Very little, if anything, I was forced to admit. It got me to thinking about mystery conferences and conventions. Do I learn anything new when I go to one those?
In the past I’ve attended as many as six in a year, ranging from
During the first few years, I took copious notes, digesting all sorts of useful information on writing, publishing, marketing, and a slew of other subjects that go into the mix. I also made lots of contacts with other writers, a number of fans, bookstore people, agents, editors, etc.
Now, rather than learning new things about the business, I find I am more often reminded of things I learned in the past but have not been putting into practice. Conferences have become more like a refresher course. Dialogue? Break up all those quotes with a little action. Sure, I knew that, but had I been paying enough attention to it? That’s just a minor example.
I chat with old friends and meet new ones. It’s an opportunity to put a face to those names I’ve been scanning in the emails. I might find somebody new who’d be willing to blurb the next book. And there’s always the chance of picking up a promotional idea I hadn’t considered, or unearthing an interesting way to jazz up a book signing. You’re never too old or jaded to learn something new. It’s just that there aren’t all that many things out there you hadn’t encountered before.
In earlier days I was always concerned about getting my books in the Dealer Room. I still like to have them available. But I’ve learned that lacking a household name in the mystery world, the chances of selling more than a handful of books at a conference are pretty slim. Especially at a major event like Bouchercon. I’ll never forget my first one in Vegas when I sat at my table in the signing room like the proverbial wallflower. The vacant table beside me had a line winding out into the hallway. I later learned they were waiting for James Lee Burke. One guy said he meant to come by my table but he didn’t want to get out of line.
Now I mostly choose small conferences, where you get a chance to meet most of the people and interact with those who are really interested in reading your books. Killer
Bottom line, conferences have important values, whether you learn much new or not.