Get Ready for Your Next Writers’ Conference

If you’re thinking of attending a writer’s convention, conference, or festival next year, now’s the time to start your research.

I didn’t go out much the past two years, but I attended online literary readings and festivals. These virtual events have benefits for fiction authors. You promote your books without leaving the house. People around the world can learn about your writing. But in practice, my online promoting didn’t draw many newcomers to my work. I also found virtual connection less satisfying than face-to-face talks and hearing audience members laugh when my jokes work.  

This winter, organizers of large-scale events had to decide to stay virtual for another year, or risk booking convention hotels months before they’d know what the Covid situation would be at the time. Calgary’s When Worlds Collide Festival chose to remain online this August. The Surrey International Writers’ Conference opted for a hybrid mix of virtual and live components in October. The Bouchercon World Mystery Convention will be fully on-site this September in Minneapolis.

In October 2017, I attended Bouchercon in Toronto to promote my recently published novel, Ten Days in Summer. Most years, this large convention takes place in the United States, but Toronto has hosted the annual event three times. I decided to combine book promotion with visiting relatives in eastern Canada and registered for Toronto Bouchercon almost a year in advance.

If you’re thinking of attending a Writer’s convention, conference, or festival next year, now’s the time to start your research.

It’s best to register as soon as you can to get Early Bird rates and heads-up emails about opportunities at the event. For instance, Bouchercon produces an annual short story anthology, composed of stories written by attendees. The year I went, the submission deadline was nine months before the convention. Those who registered later were out of luck. My story was accepted and became a convention bonus—a new writing credit and a seat at the anthology signing table. Likewise, there was a deadline for registrants to apply to sit on a panel, often the best way to make yourself known at a convention. Some conferences offer master classes, pitch sessions, and other activities that can fill up quickly.

After I registered for 2017 Bouchercon, I emailed the Toronto Public Library with ideas for presentations I could do around the time of the convention. A TPL branch fit me into Friday night to talk about hoarding, the subject matter of my novel. They let me sell books and made sure their library had copies of my novels. Libraries tend to plan months in advance to get the program information into brochures and on their websites and to create posters.

While travel is a fun part of book promotion, it’s expensive.

This led me to apply to the Alberta Foundation for the Arts for a marketing grant to attend Bouchercon. My budget included expenses for airfare, hotel, meals, convention fees, print supplies and copies of my book I donated to a silent auction. Due to the granting timeframe, I only learned that I’d get the grant after I’d committed to going. If your attendance will depend on grant money, you should look into applying over a year ahead of the event. AFA will also fund unpublished authors to attend a conference for training and career development. Other provinces have similar grant programs. It takes time to complete a grant application and there’s no guarantee of success. But a side-benefit of writing a grant proposal is that it helps focus your goals for the conference, convention, or festival.

My next novel is scheduled for publication in fall 2023. I’d better get started planning my steps to promote the book in the real live world.

About Susan Calder-Arnold

Author of To Catch a Fox (BWL Publishing, 2019) and A Deadly Fall (BWL 2019), Ten Days in Summer (BWL 2017), and Winter’s Rage (BWL 2021), books 1, 2 & 3 of the Paula Savard mystery series. 
BWL Author Page  

“And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” – Lennon-McCartney

Leave a Reply