I'm posting late because I had an internet outage, but it's back, so whew.
First, Happy Morning After Mars Landing!
I don't know about you guys out there, but my Inner Geek is having a summer of it. Some day I'd like to go to the ComicCon in San Diego and get my geek on, and this year I knew several people who went, including a cousin who got a press pass. Jealous!!
The ComicCon was always a fleeting thought, something I never intended to go to, until I discovered that they have various author panels there, as well. So wait, I can go drool over various actors and show creators, as well as visit panels about, say, Kick Ass Chicks in literature? Gasp! Suddenly, the face of ComicCon has changed, and it's a place I might really one day like to visit.
Thinking of ComicCon got me looking around at other conventions, as well as other writer's conferences. I discovered ReaderCon due to a news story about it. They had Peter Straub and Caitlin R. Kiernan this year. Wow! Then there's WorldCon, CryptiCon, ConnityCon...okay, that one's not real. Point being, there are tons of both conventions and conferences. Then there are retreats, individual workshops, you name it. In fact, here is a resource if you want to see what is available to you out there. They don't have everything out there, but it's a good leaping off point.
How do you decide what to go to? Firstly, are you looking for a convention or a conference? Are you going as a fan or to learn and network? If you're going as a fan, that one should be easy to choose, as you look for the convention which covers what you're a fan of.
If you're wanting a conference, that one may be harder. I'm lucky, in that I have a highly respected writer's conference right here, not five minutes from me: Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Though I might eventually want to try a different kind of writer's conference (possibly ReaderCon or WorldCon), for now I'm satisfied with all I get from my local conference.
Many don't have a local conference, or the local conference may not be what you're looking for. In that case, travel is going to be necessary, whether to a different town or a different state. Look at each conference you might consider and take into account the pricing, the type of activities offered (is it hands on workshops, seminars, pitches, a combination?), location costs (hotel, flight, food), the speakers and the subjects covered (just for non-fiction, children's writing, fantasy/sci-fi, horror, all of the above?). If you write children's books, you want to narrow it down to conferences that cover that subject, not go to a non-fiction conference.
Don't recognize the names of the speakers? Go online and research them, especially the editors and agents. See who they've represented, what they've helped publish. If what they're putting out is something you respect, they may be the right fit for you. If you still don't recognize what they're putting out, maybe wait for different opportunities.
As for pricing, conference rates vary widely. I've seen prices in the thousands, down to less than $100. Putting yourself in the poor house for a conference isn't a good idea. One fact I've seen repeated is that you are not likely to get a publishing contract out of a conference. Yes, there are conferences where you can pitch, but the acceptance rate is pretty low. You are going to a conference more to network and learn from industry experts and professionals than anything else. Going as a fan or going simply to pitch won't be the best ideas.
Other things to consider: Is it in an area you might like to visit anyway? You can play tourist the day before or after and get in a bit of a vacation. Will you be able to stay at the venue or are there hotels nearby? Would you be able to walk or take a shuttle, or will you have to drive in a strange town? Do you have friends in the area who might let you stay with them? Might a Con location be one you get sent to by work, so you could work during the week, but delay your return to attend on the weekend? Is food included in the price of the Con admission, or will you have to find food yourself? Is there a good selection of restaurants nearby? If this is a conference or convention that moves each year, might there be a year it will come closer to you? WorldCon has a listing of past conferences, as well as having two future years listed. I was interested to see that it comes through Denver, CO every so many years, so I can patiently wait for that one to find its way here in the future.
I'm sure there are many other questions you'll need to ask yourself that I haven't covered, but choosing the conference or convention that is right for you involves a lot of steps. Consider your choice carefully, but don't let it overwhelm you. Conferences are work, but they should also be enjoyable, at least in my opinion.
Ever been to ComicCon? What sorts of Cons, both conference and convention, have you attended or would you like to attend? Is there one above the rest that you'd like to go to? Or do you have no interest in going to one ever?
May you find your Muse.