By Christina Hoag
For crime fiction authors, the good news is that there are plenty of writing conferences. The bad news is that there are plenty of writing conferences. It can be hard to choose the best investment for your money and time.
I decided not to choose. I just went to a slew of them, although not all by any means. Not only did I have a great time at every one, I found value in all of them. Each offers something different, and from each I took away things I didn’t know before, as well as a host of new friends. Frankly for me, networking is one of the best reasons for attending conferences. I love meeting other writers, discussing, writing, publishing, reading. These are my peeps!
The two biggies are Bouchercon, held in a different city every year, and Thrillerfest, held in New York City. Both get well over 1,000 attendees. I chose to attend Thrillerfest this year, leaving Bouchercon for 2018. Thrillerfest is the most expensive con of the bunch, plus Manhattan is a pricey destination, which is something to keep in mind. But this is the place for networking and there’s plenty of opportunity to mingle and fangirl with the biggest names in the business from Lee Child to Lisa Gardner. Thrillerfest also hosts a separate event, Pitchfest, which attracts a ton of top agents and editors, a key advantage to being in the center publishing industry.
There are also a host of smaller regional conferences, usually sponsored by local chapters of the MWA and/or Sisters in Crime. These typically attract 200-300 attendees, including published and aspiring authors and fans, and cost $200-$350. Most offer authors a chance to participate as panelists and to sell and sign their books in the con bookshop, and make great promotional vehicles if you’ve got a new book out or are simply seeking exposure.
Cons have different requirements for panelists so that may affect where you choose to go if promotion is your goal. Sleuthfest, held around Florida, for example, requires panelists to be published by approved publishers. Killer Nashville is friendly to independent and pre-published writers while New England Crimebake in Boston does not allow authors to request panels and selects its own. Magna cum Murder in Indianapolis, California Crime Writers Conference, held biannually in Los Angeles, and Left Coast Crime, offered in a different western city every year, generally offer authors panel spots.
Another factor to look at is the con’s subgenre emphasis. Malice Domestic, held in Bethesda, Maryland, is geared to cozies and traditional mysteries while Thrillerfest is as its name suggests.
Finally, you may choose a particular conference simply because it’s in a place you want to visit or where you have friends or family. Whichever conference you choose, you can save by planning well in advance and taking advantage of early bird prices, usually starting the year before. Another cost-cutting tip: you can stay in less expensive hotels or with friends and Uber back and forth. I’m already looking forward to my next conference in 2018.
Christina Hoag is a former journalist for the Miami Herald and Associated Press who’s been threatened by a murderer’s girlfriend, had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas and phone tapped in Venezuela, hidden under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail, interviewed gang members, bank robbers, thieves and thugs in prisons, shantytowns and slums, not to forget billionaires and presidents, some of whom fall into the previous categories. Her noir crime novel Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown Publishing, 2016) was a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for suspense, while her thriller Girl on the Brink (Fire and Ice YA, 2016) was named to Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 YA list. She also writes nonfiction, co-authoring Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence (Turner Publishing, 2014.
Christina makes her home in Los Angeles and lives on the web at www.christinahoag.com.
Her novel Skin of Tattoos is available at http://amzn.to/2bSRjqP