2006 has been the year of small mystery conventions for me. Since February, I’ve gone to Murder in the Magic City, Malice Domestic, Mayhem in the Midlands, Murder in the Grove and Con Misterio. My last convention in this cycle will be Magna Cum Murder in October. In past years, I’ve gone to Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon, too. That’s a lot of out-of-pocket expense, a lot of travel — and a lot of experience from which to draw a few conclusions.
Sure, conventions are promotional opportunities. That’s the excuse I give my husband.
On a quieter, private level, they offer community and companionship with people who share my passion.
I’ve loved every single mystery convention I’ve ever attended — including the Bouchercon in Las Vegas. As finances and time allow, I’ll continue to go to as many as I can.
But smaller cons have a special place in my heart.
The biggest difference between attending conventions such as Bouchercon (and Malice Domestic) and smaller venues — is the members. At the biggies, you get more editors, agents and super-successful authors (an exception might be ITW’s first foray this year). But, I’ve found that they don’t tend to mix with others.
Sure, if you’ve got an NYC publisher, you’ll be invited to the parties, but don’t expect to hang out with the biggies beyond that. I don’t think this is a function of snobbery; it’s more that these people have business to do — and it’s not with you.
However, I believe that if you work large conventions right, they provide opportunities to make meaningful, influential connections.
So, why attend a small one — where you know you won’t run into that publisher who might change your life? Or that author whose blurb will propel you into the big leagues (yeah, right)?
As a fan, why would you spend money to go where all of the authors — but the Guests of Honor– are unknown to you?
1. Small conventions encourage mixing.
I don’t know if it’s because these conventions are more relaxed or because of the mix of attendees, but they always encourage cross-genre interaction. I believe one reason — especially for authors — is that many of us don’t have our usual friends around. As a result, there’s more mingling. The Boys in Black will sit with the Girls in Pink in the bar — and they’ll converse. Also, readers don’t have as much competition for authors’ attention.
2. Small conventions allow more per person, face-to-face impact.
Murder in the Magic City limits attendees to 135. However, since there are no concurrent sessions, each author who attends has an audience of 135. How many other cons provide that? Smaller conventions also tend to allow authors more than one panel. That makes a big difference, too. And, I’d argue that without as many huge names competing in concurrent sessions, attendees will try more new authors than they would if they were intent on seeing their big-draw favorites.
3. Small conventions’ per-author, per-book sales probably equal those at bigger ones.
Rarely will any convention pay for itself (for an author) through book sales. For me, I’d have to sell hundreds of books in order to cover the hotel expenses alone. But, I’ve noticed that I’ve signed basically the same amount of books at most conventions I attend . . . period.
What a wonderful event! I hope attendance increases by 50+ people so that it can become viable economically for the organizers. Frankly, it’s a great addition to our mystery convention calendar — and Austin in July is lovely when you’re in an air-conditioned, pleasant hotel.
Lousy Photos Presented with Lots of Love
Apologies first: None of these authors have red eyes. Forgive me. Believe me, I spent time trying to fix them. Then, I couldn’t import those fixes into this post. Argh. Also, I realize the text wraps around the photos in an odd, erratic way; I tried to fix that, too.
Nevertheless, in an effort to promote my fellow authors, I’m including these lousy examples of photographic prowess and layout — along with author website links (or whatever I could find) — with the hopes that if someone interests you, you’ll click on his or her name and get to a location where there is a good picture.
John Maddox Roberts has written more books than I thought humanly possible — and he’s still going strong. He’s embracing the lovely (her eyes are gorgeous, btw) and talented Karen MacInerney (pronounced "Mac and Ernie").
Sean Doolittle is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. I doubt I would have met him but for attending smaller conventions and having the time to compare notes about parenthood, our careers and life. He’s now beginning to gain some real national attention and I couldn’t be happier for him.
Oh, this is a terrible picture. I want to hide . . . but, it contains some of my favorite people. Troy Cook at the far left is a new author who is already getting tremendous kudos. Next to him is the deceptively gentle Lono Waiwaiole. And, in the foreground is Troy’s dad, Bruce Cook. Don’t let daddy Cook’s nice demeanor fool you. He knows more about the L.A. movie scene — about the inner workings of movies and their production, than most of us could ever learn.
Mr. James Crumley in his office.
Actually, I got to spend some quality time with Jim. He was totally unassuming and could drink most of us under the table. (I hope the link takes you to an article about him.)
They’re all much better looking than this photo indicates. Hey, I’m a writer, obviously not a photographer.
Notice the lights emanating from Karen’s head? Could it be her aura? Or, maybe it’s because all of these fine authors deal with the supernatural?
Should I identify them from top to bottom? The lady in the back is Katharine Eliska Kimbriel — author of both science fiction/fantasy and mystery. Because this convention was small, I had the joy of dining with Margaret Maron more than once. What a kind, intelligent woman. Jan Grape (seated) also generously shared her experiences as an author with me.
What would any convention be without food? Con Misterio fed us very well (the hotel was great, too). The hospitality room served its purpose with elan. We also had fresh fruit and veggies, good drinks and other wonderfulnesses throughout each day. Wow.
This is a box of breakfast treats from author Sharon Wildwind (oh, I hope I have the right url!) who was unable to attend the con but found a way to have an impact on our grateful stomachs one morning. I really liked those cookies with the powered sugar.
Well, that’s enough for today.