Let's Talk About Writer's Conferences and Mystery Conventions
Yes, there is a big difference between a writer's conference and a mystery convention.
Though many mystery writers attend mystery conventions, they are primarily focused on the mystery reader/fan. The speakers might be a famous mystery writer or an expert in forensics. Panels will be about all sorts of topics and the panelists and moderators are usually authors with similar books. Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Mayhem in the Midlands, Malice Domestic are all mystery conventions.
Writer's Conferences are a geared toward writers and primarily set up to teach writers about writing and promotion. Recently I attended Epicon, which is the Epic organization conference for electronically published writers and their publishers. The programs offered were about writing and promotion. Publishers took appointments with authors. Unfortunately, the con was held in New Orleans in a hotel about 1/2 block from the French Quarter, so the offered classes weren't well attended because people chose to go sight-seeing.
I serve on the board of the Public Safety Writers Association as the Program Chair for the annual conference. The majority of PSWA's members are in the public safety fields or write about same--both fiction and none-fiction, and include many mystery writers as well.
The conference offers speakers who talk about all sort of topics that will interest authors from forensics to the craft of writing, including how to sell to magazines. There are panels too, so that any author who'd like to be on one can participate in a panel. (To be on a panel, the person must be registered by March 31.)
This year we have four small press publishers and one agent. They will take one-on-one appointments with those who sign up.
Because PSWA always holds a writing contest, the highlight for many is the luncheon on Sunday when the awards are presented in several categories.
If you'd like to know more about the PSWA conference, go to http://www.publicsafetywriter.com