Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What Are Your Feelings About Big Mystery Cons?

Recently I read a blog post from an author titled, "Why I Quit Going to Bouchercon" and some of the things expressed I've been feeling.

My hubby and I have been to several all over the U.S. We had a great time, especially exploring cities we've never been to before and wouldn't have visited were it not for Bouchercon. Did it do anything for my career as an author? Not a whole lot. To even get my books into the book room, I always had to negotiate with the book dealer who wanted the standard 40/60 cut which meant I didn't make a dime on any book sold. (I bought the books I brought with me at that same 40% cost.)

Being with small presses doesn't impress the Bouchercon committees. In fact, I read the minutes of one of those committees after a Bouchercon I'd attended and several members actually came out and said "too many small press authors attended, discouraging the big name authors." Does that mean my money isn't as good as anyone else's? After all, I paid a hefty fee to go, stay in the convention hotel and the transportation to get there and back.

My last Boucheron was the recent one in San Francisco. I went because it was close enough for me to get there fairly easily. I didn't even bother to try to get my books in the book room. Hubby didn't go and I roomed with an old friend I hadn't seen for awhile. I had a great time schmoozing with people and wasn't impressed with the panels I attended. Especially the one on e-books. The panelist, all published by big name publishers, didn't know much of anything about e-books. This would have been a great panel for small press authors to shine, but they weren't asked.

A big plus, is I have made friends with some wonderful fans of the mystery genre who have become fans of my mystery series.

Left Coast Crime is smaller and a bit more small press author friendly. I've already signed up for the one in Monterey CA. (Also easy for me to get to.)

There are other smaller cons around the country like Love is Murder (been once and loved it), Malice Domestic (been twice and it is also a great conference), Killer Nashville (been to one and thought it was fun) and I know there are many others in the Midwest. Public Safety Writers Association is the smallest one I got too because I get to learn a lot from experts and small press authors get to shine.

For me these days, I'm weighing in the problems of traveling when you're older. I can no longer run through an airport with my carry-ons to get to my next gate on time which is 1/2 mile away, whether what I'll get out of the conference or convention will be worth the cost (and I do count meeting and making friends with readers).

What are your feelings about these conventions and conferences for writers? And if you are strictly a reader, if you go, what do you like best? What are your favorite cons and why?



  1. Marilyn, I've been considering the same things myself. I'm just back from Bouchercon, and I've attended Malice Domestic twice. I would have been at Thrillerfest, except for a family medical emergency that drained my coffers. Cons are expensive to attend, but worth doing for me at this stage of my career, I think.

    I had a book promotion pro tell me that the best way to spend a little money on promotion at the beginning of your career is to go to the cons. You meet other authors, editors, publishers, and fans. You meet some of the big book reviewers. You become "visible" in a field where it's tough to stand out from the throng. She believed the cons weren't such a good investment more than a few books in or once you were established, and she thought there were better ways to spend your PR money then. That may be what you're experiencing.

    My favorite of the cons so far has been Malice Domestic. It has less of an exclusive feel to it. My husband came to both B'con and Malice with me this year, and he felt that Malice had a warmer, more welcoming atmosphere. Part of that, of course, is simply a dynamic of size--B'con is 3 times bigger than Malice.

    I do learn valuable things about the industry at these cons and make wonderful contacts. So I'll probably keep going as long as I can afford to. I met some of the big writers who blurbed my first book at Malice, and at Bouchercon this year, I was able to meet for the first time writers I've been in contact with for over a year who've helped me and have become my friends.

  2. Malice and Bouchercon are my vacation of the year. I love hanging out with my friends and catching up on what the author's are doing. It's a great time.

  3. I met many, many good friends at Bouchercons over the years. I loved Malice but for me it's difficult to get there and expensive. I really miss Mayhem in the Midlands.

  4. I would love to attend a mystery conference, not just as a writer, but also as a fan. It sounds like so much fun!

    But, since I'm just getting started, the investment is too much for me, even though I could get to the West Coast cons easily. I really have to consider the returns I would get on the investment, and your post suggests the returns are small. I did not know that small presses don't get the love they deserve. Thank you for listing the conventions that do pay attention to small presses! If I do attend a convention, those are now at the top of the list.