I recently had the pleasure of attending Bouchercon, the international convention for mystery writers and readers, in St Louis. I’ve been in the publishing business for decades but until this year, I never published a mystery and never had a good excuse to attend. I think I need to write another mystery just so I can go back.

My background is as a romance writer. Yes, I’m an avid science fiction and fantasy reader, and I’ve sold several urban fantasies (not yet on the market), but I’ve spent years attending romance conferences and conventions. I love meeting readers and talking to my friends at these get-togethers, but I hate the tension of two thousand writers and wannabes in the same hotel, competing for attention. The need to be “on” all the time is overwhelming for an introvert like me.

Perhaps it’s because I have only the one mystery to my credit that I didn’t feel the pressure at Bouchercon. I had only one panel to moderate. I didn’t know any of the participants in advance. I was intimidated by the level of knowledge of my fellow historical mystery panelists, but I didn’t feel as if I had to compete with them. We were all there to entertain our readers. We could wear jeans or funky hats but it wasn’t our looks that readers cared about, it was what was in our heads. Which, admittedly, is a pretty scary place to be given the level of knowledge of murder and mayhem in this group!

I know sf/f has pure fan conventions, but I’ve not yet had a reason to attend one. Can anyone tell me if these are all about the reader experience as well? Or if I go, will I end up telling would-be writers that the market stinks, they’re better off self-pubbing, and that they have to learn grammar and composition before their fantasies can be translated to readable format? I’m plumb out of the magic elixir that will transform anyone into a writer. I want to talk books!

My one contribution to the mystery genre can be purchased here at Book View Cafe: Evil Genius




Bouchercon — 3 Comments

  1. I love sf/f conventions, although I find them overwhelming at times. For me, they’re a great chance to hang out with friends from distant parts, to encourage newer authors, and to get to know readers/fans. The trick is to decline to play the “shout louder for attention” game, but to carve out mini-communities of like-minded souls.

    I try to:
    — strike up a conversation with an author I haven’t met before, and to buy a book by one I haven’t read before.
    — follow-up on previous conversations, even if there isn’t time for a lengthy chat, just to keep connections current.
    — check in with the booksellers in the dealers’ room; in addition to seeing which of my books they carry and offering to sign stock, I thank them for their support and inquire about how they’re doing, what their concerns about the industry are.
    — spend at least a few moments with every fan who has a question or asks for an autograph; the corollary is that I try to make myself approachable and available. Obviously, healthy boundaries are a necessity here!
    — bring freebies as gifts for said fans.
    — express my appreciation for the con committee, singling out those who’ve gone the extra mile to make my participation more enjoyable.

  2. Science fiction conventions are a mixed bag as far as the programming goes. Some specialize in the reader’s experience, some on writing, some carry both kinds of programming. I’ve never been to a Romance con, but I’ve been to Bouchercons & Left Coast Crimes, and I prefer science fiction cons. I think they’re friendlier, but that may because I’ve been going to them for a long long time. Talk to some of your friends about which sf cons you might enjoy. I don’t know where you live so I can’t make specific recommendations.


  3. I also like SF cons. Most are reader friendly and have lots of fans, who just like books, gaming, media, costuming… Yu can treat them as business if you want to, and if it’s a con with lots of editors and pro writers. Otherwise, it’s simply hanging out with people who like SF, some writers and others not.