What kind of convention/conference is right for you?

The number of conferences and conventions that are available for writers to attend each year is staggering. How do you know what is the right con for you? Are you looking for a chance to meet authors? Are you hoping to network with industry professionals? Or just have a fun weekend celebrating your favorite kinds of books?

Types of conventions:

Genre conventions

Genre conventions cater to authors, fans, and industry professionals. Some of the large genre conventions include the World Science Fiction Convention, the World Fantasy Convention, and the World Horror Convention. While there may be a “workshop” track of programming, most of the programming is panel based, featuring authors, editors, agents, and fans discussing various SF/F/H topics.  You can usually find several panels on the programming discussing the publishing industry. For example, some panels have topics like “What Do Editors Do All Day?” and “The Future of Publishing.”

This kind of convention is great for networking in a casual atmosphere. There are parties every night where you can meet some of your favorite authors, as well as their editors and agents. As with all conventions and conferences, if you get the chance meet one of these nice people, use common sense. Don’t go straight into a pitch of your novel.

I met many of my friends in the industry at genre conventions. Be adventurous with the programming you attend. Many genre conventions host readings by authors. Readings are great opportunities to hear new works and discover new authors. If you enjoy a reading, head over to the dealer’s room, a room where books and other fun items are sold, and pick up a copy of the author’s book. Go to a signing and get your book autographed. It’s a great way to start conversation.

In addition to the large genre conventions, regional conventions happen all the time. Wiscon, an annual convention in Madison, Wisconsin is the “world’s leading feminist science fiction convention.” Boskone is an annual convention held in Boston, Massachusetts that celebrates genre fiction. Find local genre conventions near you!

Over the past few years, many genre conventions have hosted multiple panels on YA and middle grade genre fiction. How do we get kids reading genre fiction? What are the hot titles and why?

Fellow Pub Crawler Leigh Bardugo and I will be both be appearing on programming this Labor Day Weekend at the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago. Come say hi!

Writer’s Conferences

Writer’s conferences are conferences designed specifically for the aspiring author. Participants pay to have their work critiqued by agents and editors and attend panels about the industry.  For children’s authors, the largest writer’s conference is run by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. A typical SCBWI conference features panels by industry professionals, sessions with editors and agents that critique first page or first 10 page of a novel, sessions where writers can pitch their novel to agents, and all-around fun with other writers and illustrators of children’s books. Editors who participate in SCBWI conferences are asked to accept submissions from conference attendees for two months after the conference. These conferences are a great opportunity to chat with agents and editors who have a vested interest in guiding new writers.

Fan conventions

Fan conventions are about celebrating fandom. I’ll lump San Diego Comic-Con in this group because there isn’t much networking to be done at a con that large (unless you are trying to break into comic illustration, but that’s a whole other post). That said, Comic-Con is a great place to see some of your favorite writers, tv and movie stars.

The Harry Potter fan community has Leakycon which has turned into so much more than a Harry Potter celebration. With the addition of the literary track, Leakycon has become another place for YA writers to discuss the industry. FULL DISCLOSURE: I haven’t made it to Leakycon yet, but it is at the top of my convention bucket list.

What conventions and conferences have you attended? What was your experience?


14 Responses to What kind of convention/conference is right for you?

  1. Marc Vun Kannon Aug 20 2012 at 6:58 am #

    I’ve been to many cons over the last few years, not as an attendee but as a bookseller. (The only bookstore I could get my book into was one I created myself.)
    Generally I’m too busy in the dealer room to attend many panels, except for an event like Readercon. That con lasts four days but the dealer room is only open 2.5 of them, so I was able to sit in on some panels finally. They were much more dry and academic than most con panels, I understand, my publisher hated the event and stopped going after a day. I liked it, but that’s just me.
    Many of the cons I’ve been attending have been suffering from low turnout. I stopped going to some since they lost money for me, while others have been putting out warnings that they may not have future cons due to lack of interest.

    • thejordache Aug 20 2012 at 3:43 pm #

      I’ve always wondered about how costly attending cons is for booksellers. I will say, with rising membership costs to attend, members have to be picky about how they spend their money at the con. With most cons held at hotels with few food options outside of hotel restaurants, I always end up spending more money than I planned with all of the meals and unexpected dealer’s room purchases.

      • Marc Vun Kannon Aug 20 2012 at 6:49 pm #

        For us the expenses are the same, plus we have to pay for a space in the dealers room, which can be very expensive in the more popular cons. When attendance goes down or the fans don’t spend anything, the dealers stop going abd the fan becomes steadily less attractive as a venue.
        As a bookseller, I carry all my publisher’s titles, so I have some unknown works but not many new titles come out in a year. For me most cons break even or sometimes lose money, with the other events in the year pulling us barely back into the black. If I had to live on my bookstore sales I’d be dead now. For me it’s sort of a hobby and a mini-vacation that turns a profit.

  2. Megan Duff Aug 20 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Yay LeakyCon! I was just there a week or so ago and It. Was. AWESOME.

    LitTrack was a great experience, being able to listen to all of my favorite authors and meet them and learn from them. Besides being all kinds of fun it was also very beneficial and inspiring. One of my new life goals is to be one of the authors on the LitTrack panel 🙂

    I recommend LeakyCon/LitTrack to anyone. Also I am most definitely going next year even though Portland (Oregon! Portland, Oregon guys!) is a bit of a stretch for me distance and finance wise!

    • thejordache Aug 20 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      I know! Oregon is so far away from me. I love that even though all the books are out and there aren’t anymore HP films, Leakycon lives on. I will get there. Someday…

  3. Ellen Aug 20 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    I too have been to Leaky Con for the Lit Track, and it was glorious! There was a lot of really pertinent information being given out by authors/agents/editors, and also a lot of fun, goofy stuff going on as well. One of my favorite panels was “I was a Teenaged Author,” which featured a bunch of really successful YA authors reading some of the stuff they wrote when they were teenagers.

    All in all, I had a really great time, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to attend more conventions in the future.

    • thejordache Aug 20 2012 at 3:46 pm #

      The Lit Track seems like such a good time. I wish I could’ve heard some of those teenage written stories!

  4. Leigh Bardugo Aug 20 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    I was heartbroken to miss Leakycon. Definitely on my wishlist. Really looking forward to WorldCon (Chicon) at the end of this month. I went last year and attended some AMAZING panels on things like pirates, Victorian warfare, and of course, Dothraki! Will be a bit different to be there as a writer and presenter this year. Can’t wait to see you, Jordan!

    • thejordache Aug 20 2012 at 3:48 pm #

      I am so excited for WorldCon! There is some great programming lined up this year and I’m super pumped to visit Chicago. See you soon!

  5. JQ Trotter Aug 20 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    I haven’t attended any conventions or conferences yet, but I hope to in the 2013 year. This is a great article to help decide which are right. I’m going to try and hit up at least one genre convention and one writing conference.

  6. Katherine Aug 20 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    I’ve attended Romantic Times Convention for the past 4 years and the World Horror Convention last year.

  7. Dennis Dec 15 2012 at 7:54 am #

    Grub Street (Boston) holds its “Muse and the Marketplace” the first weekend of May, and it is a fabulous conference. Likewise, the Harvard Medical School course in nonfiction medical writing and publishing led by Julie Silver is incredibly useful for anyone writing in that genre.

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