Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bouchercon – Another Perspective

by Kathleen Ernst


I’m back from my fourth Bouchercon, in San Francisco. I’ve attended a variety of mystery cons over the years, and honestly? I’m more at home at smaller gatherings. (Keith, I’m in awe of your networking ability!)

That said, though, I did enjoy the convention! Here are my top reasons why:

1. First and foremost, meeting readers. The opportunity to connect one-on-one is terrific. It often takes place informally. I try to strike up conversations with people I’m in the elevator with, sitting next to while waiting for a panel to start, waiting for the trolley.


I’d never been to San Francisco before, so I took advantage of the tour on Thursday morning. I enjoyed getting an overview of the city, and had fun chatting with some of the other travelers.

2. Meeting long-time writer-friends. In our biz, we’re often isolated geographically from our pals. I have friends I only see at these conferences, and it’s great to catch up.

3. Meeting new writer-friends. Names I’ve connected with on Listservs or blogs are now real people.

4. Being a MInker! It was fun to spend some time in the MI booth, with the wonderful array of titles spread out to entice passers-by. I think Steven Pomije could have sold cartons of books if that had been permitted.


Being in the booth also reminded me that while so many publishers are cutting their mystery lists, MI is going strong. Lots of people who stopped by had great things to say about the imprint.

5. Seeing—from a distance, usually—some of my own stars in the mystery world. Where else can you hear what Sara Paretsky has to say about maintaining tension, or listen to Dana Stabenow interview Laurie King, or attend a party thrown by Lee Child?


6. Meeting, or hearing from, industry professionals—reviewers, magazine publishers, editors and agents. It’s a great chance to hear what people in the biz think is hot, or not.

What was a bit more of a bummer: Not getting to see some of the people I’d hoped to introduce myself too. That includes some of my fellow MI authors! Bouchercon is so darn big it’s easy to miss folks. And I wish I’d had more time to explore San Francisco. (Chinatown was pretty cool.)

I’ll always find Bouchercon a bit overwhelming. But every time I go I make a few more contacts, and a few more friends. If you see me wandering the halls next year, be sure to say hi!


So…what’s your favorite conference, big or small?


Shel said...

Midnight Ink has some GREAT mystery authors!!!

Lisa Bork said...

Nice pictures, Kathleen. The MI booth looked great, especially with the three of you in front of it :) Thanks for sharing.

Small conferences make is easier to meet almost everyone on your list, but big conferences add so many interesting possibilities to that list. No preference here really.

Vicki Doudera said...

Kathleen, thanks for sharing your perspective. I'm going to "Crimebake" in a few weeks (NE branch of Sisters in Crime Conference -- anyone else going?) and I suppose that is considered a "smaller" convention? The only other one I've been to was Malice Domestic, and that doesn't sound as large as Bouchercon.

My favorite part of Malice was getting to know MI and other authors. The "normalcy" provided by meeting Gin, Alan, Lisa, Sue Ann, Elizabeth and others helped counteract the strange vibes I felt from my first ever glimpse into the fan subculture. I think as I go to more events, and as I get more books under my belt, I'll get even more out of them. It's going to be a matter of balancing time and money, something Snooki probably doesn't have to worry about...

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Nice post, Kathleen, and it was wonderful seeing you, even if only briefly. I've been to several B'Cons and this was definitely the best I've been to so far.

Terri Bischoff said...

Hey Kathleen - Bouchercon was great fun, though exhausting! Topping my list was seeing and meeting the Midnight Ink authors, many for the first time. I also met a ton of agents and perhaps a few authors to add to the line.

Thanks for letting me tag along with you to Chinatown. It was a nice night for a walk. :)

Beth Groundwater said...

Great post, Kathleen! I have to admit that I've been reading a lot of Bouchercon posts and looking at the photos since I didn't attend this year. It's nice to feel like I'm a small part of the action that way. And what a thrill it was to see the cover of my ARC on the table at the bottom center of your photo of the Midnight Ink booth!

I found the one Bouchercon that I attended (Indianapolis) to be pretty overwhelming. I prefer mid-sized conferences, such as Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic (both of which I'll be attending next spring) to the huge zoo of Bouchercon.

Darrell James said...

Kathleen- I wasn't able to make Bouchercon this year. Thanks for the long-distance peek. I've enjoyed it a lot in the past. Hope to see and "meet you in St. Louis" next year (wow, that sounds familiar, is that a line from a song?)

Kathleen Ernst said...

Shel - Thanks!

And Terri - getting the chance to know you and Steven a little better was definitely a plus of going!

Unless you're a complete extrovert, it may be easier to ease into the conference thing in smaller ways. Malice Domestic is fun, and I've been to Sleuthfest also. I've heard wonderful things about Crimebake, so Vicki, you'll have to report back!

Jody said...

Love to see your comment about meeting readers & striking up comments. Keep it up!
Rick Riordan earned me as a reader doing something similar. Rick struck up a conversation with me while we were standing in line to register at Bouchercon in Austin. When he started writing the Percy Jackson books, I got one for my grandson - who is now 17 and a committed reader and buyer of Rick Riordan's books.

Alan Orloff said...

Thanks for the recap, Kathleen, for those of us who couldn't make it. I've been to a couple Sleuthfests, a Bouchercon (Balt), a ThrillerFest, and a Malice and a half. Big or small, I've had a wonderful time at each one.

Keith Raffel said...

Kathleen, you look to be pretty convivial despite any protestations you might make. (Sorry we didn't meet up.)

Kathleen Ernst said...

Jody, thanks so much for the affirmation. It can be difficult for writers, who spend so much time living in their imaginary worlds, to switch gears and get out in the real world. And most of us worry constantly about coming across as too pushy. I love the opportunities conferences provide to simply chat.

Alan - hope to see you at Malice again next spring.

And Keith - next time for sure!

Alan Orloff said...

Kathleen, you bet! I registered last week. Maybe we can panel together again.