What is the difference between conventions and conferences? My belief is that conventions are mainly for fans, but are also attended by writers, agents, editors, and publishers; whereas conferences are geared more toward the craft and business of the writing and publishing world.
I like to include both for a well-rounded perspective. My field is mystery and I classify what I write as traditional, maybe even cosy books. When deciding which to choose, my eye is open to how I can learn the most about my craft and whether or not I have the opportunity to meet other authors to ask what has and hasn’t worked for them. I also look for the chance to meet potential fans.
Another benefit to going to conventions and conferences is the infectious enthusiastic atmosphere that permeates every nook and cranny there. I started attending these events years before I had a book published,
and upon returning home, I couldn’t wait to get back to my writing in progress. I was refreshed and filled with the desire to exercise some of the ideas I had just learned, to try out a new approach with my characters or plot, or just bask in the delight of the new friendships I had made.
At first, smaller venues seemed to provide me with the most “bang for my buck” by the very fact that there were more opportunities and time to make the connections I wanted. The larger ones were good for showing me more of the whole picture and exposing me to more genres.
For beginners, I would suggest starting at smaller cons and conferences and work your way to larger ones. That way your experiences won’t be so overwhelming. Bouchercon, for instance, can seem a bit intimidating to a
newbie, although thrilling in its immenseness.
Everyone, these days, talks about the importance of networking. Cons and conferences are perfect occasions for this. Putting away your shy streak is tough, but necessary. Meet everyone you can. You’re most likely a reader, a fan. Start by complimenting a favorite author. If you don’t have one, you certainly will by the end of the event—probably several. Be brave, you’ll be so glad you were.
I’m off to Bouchercon next week. Wish me luck!