As soon as I started publishing mysteries in the mid-nineties, publicists and my editors urged me to go to the mystery conferences, especially Bouchercon.
I went, year after year, to half a dozen different conferences including one at Oxford, and I discovered that Bouchercon is in some ways highly over-rated.
I loved meeting fans there, and running into authors I admired. But I had more time with Walter Mosley when our paths crossed in Texas once than I ever did or could have at Bouchercon. I had dinner with him and a group, heard his read, and then we got together for drinks together and talked about the logistics of developing a series. It felt like a mini-workshop/retreat.
He’s gracious and charming wherever I’ve met him, but at Bouchercon, I got the sense with some authors that the motor was running and they were waiting for someone more important to come along while we chatted.
For fans, Bouchercon is a dream, a feast. But for authors who will admit it off the record, the conference is pretty much the same thing over and over. I’ve listened to some authors tell the identical anecdotes on more than one panel and the panels themselves, well…. It’s great if you haven’t heard it all before, but not so great if you’re a veteran.
Authors supposedly get terrific exposure at BCon. I don’t believe that’s true. The famous writers get exposure. The rest of us get eclipsed, exhausted and wonder why we bothered. I once chaired a standing room only panel with over 450 people there, and the recording was the best seller of the entire Bouchercon. Did it budge my books sales at the conference or afterwards? Barely.
I had spent $750 for a full page program ad, plus another $1000 on the hotel and air fare. For that money, I could have had a lovely weekend vacation with my spouse somewhere else, stress-free.
That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t go. But think about your goals, the reality of attaining them, what your budget is, and then consider smaller conferences like Magna cum Murder where you might do better and have more fun.
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