What is it that makes Cons so appealing? First of all what kind Con are we speaking of? Is it a scifi convention or writing conference? And are you going as a fan or an author or both?
I am Amy McCorkle and my first Con as a professional was the 2011 Fandom Fest/Fright Night Film Festival. I went as a way to promote my work and to get my name out there. As someone who writes under a pen name as well as my given name it was a great way to get my feet wet. I had a table with hardly anything on it, some bookmarks and trading cards and I sat next to a generous individual, Bertena Varney who showed me the ropes.
I learned valuable things on how to network and even found a publisher there. (My second one) Hydra specializes in speculative fiction.
Scifi Conventions are great events where everyone is a fan, even the authors, and everyone helps each other out. It’s a very inclusive atmosphere and the friends you make at one Con are very likely the people you’ll see at another and it’s a great way to network professionally and personally.
Writers Conferences on the other hand are places where there is a more business-like attitude. People are often there to learn how to get published. There are the exceptions like Romfest and RomCon which are reader oriented romance versions of the sci-fi cons, but when you go to a writers conference you are going somewhere to either learn something, learn how to sell your work, or promote your work.
I like both aspects of the conventions and conferences but often conventions are cheaper than conferences.
Whereas the membership fee for a sci-fi con is 30-50 bucks a straight conference can be 200-300 dollars at best for registration alone. And for those of us on a budget that can be intimidating. Especially when trying to bust through the slush pile.
A nice thing about sci-fi cons is that sometimes speculative fiction small presses are there to pitch too. The bigger conferences are nice to pitch to the agents. I haven’t been to any mystery conferences. Until this year. This year I have two or three of the more expensive conferences to attend.
I’m attending Romfest, Killer Nashville, and Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity. All of which are more expensive than Fandom Fest which I will be comped for. But these conferences could advance my career. I am looking forward to them as the camaraderie that one feels at these things is wonderful. And that is ultimately why I love the Cons and Conferences most of all.