nice, though. There has been a lot of discussion lately in the Poisoned Pen Press author chat room about the value of writers’ conferences. Bouchercon, one of the premiere mystery conferences in North America, was held last weekend in San Francisco, and there seems to be a feeling of disappointment among some of the attendees. Many authors with titles in print discovered their books were not being offered for sale. Some were overwhelmed by the size of the conference and felt anonymous in the crowd, Many wondered if the expense of travel, hotel, and conference fees were justified.

There is not a working author who at some time or another doesn’t wrestle with the same questions. I’ve been to Bouchercon as well as some other big cons in past years and enjoyed them a lot. I always come away full of ideas and new enthusiasm, and I really like meeting other authors and making contacts in the community. If I could afford it, I’d go to every conference I could, but it would strictly be for the human interaction.

So I make my choices. I chose the much smaller conference closer to home, and for me it was a wise choice. I was able to present one of the programs. I was presented with a plaque for being a WILLA award finalist for The Sky Took Him. I did a lot of networking that will lead to some good promotional opportunities. The conference was held on a ranch resort in the Sonoran desert - a dude ranch, basically. Incredibly beautiful, peaceful and elegant. All in all I learned a lot and enjoyed myself, and met some wonderful people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I think writers conferences are valuable, if you’re realistic about the benefits and returns from attending.


peter_may said...

I have done both Bouchercon, and Left Coast Crime (a couple of times), Donnis. For me it was hugely expensive. A transatlantic flight, a costly hotel, conference fees. It was only worth my while to take in the conferences while doing promotional tours, and therefore defraying the costs. But I'm really not sure how much value there is in them apart from social networking. I thought last year's PP Webcon really was the way forward in that respect. It cost authors and readers next to nothing to attend, but still provided the opportunity for interaction between both, as well as the chance for authors to present their work in the way that best suited them. Sadly, the powers that be decided against doing another one this year, which is a great shame, because I really do think it is the future.

Donis Casey said...

I think web conferences are indeed the way of the future, though I imagine there will always be live conferences. There is probably some sort of electronic convention on the horizon that we have yet to conceive. Holographic Bouchercon, anyone?