I've been a huge advocate of writers conferences for the past twenty years. They're great for writers. You take workshops, gab with kindred spirits, meet pro authors and pitch your work to industry professionals. Conferences are awesome!
And once you're published, you still go to conferences because now you can lead the workshops, sit on the panels, and sign copies of your books for fellow writers.
But have you ever been to a Readers Convention?
There's a big difference between these two venues: Conference verses convention. There are benefits to both for authors, and for writers. Conventions are typically genre specific and targeted more toward the reader than the writer (though that distinction is blurred when it comes to romance conventions, which nowadays cover both).
When I lived in Colorado, I used to attend Denver's Mile High Con, a convention for fantasy and science fiction enthusiasts. It's a bit whackier than a conference, much more casual, and tends to have a festive atmosphere. Like a party. A costume party for fans young and old.
For example, readers sit in the audience while a panel of authors field questions, but unlike a conference, these questions are directed at specific books and characters created by the authors. No one is talking about plotting and black moments, or scene and sequel; the audience is asking if Zalgar and Princess Satrina will ever get hitched on the planet Zootsoo after the civil war. Or whatever. Point is, the readers at a convention don't care so much about the mechanics of writing a book, only about the story that's told.
Authors have an opportunity to read aloud to convention attendees. That can be exciting, and it motivates readers to buy your book in the convention Dealers room. The Dealers room is a little store where booksellers and artists sell their wares. They also have book signings there.
If you sponsor a Con Suite, you can promote yourself and your books to your heart's content. Just provide the munchies when you book the room for a couple of hours, and fans will follow their growling stomachs to find you.
Mile High Con isn't as big as World Fantasy Con or some of the other national conventions, so you won't see agents and editors milling around unless they've come to support their clients or authors. So no pitch sessions. As for workshops, you'll definitely see some of those, but not for writing. Instead you get to attend THE AVISTRUM Academy OF SORCERY, which is an interactive theater experience.
Another great thing about conventions is that they can be a lot less expensive than a conference. At least Mile High Con is. Only $60.00 for adults and $38.00 for kids covers the entire weekend.
A lot goes on at a convention, more than I can cover here. So if you want more specifics, visit www.milehicon.org for information about this particular convention. Not all cons have the same events, but I imagine they're similar. Whether you attend as an author or a fan, you're sure to have blast.