To Conference or Not To Conference

As a writer and reader, the question of investing in attending conferences always comes up. Being an author is not just about the actual writing, but for better or worse, being an author is a business. So you have to constantly weigh how to invest in your company. And everyone is different, so we have differing strengths and weaknesses that you must weigh in as well. But here are some tips as you figure out how you particularly work.

2019 Thriller Fest trying to look like Magnum PI: Jack Soren, KC Nelms, LA Chandlar, Eric Bishop, C.E. Albanese, Mike Houtz, and Sean Cameron


You’re investing like you would invest in a company. Do not weigh it dollar for dollar. At the first Bouchercon (the world mystery conference) that I attended, I was chatting with another author and he was concerned because he kept thinking of how many books he’d have to sell to pay for the trip. But there are perks that invest in your long term game that you can’t quantify dollar for dollar. For instance, at a cocktail party, I ended up meeting the representative for my publisher’s distributor for Canada. We hit it off and before the party ended, he said, “It was so great to meet you! Now I’ll work even harder to get your books sold!” That’s why you go. I also met many people to connect with, authors whom I’ve exchanged blurbs with, made good friends, and many readers.

Built-In Advertising. The goal of any author is to get your books read. People don’t know to buy your book if they don’t know it exists. And it is a VERY FULL market out there. Many conferences have several ways to get to know readers and get your book more well known. Author Speed Dating is not for the faint of heart 😉 where you have two minutes at a time in a hall full of banquet tables of readers. You get to share about your books and about yourself to avid readers and librarians. Every panel you participate in allows you to share about yourself and your own particular approach to writing. Awards. Most conferences nominate and vote on a variety of awards. It’s just one more way to get your name out there and it can be extremely gratifying to have your work recognized

2019 Agatha Award Nominees for Best Historical: Victoria Thompson, Edith Maxwell, LA Chandlar, Sujata Massey, and (not pictured) Rhys bowen.

Awards. Most conferences nominate and vote on a variety of awards. It’s just one more way to get your name out there and it can be extremely gratifying to have your work recognized.  

Friends and Support. One of the best perks of writing has been getting to know readers and authors. I can honestly say that the friends I’ve made at conferences have become dear people in my life (including the other Miss Demeanors!). Writing can be lonely and everyone deals with Imposter Syndrome. Cohorts help you stay encouraged, remind you of the joy of writing, and you cheer each other on. This aspect of conferences has been irreplaceable for me. And I always come away a better writer from the lessons I’ve learned and with a LOT more books to add to my TBR pile. 

Introvert Crisis.  Conferences really are an extroverted exercise. However! Don’t be dismayed, you are amongst your people. Readers and authors bond over books like nothing else! And you can always take breaks when you need to by yourself. 

Overall. I have found conferences to be invaluable. I’ve learned so much and have made life-long friends. I’ve also made industry contacts who have been exceptionally helpful. To help you out, here are some of the top mystery conferences that I’ve attended and a couple that I hope to attend next year. Check ‘em out! And comment if you have questions, thoughts, or concerns. Enjoy! 

Bouchercon: the World Mystery Conference. At different venues in North America every year, held in the fall. A large conference with a variety of readers and authors within the mystery genre from cozy, to hard boiled, to military, to thriller. Major awards: the Anthony Awards.

Malice Domestic: in honor of Agatha Christie and the traditional mystery. A medium sized conference held in Bethesda, Maryland (just outside D.C.) every year in the spring. Major awards: The Agatha Awards. There a variety of mysteries represented here, but an emphasis on the traditional mystery.   

Left Coast Crime: a medium sized conference held in early spring every year in a new venue on the west coast. Everyone is welcome, not just west coast writers and readers. Major awards: the Lefty Awards.

Killer Nashville: inspired for aspiring writers. A smaller conference, all are welcome, panels focus on writing and aspects of the mystery world. Major awards: The Silver Falchion Awards.

Magna Cum Murder: a smaller conference in Indianapolis held in the fall. A crime writing festival focusing on readers and writers of the mystery genre.

New England Crime Bake: a smaller conference based in the New England area, all are welcome but an emphasis on authors and readers from the northeast.

ThrillerFest: A large industry conference where you meet editors, publicists, agents and authors in the crime writing world.


  1. A great summary, and excellent points. May I add that Crime Bake includes master classes and agent and editor pitches? We do have attendees who come from all over the country.

    1. My comment didn’t come in as a reply;-) But YES feel free to always add any input about conferences, Edith! Meeting you at Malice last year was one of the best parts of the whole thing. Kindred spirits.

  2. Great info, Laurie. Thanks for sharing! I’ve found the most valuable things I get from conferences are the connections and friendships I make, both on the professional and personal level. Writing is a long game and being able to surround yourself with good people who share and understand your journey is a must!

    1. Agree, Jim! There’s a special bond with people who love to read and with writers. That creative journey is exceptional. It’s so fun to be able to share that with others who get it.

  3. Yes!!! Please add any helpful information! I love it:-). I wish I had attended conferences a lot earlier – I thought you had to be published to attend. They’re one of the best parts of my author life.

  4. Can’t wait to see you at Malice. That’s such a great way to connect with authors and fellow writers…. and I’ll be cheering you on, congrats on your nomination for an Agatha!!!

  5. Terrific post on the value of conferences. I would probably still be trying to get published if it weren’t for the people I met at conferences, especially Malice, Crime Bake, snd Sleuthfest—another conference to consider.

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