Let’s be real: crime fiction conferences are expensive and time consuming. But there are other ways to be part of the crime fiction community and you can do it from your own backyard.
Join A Crime Fiction Organization
Several genre groups support the crime fiction community. International Thriller Writers represents professional thriller writers from around the world. Mystery Writers of America is the leading association for professional crime writers in the United States. Romance Writers of America is dedicated to advancing the interests of career-focused romance writers (to include romantic suspense writers). Sisters in Crime (SinC) promote the ongoing advancement, recognition, and professional development of women crime writers. Each has online forums where members can engage in conversations about craft, community, and the writing business. Many have local chapters that host monthly meetings where members dive deeper into writing related topics and promote each other’s work.
If membership fees aren’t a good fit for your budget, still keep an eye on their calendar of events—not all are restricted to members only. Have a unique skill set? You can also reach out to their event coordinators and offer your expertise for one of their panels. These groups aren’t just interested in people with law enforcement backgrounds. The genre is filled with a wide range of subjects and amateur sleuths. Screenwriters, military service members, cyber experts, Animal Shelter volunteers, and librarians are just some of the guests who have been featured on panels at my local chapters. Take a chance. You never know what may interest them.
Use Your Local Library
Sisters in Crime has library liaisons at both the national and local levels. Often, libraries host SinC authors for presentations, panel discussions, writing workshops, and book clubs. These events are free to the public and a great way to meet other crime fiction writers and readers. For example, our local SinC chapter will hold a panel at a local library with authors who have stories in the newest Chesapeake Crimes anthology. You can check out your library’s calendar of events. Each SinC chapter has a website too. Chapter schedules are a great resource because they show events across the region rather than at one specific library. Not sure how to find your local chapter? SinC has a list on their national website.
Check out Book Festivals
Local book festivals are another great way to connect with crime fiction writers and readers. Some are free to attend. Others require a nominal fee for admission. A recent example held in Virginia is the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival. It’s sponsored by the Suffolk Division of Tourism and held each August. The Festival has onstage interviews with national best-selling mystery authors, workshops, panels, and book signings. Headliners this year were Charlaine Harris, author of the famous Sookie Stackhouse series—adapted by HBO as True Blood, and Toni L.P. Kelner, author of the Family Skeleton Mystery Series. SinC lists events like these on their national website. Your local media and libraries are also a great resource for information.
Connect through Social Media
Facebook groups exist for crime fiction fans and authors too. Each genre group and local chapter also have their own pages. And they are a great way to start conversations with other writers and crime fiction fans.
Tweet and use writing-related hashtags. A hashtag is a word or phrase used in tweets with the # symbol in front of them. In Twitter, hashtags become hyperlinks. Click on them to see other posts that contain the same hashtag. #amwriting, #amediting, #amquerying are popular examples. Excited about a new book? Use the book title and the author name in a hashtag and see if other readers are talking about it too. It’s a fun way to start a discussion thread.
Sharing posts from other writers on your social media is another way to stay connected. And you can continue the discussion in the comment section. Initiate contact with an author by commenting on their blog post. If you have a crime fiction related blog, invite others to guest post or offer to guest post for someone else.
Join a Street Team
Have a favorite author? Volunteer to be part of their street team. A street team is a group of fan volunteers that work together to promote an author’s work. This could include handing out fliers about a book at local events, talking about the work on social media platforms, leaving comments on blog sites, and providing honest reviews on book websites. As a benefit, members often get exclusive content, reveals, or excerpts from the author’s work in progress. Sometimes team members are part of brainstorming sessions for future book ideas. It’s a fun way to meet people who like the same books you do.
Attend Noir at the Bar
Noir at the Bar is a crime fiction writer event hosted at a local pub. Writers drink and take turns reading their noir short stories to fans. It started in Philadelphia in 2008 and has grown nationwide. Often, these events are advertised on social media making it easy to search for one in your area. If you are a noir short story writer consider reaching out to one of the event coordinators and become part of the line-up.
These are just a few ways writers and readers can stay connected to the crime fiction community without breaking the bank. With some creative thinking and research, everything we love about conferences—the workshops, the panels, connecting with other writers and readers—can be attained without the high price tag.
What are some creative ways you stay connected to the crime fiction community?
Stacy Woodson writes romantic suspense and crime fiction. She is a U.S. Army veteran and memories of her time in the military play a role in her stories. A Daphne du Maurier winner and Publishers Weekly contributor, her recent story, “Duty. Honor. Hammett.,” will appear in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. She loves staying connected. You can find her at www.stacywoodson.com.