I got home last night after a long drive from Las Vegas. The DefCon 19 hacker security conference as always is a three day party. This was my sixth year attending and every year its gotten bigger and bigger. So what does this all have to do with writing and being an author? Simple, go to where your audience is.
The people in this picture not only are into computers at some level, but they also want to stand in the 100+ degree Vegas heat to watch other nerds take hot beer that's been sitting out there, and watch them run it through some home made contraption to try and cool it down to a drinkable temperature. These people are into everything besides computers. I have never seen so many guys in kilts, and steampunk getup outside Maker Faire.
I have read several articles about the value in attending conferences. Joe Konrath says there is no value in them. Sure you have the opportunity to meet other writers, agents etc. But for the non superstar author, in the end its going to cost you lot of money. I think whats missing from the Konrath rant is that from a non superstar authors point of view, attending a writer/agent/publisher conference or awards show is that your CUSTOMER is missing. Now if we come back to DefCon you would think that Microsoft or Adobe would want to set up a booth. Well... no they would get tarred and feathered. But the vendors that sell lock picking sets and smart ass tee shirts sell out quick.
I did not go to DefCon this year with the intention of selling books. I did not have a vendor booth or do a book signing. I took a small handful of books with me just in case the luck factor hit. Every time I met someone and when they asked what I do for a living, I told them that I was a steampunk science fiction writer. First, everyone knew what steampunk was, second everyone was thrilled to talk about something other than the latest exploit or vulnerability of Google. It didn't take me long to realize that there was an unusually high concentration of my customer here. It would have been nothing to sit at a vendor table and sell books all day long. So in conclusion, if the conference has your customer, then its worth going to.
There is a lot of thinking time on the road to and from Vegas. I can see the monetary value of attending the correct conference. DefCon 20 is less than a year away. If the trilogy is complete and enough time to secure a vendor table can be had. That could be a very break out moment. And Comi-Con, Maker Faire, San Japan, all could be excellent events to attend. So while it would be neat or even an honor to attend something like the Milford SF Writers Conference, it would simply cost me money. Everyone there is my competition or someone wanting to make money from my work, not my customer. So my closing question to you is this. Think about your work and where can you see being an absolute ideal place to have a lemonade stand set up to sell your book at?