Book Beat Babes

Book Beat Babes

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Here's Marilyn (F.M.) Meredith, With the LowDown on Conferences and Conventions

Today, I'm happy to host multi-published mystery author, speaker, and more, the amazing Marilyn (F.M.) Meredith, who offers valuable insights on conferences and conventions. - Morgan Mandel

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area, including the nearby Tule River Indian Reservation. She does like to remind everyone that she is writing fiction. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. 

Visit her at and follow her blog at

by Marilyn Meredith

Probably everyone who reads this will know the difference, but just in case, here’s my explanation. Conferences are more of the “how to” variety, how to write a mystery, how to create convincing characters, how to make sure you get your forensics right, how to kill someone off in a new and innovative manner, and so on. A mystery convention is geared to fans, those wonderful readers who love to read (and buy) mysteries and actually enjoy listening to authors talk about how they came to write their mystery, or how they did the research for it, or how they created their characters, and so on.

Many mystery writers attend both. At a mystery conference there might be one of the presenters telling how they do all of the above mentioned how-tos and of course, they will figure out how to talk about their own book in a subtle manner so those listening will be curious and want to buy their books.

At the convention, the mystery writer hopes to sparkle and entertain in the hopes that those listening will be eager to buy his or her book.

I’ve gone to lots of both types of mystery confabs. The biggest of course is Bouchercon. This one is held all over the country and has the biggest attendance of both fans and mystery writers. This is the place to see some of the biggest and most popular mystery writers in the business. It can be pretty overwhelming at times. You might make a new friend and never be able to find them again among the throngs of people. Long Beach, CA is the location for 2014.

Left Coast Crime is the second largest mystery con and always held on the left coast (though once that left coast was in Britain and another time in El Paso TX, and yet another in Hawaii. It’s smaller than Bouchercon, though many big name authors are always in attendance and lots of wonderful fans. This year it will be in Monterey, CA.

A fairly new one is Thrillerfest, always in New York, with lots of big name authors and opportunities to learn about the craft of writing thrillers.

Then there are other smaller cons and conferences like Love is Murder which is always in Chicago. Some big names attend this one too—just not quite as many because there just aren’t as many people who go. It is also a writer’s conference as there are lots of opportunities to learn about writing mysteries and there are usually a few publishers and agents in attendance.

A writing conference that is rather unique is the Public Safety Writers Association. The organization was started by a law enforcement officer for law enforcement officers who write or want to write. Over the years it has embraced other public safety fields and people who write fiction and non-fiction about any of the public safety fields and have included mystery writers.
This is the smallest of all the cons that I’ve mentioned, but it has top-notch experts in forensics and all aspects of law enforcement as well as publishers and editors on hand. Because it’s small, there is ample opportunity to network. Anyone who wants to be on a panel is welcomed. To learn more about the PSWA conference go to:

Other areas of the country hold smaller conferences too, way too many to list here, but you can easily do an Internet search and find them.

Some conferences and the hotels they are held in are more expensive than others, if you’re on a strict budget, that might influence you too.

My advice to anyone wanting to go to any convention or conference, register early. If at all possible, stay in the hotel where the con is being held. Plan to get to the conference a day ahead of time so you don’t miss anything. While at the conference, be friendly, talk to everyone. This is the best way to meet people. If you don’t have anyone to go to dinner with, ask someone to go with you. If they already have plans, ask the next person. Hand out your business card to everyone. If you’re fortunate enough to be on a panel, smile a lot, be funny, tell about your book but don’t go on and on about it, and don’t hog the panel.

Go to the panels that interest you the most. Hang out in the bar in the evenings—you don’t have to drink—just get acquainted with folks. And again, talk to people. Find out why they’re at the con—are they a writer, find out what they write, are they a reader? Tell them about your book.

And on a practical note, wear comfortable shoes and always have a sweater with you, sometimes the conference rooms are way too cold.

What are your favorite cons and why?

Marilyn Meredith

Marilyn’s latest mystery is Spirit Shapes: Ghost hunters stumble upon a murdered teen in a haunted house. Deputy Tempe Crabtree's investigation pulls her into a whirlwind of restless spirits, good and evil, intertwined with the past and the present, and demons and angels at war.

Please welcome Marilyn Meredith to Book Beat Babes by Leaving a comment.


  1. Welcome to Book Beat Babes, Marilyn! Thanks for the great information on mystery conferences and conventions.

    Morgan Mandel

  2. What a great recap, Marilyn!

    My fav conference is Killer Nashville which attracts readers and writers. For me, the strong forensic track and the access to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation folks who are so gracious in sharing their knowledge. The conference is about 5 years old and is held in late August in Nashville.

    Congratulations on your wonderful career!

  3. Thanks for having me, Morgan. And Maggie, not sure how great my career is, but I have a good time and I love writing. I enjoyed Killer Nashville too, a good conference.

  4. My favorite is EPICon, to be held in March this year in San Antonio, TX. ( It does not focus on genre-specific writing, but covers the gamut. There are always lots of panels and workshops, and we've never attended without learning something! We've also met many friends there--including Marilyn. Over the years, we have attended quite a few conferences and have enjoyed all of them.

  5. Epicon is a great conference--does focus on e-books only. And yes, I did meet Lorna at an Epicon and we've become great friends since that time.

  6. I've been to the Crime Bake in Massachusetts a few years ago. I made a lot of connections and I still write with them in mind today. A great experience, and a little cheaper than most. I live close enough so that, if I'd wanted to, I could've driven home and driven back the next morning. But I'm glad I didn't. I pitched to a lot of agents, made a (hopefully positive) lasting impression on a few, and even met a former professor / mentor of mine I hadn't seen in maybe 15 years! By the time all that was over, and I'd wined and dined with a few agents, driving home wasn't an option--but that's sometimes how contacts are made!

  7. Crime Bake sounds great. I always tell people they should stay in the conference hotel or nearby. Hanging out in the bar--even if you don't drink--can result in great contacts.

  8. I've never been to a writing convention, but I've attended several writing conferences and learned a great deal, plus had the opportunity to pitch to a few editors along the way.

    Thanks for being with us here at Book Beat Babes today!

  9. My favorite is Sleuthfest held each spring in Florida. Since I spend my winters there and set two series in rural Florida, I always go and have the opportunity to talk with many other Florida writers as well as writers, editors, agents and others running away from the cold.

    1. Hi, Lesley. I think we tend to go to the conferences that are nearest. However, back when I was younger and traveling was easier, I love going to Bouchercons no matter when it was. Got to see a lot of the country I wouldn't have otherwise.

  10. If you're a writer looking for a hands-on learning experience, the California Crime Writers Conference in Pasadena is top notice. It's two days (weekend) in June with four tracks about writing and marketing as well as experts in the field talking about law enforcement techniques. Two keynote speakers as well and a chance to talk to agents. The conference is every other year, next up in 2015, Sisters in Crime/LA and MWA/So Cal are the sponors/organizers.

    1. Sally is right, the California Crime Writers Conference is another great one.

  11. What a wonderful post, Thanks for all the updates on conferences/conventions. It's always good to view a few before going to one. So glad you could join us at BBB.

  12. Excellent wrap-up on the "con" scene, Marilyn. In earlier times my wife and I drove around the country attending various ones in both categories. I recall encountering you at many of them. After a few years, you've heard just about everything, except new developments in publishing, but I found one of the most useful results was to be reminded of things I should be doing but had forgotten.

  13. Yep, Chester, we did indeed bump into each other here and there. I'm finding it more difficult to fly so am sticking to closer places now.