Some Things to Know Before You Go

With Bouchercon coming up in August, I thought it might be useful to share a few tips for anyone who is going for the first time…some things may be useful for mystery cons in general. (And experienced con attendees, please add your suggestions too.) 

Panel Hop (It’s Fine). There are so many panels scheduled that choosing among them seems impossible. But at Bouchercon 101, the very first panel I attended, they said it was acceptable to come and go as you please. So you can theoretically hit multiple panels during the time allotted for one, if you so choose.  

Meet Many Authors Fast. In addition to the panels, I highly recommend going to Author Speed Dating and New Author Breakfast events, where you’ll meet many writers very fast and hear all about their books. Your To-Be-Read list will overflow with goodness!

Prepare For A Book Bonanza. The conference bags are full of free books (yay). Also, publisher reps will sometimes give out books. Also, there are books for sale.  Also, you can bid on books in the silent auction. Also, you can win books at certain events. And on top of that, there are bookmarks and other swag everywhere. So here is something important to know: the conference often arranges for a UPS table so that shipping your newly acquired goodies home can be a snap. Here’s another tip: check in at registration and pick up your book bag early if possible so that you can stow it in your room and won’t have to lug around a heavy bag the whole first day.

Talk To Everyone. At the Bouchercon 101 panel, they emphasized that you should talk to whomever you found yourself with. As a shy person, I was wholly prepared to ignore that advice. Yet everyone was so friendly and willing to talk!  And I do mean everyone.  You could be just standing there and suddenly it’s Oh, Hi Super Famous Author RIGHT NEXT TO YOU.   

Sue Grafton, Charlaine Harris, Sara Paretsky, J.A. Jance

Find Group Members. If you belong to a writing group (e.g., SinC, Guppies, MWA), be on the lookout for membership pins on conference badges, and wear your membership pin too. But most importantly, if you recognize someone who is a member of a group to which you belong, go up and introduce yourself. Just do it.

Make Cards. You are going to meet people. Create a business card with your contact information on it. You never know who might strike up a conversation with you, so be prepared for everything Which brings me to the following…

Have Your Pitch Ready. I was asked, in passing, to pitch my WIP. I think my response was something like, “Uh, you mean, like, right now?” (Still cringing at the thought of it.)

Stay at the Conference Hotel. There is usually a reduced rate. Events can start very early in the morning, so staying there gets to you to the good stuff faster. It’s also nice to be able to zip up to your room whenever you need a breather. 

Bring Comfortable Shoes. Cannot stress this enough. I thought my shoes were comfortable—I wear them every day, after all—but one time, they betrayed me, and it was blister city. So maybe this should be: bring two pairs of comfortable shoes in case your first pair doesn’t work out.

Offer To Help. Conferences always need volunteers. In helping out, you will meet more people, so it’s good karma and fun at the same time.

Go To The Bar. Have a cocktail or don’t, but at least drift through the bar because there are usually clumps of writers everywhere–catching up and talking shop. It’s a Place to Be.

Sign Up Early. The conference offers a reduced rate for early birds and the conference hotel sells out fast. Both of those = reasons to register now!

Are you going to Bcon or other in-person conferences this year? Have any other questions or suggestions? Let’s pool our knowledge!

33 thoughts on “Some Things to Know Before You Go

  1. Cynthia, you hit just about everything on my list. The only thing I might add is to wear layers. One conference room might be freezing while the one next door is stuffy.

    I won’t be at Bouchercon this year, darn it. But I’m planning to attend Left Coast Crime and Malice next spring!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Excellent point, Annette. Especially in NOLA. It’ll be beastly hot outside, but overly AC’d inside. I won’t be there either, but I’ll see you in Albuquerque!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great info, Cynthia! One thing I’ll add. Don’t feel bad about taking a break and retreating to your room for a breather. As fantastic as these events are, they can be overwhelming. There’s not much better way to recharge the batteries than a bit of quiet time alone, if you need it. And what better time to start reading one of those books you got in your swag bag.
    See you all at Bouchercon!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I can’t think of anything to add, but I would underline DON’T BE SHY. The fun of any conference is meeting people, whether writers or readers. And here’s something you may not realize … famous writers are mostly [whispers] just like real people! They want to meet you as much as you want to meet them, so do them that honor and say hi … tell them you’re a fan, ask what they’re working on, see if they found a cool restaurant to try, clue them in on the secret coffee shop hidden around the corner. Just be your interesting, interested self and you’ll have a ball!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I only had the funds to do one conference this year ::shakes fist at the new fence we had to erect since the old one was damaged::, so I went with the Historical Novel Society’s virtual event last week. I’m planning to do Left Coast Crime next year; I loved the one in Vancouver, BC. I second everything you’ve said.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Fantastic advice, Cynthia! I would add, take rest breaks. Cons are nonstop and it’s possible to burn out or simply get exhausted. Lie down. Go for a solo stroll to recharge, especially if you’re in an amazing city like NOLA. It’s okay to take time for some self-care.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. What a great list, Cynthia–makes me sad that I won’t be at B’con this year! (But hello Left Coast Crime and Malice in 2022!)

    Yes, do panel-hop! Yes, don’t be shy about approaching people! I remember Louise Penny saying one year at Malice that, although she’s not keen on folks coming up to her to talk in restaurants when she’s back home in Canada, she LOVES being approached at conventions–that’s why so goes to them!

    And yes, DO hang out in the bar, even if you’d don’t drink–that’s where all the best stuff happens.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Great advice, Cynthia! Sad that I have to miss going to NOLA. But, it’s a date for Malice next year!
    Expanding on your advice not to be shy, don’t be afraid to invite someone wearing a conference badge to join you for a drink or a meal. It’s a great way to make friends!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Can’t think of anything to add. I have stayed at other, cheaper hotels (sometimes the budget really is an issue), and I’ve stayed at the conference hotel. It’s so nice to stay at the conference hotel if you can. And, I think that may have been why I was able to check out of the hotel at Left Coast Crime in 2020 early and get a refund for the nights I wasn’t staying. They knew we’d been shut down. An added bonus.

    Have fun at Bouchercon. I thought about going, but the dates won’t work out with my job. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Agree! I have also stayed at the not-conference hotel before and it’s different. Thank you…great additions. And looking forward to seeing you at the other cons!


  10. An excellent list! I’ll add one suggestion. Wear your name badge wherever you go (within the hotel). I’ve met so many people in the elevators and hallways and coffee shops, etc., who I wouldn’t have met if they hadn’t been wearing their name badges. Even if it seems a little dorky! See you at Bouchercon!

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I had plans of coming to this particular Bouchercon (my first) because I have a friend that both of us used to live in NOLA and was going to split the total in half so it would be more affordable for both of us. Unfortunately, life happened and Cajun hubby had to make an emergency trip to Montgomery as oldest daughter was in a very bad car accident Tuesday afternoon. He made a solo trip but deeply cut into our funds – fuel, hotels, and food isn’t cheap! I really will work on being at the LCC if I can! So want to meet my favorite authors (meaning all authors of almost every genre!)


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