Publishing, I find, has an unerring sense of timing. Other authors can back me up on this. If an author has a vacation, wedding, conference or other function to attend, that author will get revisions, edits, copyedits or galley proofs just prior to or during said event, along with a request that the work be done immediately. It doesn’t matter if you’ve planned your entire writing schedule around this event or whether the event was spur of the moment. The conflict will arrive.
This is what happened to me and Bouchercon. I missed most of the non-Lee Child related events of the con because I was upstairs in my room doing revisions.
Shot of Lee Child interview at Bouchercon
The bright side is that I had three days where I was uninterrupted by family, friends, chores, pets, laundry, cooking or intense needs to alphabetize the pantry. I had a small ziplock bag of roasted, unsalted mixed nuts and enough energy bars to have 4 per day plus a few for insurance and my own copious amounts of Yerba Mate. I went out for one meal while I was in the City. The rest of the time, it was mostly me, McFang, assorted nuts, Yerba Mate and energy bars.
Mostly I faced a view not unlike what you see below.
I attended a small number of panels, mostly when I was brain dead from revisions. My impression, limited though it was, is that the RWA panelists are by and large far more prepared and prone to stay on topic. But that impression is based on a very small Bouchercon panel sampling and my having listened to 99% of the panels for the last three RWA’s. I was surprised by the minimal publisher presence. Kensington was the only publisher I noticed doing much in terms of outreach to readers and writers. This strikes me as a mistake.
There were a lot of readers, booksellers, bloggers and librarians there and many of them thought they had to pay for ALL the books, including books that were clearly publisher freebies (to my RWA-ized eyes). In fact, I personally heard of a lot of attendees at the opening night signing say they were 1) looking for the cashier to pay for their free books they didn’t know were free or 2) declining to get signed books because they believed they had to pay for them. That night there was also a second room with food and more authors signing, but, again, many people, myself included, did not know about this room. There was no announcement and no signs pointing people to the overflow room. I would LOVED to have checked out more books and authors!
What I saw at Bouchercon
The panel of Kensington authors stayed on topic and spoke about serial killers. (Shiver) It was really really good. I went down and got all their books afterward. I left other panels because the presenters talked about their books (in detail) and NOT about the supposed subject of the panels. I did recognize several Harlequin editors, but there were no RWA style publisher presentations.
Bouchercon, however, has a very nice intimacy. It was easy and fun to talk to people, and I liked that there were a lot of male writers around, all the ones I met were very pleasant and interesting folks to talk to. I think many of these authors are making a mistake by not attending RWA.
There were a several things I think were pretty neat, such as right after a panel, the authors headed down to the Book Room where they were available to sign books. Kensington authors had stock to sign and give away, but the majority of other authors I saw did not. You had to find a bookseller to buy a book you wanted signed. Hmm. Makes sense for backlist titles, but frontlist or about to be released? Those books should have been put into the hands of all those readers and librarians — they’re your talkers, the ones who will generate sales now and in future.
View of the Bay Bridge from my Bouchercon Hotel Room
Here’s a tidbit for you: I came home with 20 books, signed and unsigned and that very afternoon, I drove to the bookstore and bought three more backlist books by authors I heard being talked about. Sheesh. My son says I’m hopeless and I think he’s right.
View of the Bay Bridge at night from My Bouchercon Hotel Room
The upshot is that I would go to another Bouchercon if it was close, but I don’t think I’d go out of my way to attend another, unless/until I start writing mysteries or thrillers.