by Erin Mitchell
Every year, new attendees gather at Bouchercon, and, thankfully—since it can be overwhelming—there’s a fair bit of advice out there for these folks.
I wanted to take a minute, though, to offer some suggestions to authors attending Bouchercon, from the perspective of a reader (and, to a lesser extent, a marketeer).
To be clear: By writing the below, I don’t mean to imply that authors behave badly at Bouchercon; my experience has been quite the opposite. Yeah, I’ve seen some be jerks, but, hey, we’re all human. I’m just trying to share suggestions based on the folks I’ve seen make the very most of their Bouchercon experience.
Don’t Assume Everyone Knows You
At Bouchercon, we’re all equal. That is, authors don’t all wear day-glo t-shirts or walk around with their titles somehow floating above their heads. Some of you resemble your author photos and/or avatars, and some of you don’t. Some of us pay attention to these photos and some of us don’t.
The result is that even some of your reader fans might not recognize you by sight. So introducing yourself is never a bad idea.
Some of Us Are Nervous
To readers, many authors are celebrities. And some readers are nervous meeting celebrities, which can make us a little awkward. Putting us at ease can be as simple as offering a smile. Please don’t make us feel dumb if we stammer or say something stupid.
Some Readers Will Assume You Are Your Character
Yes, you write fiction (or non-fiction that’s not about you). We know that. But we’re readers, not authors, and as such, some folks will assume that you write about a hard-drinking, country music loving carouser because you are a hard-drinking, country music loving carouser, even if this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Regardless, many readers will want to ask you the eternal question: Where do you get the ideas for your stories/characters? Yes, you’ve answered the question a million times, but this is an environment where answering it just one more time will help solidify your support from readers.
Asking a Question Can Go a Long Way
By Sunday, you’ll probably be sick to death of answering questions. To break up the monotony, try asking some questions along the way. Ask a reader what she’s reading now. Or what first introduced her to crime fiction. Or what her favorite color is. Something as easy as a simple question can result in an interaction a reader will treasure and share.
Make New Friends
Like any gathering of lots of humans, there is a degree of cliqueishness that happens at Bouchercon. You might be inclined to hang out just with people you already know, but if you do so, you’re missing an opportunity. Remember that most of the readers in attendance have gone to some lengths—not to mention expense—to be there, and as such, chances are good that each of them has a degree of influence in their circles in which they travel. So walking over to a stranger and asking whether she’s having a good time might gain you a gaggle of new readers.
If someone asks you to sign a book, even if it’s outside the book room at your appointed time, for the love of Pete, don’t say no.