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Thread: CrimeFest

  1. #1
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    CrimeFest

    Yesterday I blogged about how writers should be paid for speaking at conferences, and not treated as a free resource; and as a result I've just been sent a link to Crimefest, a UK-based festival of crimewriting now in its third year.

    It all looked quite interesting until I read this part:

    AUTHOR INFO
    To qualify for a panel slot authors are required to register for a full CRIMEFEST pass.



    All authors published commercially in the UK in the English language are eligible for a panel. This includes translated authors. Authors not published in the UK should contact the organisers at info@crimefest.com regarding panel eligibility.


    Authors with recent publications (2010/2011) receive priority, but the aim is to give everyone at least one panel. Where possible, authors with two panels will be scheduled on consecutive days. (Specific dates may be requested but can not be guaranteed.)



    Prospective panellists are asked to send a brief bio (up to 75 words) and a photo (jpg/tiff file at 300 dpi) by either email to bio@crimefest.com or by regular mail. Photos will not be returned.

    On the registration page I find that full registration costs £110.


    So in order to be even considered for a place on a panel you have to buy full registration at £110, and even then you're not guaranteed a spot.

    Surely this isn't how places on panels are usually allocated? I'd be grateful if someone with more experience of conferences would comment.

  2. #2
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    This is pretty much how it goes at SF/F conventions. The only people who get in for free are guests of honour (+ organising committee). I've done panels and run workshops at Eastercon and still paid the registration fee.

  3. #3
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Really? I'm amazed. Can you give me names of some more of those conventions? I'd like to find out more about this, as it seems quite extraordinary to me.

  4. #4
    Do Not Walk on the Grass Emily Winslow's Avatar
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    Bouchercon (crime/mystery conference), which is huge, works this way. Published authors register same as aspiring writers and fans, pay full cost, and consider themselves lucky to get assigned to a panel.

    I'll be there in 2 weeks, and I'm really looking forward to it!

    ETA In contrast, I was on a panel at the AIW conference in DC this past June, and my registration fee was waived. (But no expenses (travel, etc.) covered.)
    Last edited by Emily Winslow; 10-03-2010 at 02:08 AM.


    "[Winslow is] brilliant at portraying the ragged fragments of these lives. What emerges isn't a single killer with motive and means, but a tangle of stories crossing and colliding, stray intersections of incidents and accidents, misunderstandings and misreadings, all thanks to the myopia of individual perspectives and the self-centeredness of individual desires.”
    -Washington Post

  5. #5
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    The number of panelists at a typical SF/F convention is huge, easilly in the three figures. If they waived the fees for every single panelist, it would be even harder for them to meet the con's expenses. I don't have a problem at all being on a panel or two and not getting my con fee waived; there are other perks that more than make up for that hour or two of my time.
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  6. #6
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waylander View Post
    This is pretty much how it goes at SF/F conventions. The only people who get in for free are guests of honour (+ organising committee). I've done panels and run workshops at Eastercon and still paid the registration fee.
    I've done panels at two Worldcons and had to pay the registration fee both times (Worldcon will sometimes give a refund if they make enough money). I think I might also have paid for Arisia. I've gotten comped at Balticon, though, so it depends.

    - Victoria

  7. #7
    I grow my own catnip JulieB's Avatar
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    It depends on the specific convention and their policies.As a writer, I've been comped for some conventions, and paid a membership for others. It varies.

    ETA: Many literary SF conventions in the US are put on by non-profit corporations, so they're on a shoestring budget. These aren't the big "shows" where you pay a huge fee to attend, then pay another fee to get an autograph. The staffs are made up entirely of volunteers. If I were speaking at a for-profit conference, I would want to be compensated. But that's just me.
    Last edited by JulieB; 10-03-2010 at 04:06 AM.

  8. #8
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Well. I am amazed. This seemed to me to be so completely wrong when I first read it. Thank you for putting me straight.

    I have a question, though, and I'll quote JulieB to make it. This doesn't mean I'm pointing at her, just so you all know.

    Quote Originally Posted by JulieB View Post
    Many literary SF conventions in the US are put on by non-profit corporations, so they're on a shoestring budget. These aren't the big "shows" where you pay a huge fee to attend, then pay another fee to get an autograph. The staffs are made up entirely of volunteers. If I were speaking at a for-profit conference, I would want to be compensated. But that's just me.
    If these SF conventions are not-for-profit (ha! typed "not-for-prophet" first time!), are staffed mostly by volunteers, and don't pay the people who speak on panels etc., then where do all those registration fees go? Do the events typically attract relatively few attendees? Do they charge a low registration fee (because CrimeFest's £110 isn't low in my opinion)? Do they happen in expensive venues? Or am I missing something?

    I'm not trying to pick holes here, I just want to get a better understanding of how this thing works. Thanks all for your comments so far. You're very kind.

  9. #9
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
    If these SF conventions are not-for-profit (ha! typed "not-for-prophet" first time!), are staffed mostly by volunteers, and don't pay the people who speak on panels etc., then where do all those registration fees go? Do the events typically attract relatively few attendees? Do they charge a low registration fee (because CrimeFest's £110 isn't low in my opinion)? Do they happen in expensive venues? Or am I missing something?

    I'm not trying to pick holes here, I just want to get a better understanding of how this thing works. Thanks all for your comments so far. You're very kind.
    Costs would include venue expenses (in the UK, for example, there are only so many hotels that can handle the number of attendees of, say EasterCon, and those don't come cheap), GoH expenses (which are covered), publications given to all attendees, several parties where refreshments are provided, advertising, shirts for volunteers, ID badges, massive IT expenses to handle all the computer stuff, gosh, the list goes on and on. I'd imagine most of the cons barely break even, and when there's money left over, it goes toward the next year's con.
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  10. #10
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    Guessing, but I would expect that hire of the venue takes a major chunk of the money. The cons I've been to in the UK are mostly in large hotels with conference facilities such at the Heathrow Marriott. Somewhere over 1300 people attended Eastercon this year. Then there's stuff like insurance, VAT, travel + accommodation for the Guests of Honour. The fee structures is generally that they are pretty cheap if you register early (it is currently £55 to join Eastercon 2011) but get more expensive as you get closer, book a week before and it is pricey.

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW para's Avatar
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    Hotels use their conference facilities as a licence to print money. You pay for the room (which isn't cheap), then you have to pay extra for stationery (huge huge mark up), equipment hire, photocopying, refreshments etc. the list goes on.


  12. #12
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    That's the way it goes at many SF conventions, indeed. The panelists are members of the convention, just like anyone in the audience (and the guy at the table at the front of the room at this panel will be in the audience at the next panel). We're all part of the community.

  13. #13
    time-traveler nic_ford's Avatar
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    As a new writer I'm amazed by this. Does this just apply to 'fan conventions' or are there literary conventions where writers, etc are paid to appear?

  14. #14
    I grow my own catnip JulieB's Avatar
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    What Terie and Jim said. I'm also a conrunner. I've been doing this on and off for 30 years. I certainly don't get any financial reward from this.

    One reason most of these non-profit conventions are small and regional in scope is to keep costs down. To answer Old Hack's question, we work to keep membership costs low. How low are they? In our region they're in the $40-50 range at the door for a three-day event, and if you pre-register you can get in for as low as $20, depending on the convention. Prices (non-profits call them "memberships" rather than "tickets") vary by locale and scope of the event. Hotel costs in some cities are notoriously high.

    As Jim pointed out, many writers who attend pay just like everyone else. (Swapping for my writer hat now...) Most of us sit on a few panels, maybe do a reading and or a signing, but we also go to learn or to just have a good time. In most cases the panels don't require the kind of prep that would happen when you do a solo event. Generally, it's a bunch of writers (and artists, and sometimes fans) sitting at the front of the room talking about the subject at hand. It could be anything from character development to writing query letters to a spirited debate on their favorite Doctor.

    We also attend these events to converse, confer, and otherwise hobnob with our fellow writers and editors. And yes, business does get done. I got my first pro sale as a result of a convention.

    These are different beasts than the literary events you wrote about in your blog, Old Hack. When I attend something like that, there usually is some sort of honorarium involved.

    I hope that answers your question.

  15. #15
    Do Not Walk on the Grass Emily Winslow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JulieB View Post
    We also attend these events to converse, confer, and otherwise hobnob with our fellow writers and editors. And yes, business does get done. I got my first pro sale as a result of a convention.

    These are different beasts than the literary events you wrote about in your blog, Old Hack. When I attend something like that, there usually is some sort of honorarium involved.
    Why do you feel that Crimefest is "a different beast" with regard to panels?

    I haven't been myself, but from the description it seems similar to me. Writers go for networking, inspiration, etc., and participate in various ways, such as panels which, as you said, don't require the kind of prep of a solo event, and have the side effect of promoting their books.


    "[Winslow is] brilliant at portraying the ragged fragments of these lives. What emerges isn't a single killer with motive and means, but a tangle of stories crossing and colliding, stray intersections of incidents and accidents, misunderstandings and misreadings, all thanks to the myopia of individual perspectives and the self-centeredness of individual desires.”
    -Washington Post

  16. #16
    I grow my own catnip JulieB's Avatar
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    CrimeFest appears to be an event that's nationwide in scope, which still makes it a bit of a different beast. Victoria mentioned Worldcon above, and that might be a slightly better comparison in that it's a large convention, everyone pays, and there are plenty of well-known authors hanging about.

    I don't see any attendance figures, but I'll bet they're larger than what we have at the regional SF conventions. It costs a lot more to put those type of events on.

    Regional events are well, regional in scope. The organizers are able to put these events on because so many folks give of their time to attend and help out behind the scenes. Again, a lot of these type of events are run by non-profits. They generally have a designated charity.

    CrimeFest has sponsors and gorgeous awards and a gala dinner. We have ... a consuite with hot dogs! We have vegetarian and gluten-free fare, too, but you get the idea of our budget. ;-) We don't charge extra for food, but donations are gladly accepted.

    Finally, I hope no one takes my remarks as putting down CrimeFest or any other events. On the contrary. It looks like a fun convention and I wish I could scrape the money (not to mention airfare from where I live!) together to attend.

  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW para's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JulieB View Post
    CrimeFest appears to be an event that's nationwide in scope, which still makes it a bit of a different beast.
    Be that as it may Britain is a much smaller country. The UK could fit into California with space to spare.

    I don't see any attendance figures, but I'll bet they're larger than what we have at the regional SF conventions. It costs a lot more to put those type of events on.
    How big are your regional SF conventions? There are attendance figures are available for CrimeFest here: http://www.crimefest.com/whatis.html Click on either LeftCoastCrime or 2008,2009, 2010. Then click on programme or participants. You get a list of those who attended (I dumped them into excel). The most that attended in 2006 was 338. In 2009 there were 233 and 2010 there were 225. There are over 100 authors attending.

    Compare this with WorldCon's attendance figures taken from here:http://www.sfwa.org/2010/04/a-future-for-worldcon/
    2006: 5,738 / 6,291
    2009: 3,912

    World Con is between 11 and 17 times as big. They are completely different animals. If you take CrimeFest's attendance figures of 225*£110= £24,750. I doubt that they will have much left, if anything after putting on the convention. I suspect the staff are volunteers.

    CrimeFest has sponsors and gorgeous awards and a gala dinner. We have ... a consuite with hot dogs! We have vegetarian and gluten-free fare, too, but you get the idea of our budget. ;-) We don't charge extra for food, but donations are gladly accepted.
    CrimeFest charges for the awards dinner and the awards donated by the sponsor. Looking at the sponsor's website the awards are blue glass vases which they sell for £60 which I assume includes a profit margin.


  18. #18
    Do Not Walk on the Grass Emily Winslow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JulieB View Post
    CrimeFest appears to be an event that's nationwide in scope, which still makes it a bit of a different beast. ...
    Regional events are well, regional in scope. ...
    CrimeFest has sponsors and gorgeous awards and a gala dinner. We have ... a consuite with hot dogs!
    Ah, perhaps I misunderstood. I took your earlier comment to mean "SF conventions not paying their panelists is totally fine. CrimeFest, however, *should* pay their panelists."

    But if your reasoning is that they should pay because their venues and food are more expensive? That actually leads me to the opposite conclusion: they need everyone to pay the reg fee just to have a venue and events at all.

    As I said above, Bouchercon, the big US conference for crime and mystery, is national, and is run just the same as Crimefest and the SF regionals in that their panelists pay to attend. I don't think "mystery" and "SF" conventions are so different from each other, at least not in terms of reg fees and panels.


    "[Winslow is] brilliant at portraying the ragged fragments of these lives. What emerges isn't a single killer with motive and means, but a tangle of stories crossing and colliding, stray intersections of incidents and accidents, misunderstandings and misreadings, all thanks to the myopia of individual perspectives and the self-centeredness of individual desires.”
    -Washington Post

  19. #19
    time-traveler nic_ford's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by para View Post
    How big are your regional SF conventions? There are attendance figures are available for CrimeFest here: http://www.crimefest.com/whatis.html Click on either LeftCoastCrime or 2008,2009, 2010. Then click on programme or participants. You get a list of those who attended (I dumped them into excel). The most that attended in 2006 was 338. In 2009 there were 233 and 2010 there were 225. There are over 100 authors attending.

    Compare this with WorldCon's attendance figures taken from here:http://www.sfwa.org/2010/04/a-future-for-worldcon/
    2006: 5,738 / 6,291
    2009: 3,912
    Interesting figures you quote there para. At that rate it won't be long before Crimefest has more authors than 'fans'?

    I find the assumption that at £110/head (or other variants of attendance) the convention doesn't make money interesting. I guess without seeing accounts we'll not know for sure.

    I am still unable to be comfortable with the you 'pay to appear' at a convention scenario though. I wonder are other professionals treated in this way or is this something peculiar to 'fan conventions'?

  20. #20
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nic_ford View Post
    I am still unable to be comfortable with the you 'pay to appear' at a convention scenario though. I wonder are other professionals treated in this way or is this something peculiar to 'fan conventions'?
    I think you're missing the point. When you participate as a panelist in a 45-minute panel, you aren't 'appearing' at the convention; you're participating. The guests of honour 'appear', and their expenses are paid.

    I mean, really. You go to a convention, where you get all kinds of freebies (not to mention the amazing support services of volunteers), get to attend any number of panels (easily 30 or more if you really wanted to), get to socialise with other readers as well as favourite authors....and you'd have a problem that, if asked to be on a panel for a mere 45 minutes, you wouldn't get your fee paid? Is your contribution of 45 minutes of free-form chat on a panel worth the convention fee (£50-£100, or more) plus all the above?

    As I mentioned earlier, the perks you get for being on a panel (free PR, free drinks, some recognition, and so on) are plenty recompense for the 45-minutes you sit there chatting. To me, anyway. I have no problem whatsoever with only the GoHs getting their expenses paid.

    The people who do the hard work at cons are the volunteers, not the panelists. Volunteers typically don't have to pay, and that's totally fair because they put in hours and hours and HOURS of work. A panelist who shoots the, er, bull for 45 minutes (even if they do it on several panels) doesn't even compare to volunteers. If panelists got their fees comped, the con would have far fewer panels (because they couldn't afford to pay many by comping their fees) and the panels they had would have fewer panelists. And then they wouldn't draw as many participants, because folks wouldn't think they were getting their money's worth. You see how it all works?

    As Uncle Jim said above, 'We're all part of a community.'
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  21. #21
    time-traveler nic_ford's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terie
    I think you're missing the point. When you participate as a panelist in a 45-minute panel, you aren't 'appearing' at the convention; you're participating. The guests of honour 'appear', and their expenses are paid.
    No I'm not missing the point - no-one's time is (necessarily) free. The time it takes for 45 minutes of 'shooting the breeze' takes much longer than 45 minutes & costs run to more than the 'entry fee'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Terie
    ...Is your contribution of 45 minutes of free-form chat on a panel worth the convention fee (£50-£100, or more) plus all the above?
    I guess it depends what you want from the event and how the event is run. But no not for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Terie
    ...If panelists got their fees comped, the con would have far fewer panels (because they couldn't afford to pay many by comping their fees) and the panels they had would have fewer panelists. And then they wouldn't draw as many participants, because folks wouldn't think they were getting their money's worth. You see how it all works?
    I see very well how it works, I just don't agree with it.

  22. #22
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nic_ford View Post
    I see very well how it works, I just don't agree with it.
    Well, I'd rather attend a lively convention with lots of participants, than a dull one with just a few, so I'm glad it works the way it does. We shall simply have to agree to disagree.
    Changing Gears (available now) -- Winning the race doesn’t equal winning at life.

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  23. #23
    time-traveler nic_ford's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terie View Post
    Well, I'd rather attend a lively convention with lots of participants, than a dull one with just a few, so I'm glad it works the way it does. We shall simply have to agree to disagree.
    You are now missing the point. But yes we'll agree to disagree.

  24. #24
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nic_ford View Post
    You are now missing the point. But yes we'll agree to disagree.
    No, I'm really not. I do not believe in giving my time away for free. What I'm saying is that what I get in exchange for my time on a panel (free PR to hundreds and even thousands of readers in my genre and so on) is recompense enough.

    If it's not recompense enough for you, you'll obviously turn down any invitations.

    But the model you support would have the effect of shrinking or even shutting down some conventions, and that's why I don't support it.
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  25. #25
    time-traveler nic_ford's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terie View Post
    No, I'm really not. I do not believe in giving my time away for free...
    No neither do I, except for particular choices. Nor do I believe I should pay for the pleasure of 'participating' in a 'fan convention' if I am not there as a fan - this is the point you miss. (I do not believe most authors are there for the love of the convention!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Terie
    If it's not recompense enough for you, you'll obviously turn down any invitations
    But I don't need an invite if I'm participating, I just pay apparently.

    But the model you support would have the effect of shrinking or even shutting down some conventions, and that's why I don't support it.
    Well I would. If there were less conventions then maybe the authors participating could be paid for their appearances (because that is what they are - any other wording is just fudging) - the fans would still be 'around'.

    Back to the OPs point, certainly in the UK there seems to be a smearing of distinction between 'fan events' and literary festivals. There is also a large boom in the number of literary events being run - every small town has one. If they are being run on the back of charging punters but not paying authors then it's not a 'business model' I can agree with. I think an author should be valued and paid accordingly.

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