by Vinnie Hansen
As authors, we often attend conventions. Probably you have done so as well in the course of your career.
After several Left Coast Crime Conventions and one Killer Nashville Convention, as a painful introvert, I finally have the hang of how to enjoy these events. This is the wisdom I’ve gleaned:
1. See the venue. On my trip to Nashville, exhausted as I was, I caught a hotel shuttle to the downtown strip at night and walked place to place until I heard music that appealed to me—The Don Kelley band at Robert’s.
At the recent Left Coast Crime, the sun was shining when I arrived in Portland. Knowing the weather wouldn’t hold, I seized the moment and walked to Powell’s Books. These were unforgettable experiences. In both cases I went with another person I didn’t know well. I feel bonded to them through the shared activity, which brings me to tip #2.
2. Attend the convention alone. If you go with a good friend or spouse, you’ll spend too much time together. It’s natural, especially for a shy person like me. A huge benefit of a conference is meeting other writers and making new friends. Which brings me to tip #3.
3. Park the idea that the conference is mainly about selling books. All writers want book sales, but that’s my point. Attendees can develop marketing fatigue. They tire of people thrusting books in their faces. Calm down. Let people get to know you. Share yourself. Then maybe they’ll buy your book. But . . .
4. Be prepared. Take bookmarks and/or cards and have them handy. Tuck some in the conference lanyard pocket. I kick myself for every time I had interest in my book and was not able to hand the person my info.
5. Promote others. If you like someone else’s book, give it a plug. It builds friendships and good karma.
6. Get involved. I’ve asked for and been lucky to receive panel assignments at all the conventions I’ve attended. I’ve made lasting connections with my panel mates. But volunteering is another way to form bonds. I don’t regret a minute of the hour I spent “manning” the Sisters in Crime table in Portland, or the time I spent helping Robin Burcell heft around boxes of books in Monterey.
7. Observe your surroundings. As writers, isn’t that imperative? I met people who holed up in their rooms to make their word counts and I admire their discipline. But what do we write about if we don’t observe what’s around us?
8. Take photos. They are so important for follow-up Facebook posts or blogs like this one. And, at my age, they really help me to remember all those people I met!
These simple practices have transformed my convention experience from intimidating to stimulating.
Have you had to attend conventions for your job? How do you feel about them?
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