Thursday, March 08, 2012

Conferencing: A Week in Review

Last week I posted that I was at Sleuth Fest and had left my wife home alone in a snowstorm with three kids.

This week, I offer a follow-up.

Sleuth Fest was my first conference in several years. Previously, I had my agent include a clause in my contracts stating my publisher would cover airfare to one conference each year. My last contract is up, and without a new book to promote, I haven’t attended conferences in a while.

Last week, I came to realize what I’d been missing: the sense of community the mystery world offers. My friend, a poet, was heading off to a larger writing conference last week and told me he wasn’t looking forward to it. He said, in the literary fiction and poetry worlds, the social scene at conferences can be constant games of “who you are” and the haves and have-nots.

The mystery community is not that way. At Sleuth Fest, we shared market tips, contacts, and many war stories. Friday, I had dinner with 11 other writers. The conversation ran to a discussion of e-rights (the big six houses in New York are offering writers only 25% royalties on e-sales, making small houses offering as much as 40% or 50%, attractive) and the pros and cons of outlining one’s novel before beginning (several thriller writers around the dinner table reported outlining for up to eight months before writing the book in only three months; mystery scribes like me sat shaking our heads). The meal ended after midnight—lots of laughs, interesting discussions books, of raising kids, and (of course) of the publishing industry.

I also left Sleuth Fest with good news: independent houses seem to be gaining traction due to their plethora of recent award nominations. Several editors at houses like Bell Bridge Books reported authors previously on the “New York Times” best-seller lists choosing the smaller houses for their “author-friendly” contracts and for making a genuine attempt to slowly grow series.

All in all, it was a worthwhile week. I need to attend one conference a year. (Just don’t tell my wife.)


Rick Blechta said...

You’re making me envious. Sounds like an interesting conference to attend.


Charlotte Hinger said...

Have to confess, the only think that keeps me away is the bills they rack up. I always come away with new ideas and meet interesting people. said...

Well, you may be correct.