Tuesday, March 3, 2009
A Look Back at SleuthFest 2009
By Chester Campbell
I attended the SleuthFest mystery conference at Deerfield Beach, FL the past weekend. It was the eighth Sarah and I have enjoyed, skipping only the 2007 event at Miami Beach (which was too costly). Around 250 people were there, mostly published and waiting-to-be-published writers. As usual, it was an excellent conference.
I participated on two panels–“Research” and “Private Eyes”–and sat through several others on various subjects. After you’ve attended twenty or thirty writers’ conferences, you hear a lot of the same stuff over and over. Now and then you get a new slant on a subject, but what I find most valuable is that I’m reminded of things I already know but have neglected to do.
So now I need to sit down and go over the ideas that have been refreshed in my mind and make sure I put them to use.
Guests of Honor are always interesting and inspirational. This year's headliners were Brad Meltzer and John Hart. Both told how they got their start in mystery writing and the paths they followed to the bestseller lists. Meltzer repeated a line I've heard from other bestselling authors: "Write what you're really passionate about. If you don't, it will show in your writing."
The other major thing I get out of conferences is the making of new friends and renewal of old friendships. The young unpublished author who moderated one of my panels bought two of my books and told me I was his new favorite mentor. I was quite flattered and hope I was of some help to him.
I met several other emerging authors at meal functions and answered their questions as best I could. I recall the jumpstart I got from attending my first SleuthFest before Secret of the Scroll came out. We sat next to Patricia Sprinkle at lunch one day, and she gave me several pieces of valuable advice. I also attended a panel where Nancy Cohen distributed a handout that contained an article she had written about things to do before your book is published. I still use those tips.
Among old friends we chatted with was Randy Rawls, this year’s SleuthFest chairman. We became friends at one of my earliest conferences and have served on panels together and attended many of the same events. Randy has experienced some of the same publisher problems I have, so we often commiserate with one another.
I don’t expect to sell many, if any, books at a conference. And with the current state of the economy, with gasoline prices and hotel stays on the increase, I’m cutting back on my travels, attending fewer conferences and more book fairs and similar events where selling books is the whole idea.
This Saturday, a writing colleague and I will have a booth at Goodpasture Christian School’s Marketplace. It is not far from where we live in Madison and where our grandson goes to school. I love to attend conferences, but finding a venue to potentially sell lots of books is a great opportunity not to be missed.
Check out Mystery Mania.