Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Events Every Author Should Attend At Least Once

Whether you write science fiction or mystery, poetry or romance, ultimately you will have something in common with writers of different genres: the need to promote your work. While the Internet has opened new avenues of marketing to authors, from websites and blogs to social network hubs, there is still something to be said for meeting the reading public where they can be easily found. Some of the best places to meet readers, editors, and booksellers are book conferences and conventions.

Conventions are held around the world, all year 'round. Many of the larger, more established expositions are normally scheduled around the same time each year, allowing authors who attend multiple events to plan accordingly. Some conferences may include panels and seminars on the craft or on marketing, while others are strictly venues for authors to read and sell works. Some allow writers and industry professionals to connect, and others are geared mainly for readers wishing to socialize with their favorite authors. Some are held in an afternoon at a public library, others sponsored by colleges over the course of a week, and still others held in large exhibit halls. Regardless of size and name recognition, any book event is worth attending for an author looking to promote a book.

Any author serious about learning more about the industry, learning what readers want, and reaching readers and booksellers should consider making time to attend at least one book festival, fair, or conference a year. Some may require travel and other expenses - booth rental, promotional materials, accommodations, but in the end the spending can be justified with the opportunity to expose your name and work to a new audience. You may not sell out at every event you attend, but you have at least the chance to imprint your work in the minds of interested readers. A simple bookmark handed over to a passerby may yield a future sale. Word of mouth remains on the most powerful marketing tools for writers - and you have to go where the mouths are.

That said, here is just a short list of recommended events I think every author should attend at least once. Some are expensive, yes, but worth the time to travel and stay. Many are genre specific, but the conferences and seminars offered at some may be applicable to any writer trying to make a sale. Consider planning a vacation around one of these events, and bring business cards. You never know...you just may meet your future agent in an elevator at one of these events.

Book Expo America - One of the largest publishing trade expos in the world. This 3-4 day event is usually held in late May, early June in a major US city (2006 was DC, 2007 is NYC, 2008 is LA). Here all the major book pubs (and a good number of small presses) display their forthcoming catalogs to reviewers and booksellers. Lots of big names come to this event.

Romantic Times - One of the largest book conventions dedicated to the romance genre and sub-genres, a fantastic place to meet readers and industry professionals alike. This event is usually held in the late spring, April or May, and also travels (2006 was in Daytona Beach, 2007 in Houston, 2008 in Pittsburgh). The Saturday book fair exposes authors to hundreds of readers.

Bouchercon - The oldest and perhaps most influential mystery convention, a great place to meet mystery authors, publishers, specialty booksellers, and others involved in the genre. This travel also (2006 in Madison, WI, 2007 in Anchorage).

Malice Domestic - Another, smaller mystery convention with a focus on the cozy genre. This one is always held in the Washington, DC area around the spring, April or May, and distributes the annual Agatha Awards.

DragonCon - DragonCon is not strictly a book convention, but very book friendly. DragonCon celebrates science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and everything in between. This con is held annually in Atlanta, usually around Labor Day.

RWA Annual Conference - The annual RWA conference brings in the heavy hitters of the romance industry: agents, editors and publishers. If you are a member of Romance Writers of America it is a great place to network.

EPICon - A small but growing annual convention, EPICon's focus is electronic publishing. Here you can learn about the growing industry and meet eBook publishers, and attend the annual EPPIE Awards. This con travels and is usually held in the early spring (2007 in Virginia Beach, 2008 in Portland, OR).

Remember, too, for every con you attend you can write off your promotional expenses!

Kathryn Lively is the author of Dead Barchetta, a Lerxst Johnston mystery.

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