I really did plan to cut back on the number of conferences I would go to this year. And I did. I’m currently (note the qualifier) registered for only five. Last year, I went to six.
There are many reasons to attend writers’ conferences. Selling books isn’t necessarily one of them. There is nothing more depressing (okay, I’m exaggerating; but it is discouraging) to sit at a signing table after a panel and see a long line of fans waiting to have their books autographed – by the author sitting next to me. In the meantime, I’m trying to look perky, approachable, and friendly.
But it’s not about selling books. It’s about networking, with other writers who will help promote your books on their blogs and other postings, and with fans, who will keep you motivated by asking when the next book will be released. (My stock answer: “I’d love to know, too. I guess it will have to wait until I finish writing it.”) And it’s about name recognition. As Jon Gibbs, author of the YA novel Fur-Face and founder of the NJ Authors Network (http://www.njauthorsnetwork.com), advises I’m paraphrasing, “What is important is going from ‘I’ve never heard of that person,’ to ‘Oh, I think I’ve heard that author’s name,’ to ‘I saw that author speak on a panel; I think I’ll buy the book.”‘ I remind myself of his words whenever I’m sitting alone waiting for someone to ask me to sign a book. (I’m thinking of signing them “J. K. Rawling.”)
It’s also about learning. No matter how many conferences I attend, I always discover something new about the craft of writing and all it entails. (Including, the best way to kill someone and hide the body.)
Most importantly, it’s about meeting in person authors I admire and finding out they are approachable and friendly (although not necessarily perky, after being bombarded by questions from all the other lesser-known authors in attendance). And it’s about meeting in person virtual friends: other writers (and some fans) with whom I trade Facebook cute kitten pictures, guest blogs, emails, movie recommendations, tips on promotion and time management and sources of inspiration. There’s nothing like meeting “strangers” and already knowing all about their lives and works. Instant camaraderie. Just add a conference.
If you see me at any of the following conferences, be sure to come over and introduce yourself. I promise to be perky, approachable, and friendly.
LEFT COAST CRIME, Monterey, CA, March 20-23
MALICE DOMESTIC, Bethesda, MD, May 2-4
PUBLIC SAFETY WRITERS ASSOCIATION, Las Vegas, NV, July 10-13
DEADLY INK, New Brunswick, NJ, Aug. 1-3
BOUCHERCON, Long Beach, CA, Nov. 12-16