--or just an annual party that the millionaires who started the thing want the rest of us to subsidize?

Personally, I find the cost of the thing prohibitive...you can fly to and travel through Europe for a week for about the same amount it would cost the average person to attend the Thrillerfest weekend.

It would also seem to me that working professionals in the field should receive some sort of discounted courtesy memberships.

If I could actually hear of tangible, demonstrable benefits for outlaying all that cash to attend Thrillerfest, I might reassess my opinion...like landing a major book deal, that sort of thing.

Mark Ellis


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I would also love to hear from people who have attended. I would have liked to go this year as my book debuts in November, but alas, perhaps in 2009.
I don't think I've ever heard of someone getting a book deal directly out of a convention such as these. If you want to do that, you need to look at the ones like Murder in the Grove, that have agent-writer and editor-writer sessions you can sign up for.

However, it can be the first step in a process of putting a book deal in motion. You make contacts, get to learn the business - if you're smart. Some people just get drunk and chase around their idols, and that's fine I guess, but that's not conducive to landing a book deal.

Whichever conventions you attend, you have to consider cost-benefit. Personally, the highest priority goes to ones where there are a high volume of readers. This is beneficial for authors, if they want to actually connect with readers, but it's also beneficial to writers who want to understand the current market and what's selling. It's also good because you learn a lot about marketing, and how people respond to different tactics.

The main reader cons in the US are Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime. In the wake of any event, I watch to see what buzz there is, and who its coming from. If the buzz is non-existent or limited to people in the industry gushing about hanging out with other people in the industry, then I know that the reason to go to that convention is to schmooze with other authors/editors. If the buzz is from readers I know that's a convention I can connect with readers at.

Harrogate, in the UK, added a full extra day with workshops with agents and editors and best-selling authors, and that enables them to cater to aspiring authors and give them connections, while putting on a very reader-oriented convention that's always very entertaining and enjoyable. I've met more editors/agents going to Harrogate than going to Bouchercon even, because of the size dynamic. At Bouchercon it's easier to be lost in the crowd, or to hide.

Personally, with unlimited money to burn, I'd go to Harrogate again in a heartbeat, but Thrillerfest never got reader buzz. If I want to go to NYC to see my editor I can do that another time, for far less money. And because so many authors go for things like this, you end up competing for less time and attention.

I also know some readers who did go to Thrillerfest who said the author-reader dynamic wasn't great, that it was very snobby and many of the authors weren't around. One of the drawbacks of NYC is that there are so many places to go outside of the convention hotel, so you lose that nexus, that gathering point. I know readers even complained about that for B'con Madison, because they'd walk into the hotel and there wouldn't be authors there. I hadn't noticed, because I'd been off at all the author parties, but their comments stood out to me. These are the people passionate enough to spend major money attending these things and we hope they'll buy our books... but we don't talk to them? Too many authors spend too much time rubbing shoulders with the "important" people and forget none of us would be here without readers. (And I'm not talking about being a walking advertisement because that's not my style - I'm talking about just hanging out with people!)

And if I want to hang out with authors, well, there are other cons where I can also see a lot of readers. The big convention this year is undoubtedly Bouchercon Baltimore. That's part of how I grade them. Others will have different views, this is just mine. I also like going to Harrogate because authors just kick back and drink and chat with whoever, and don't stick review copies in your face and all that. Low-key marketing, and it works. The book sales are always very good, and the reader hype starts months before we people talking on forums about the program and plans and who's going.

I also think Crimefest will put on a great event, and wish I could make it. But with the crew they've got involved, it should be excellent.

I also know some professional writers who attended and said basically the same thing, observing a definite caste system in place. Apparently there was a considerable degree of "cold shouldering" going on if you weren't in the inner clique or whatever.

I'm a professional novelist. I've been one for many years and have the books to prove it. Colleagues have asked why I haven't attended Thrillerfest in the past, but none of them have ever provided me a sound reason to outlay all that cash and time in order to do so.

Frankly, I think professional writers should be shown a professional courtesy for events like this.

For example, I can get my membership at the San Diego Comic Con comped by making one phone call. All I have to do is give my name and cite my credentials. That doesn't seem to be the case with Thrillerfest.

It's seems to be a case of who you know rather than what you've done.

Where is Crimefest being held, by the way?
As Ali said, Crimefest is being held in Bristol, beginning of June.

And, as always, your mileage will vary. Having not been to Thrillerfest, I've got reader comments from both years to go by, and that's all I really care about. Authors/industry insiders/reviewers can't assess it the same way because they don't understand what it is to be "outside" the click.

Both years I went to Harrogate I was very much "outside" but never felt that. I was invited to publisher parties, and hung out with authors and readers both. It felt very welcome and inclusive to me.

I find Bouchercon overwhelming because of the size. I was sick at Left Coast Crime last year so it was harder for me to assess it.

And my understanding of comic con is, it's great.

But as far as crime fiction conventions go, sure, you should go meet your audience. The question is which ones work for you and help you achieve what you want to achieve? Not every author will go to B'con, because they can't handle the size. Some don't want to go to the smaller ones because they thrive off the big events. Beyond the con itself and whether or not it achieves its own goals, you have to ask what you're most comfortable with and will enjoy. There's no point taking a very shy person and throwing them in head first at B'Con if they'll be hyperventilating and hiding all weekend. They'd be better starting with a smaller convention, getting to know people, and then approaching a bigger one with friends to talk to.

As a reader, I'd go to Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime and Harrogate first off. I suspect Crimefest will be on the list. I haven't done Bloody Words yet. Of course, this all also depends on when you have a book out, and you should shake things up, try different conventions, and think outside the USA as well.

The nice thing about many conventions to choose from is there's something for everyone. And the very nice thing about B'con Baltimore for me is that I don't have to deal with flying in for it, which makes it a no-brainer.
Hi Mark -

Crimefest is in Bristol England more info at www.crimefest.com - it's organised by Myles Alfrey and Adrian Muller - who organised LCC in Bristol 2 years ago -

Report and photos of the 2006 event here :-

Note many of the ITW board attended, and it was not snobby in fact it was excellent

www.therapsheet.blogspot.com and www.shotsmag.co.uk
I've gone to ThrillerFest both years. I LOVED the first one in Phoenix - very casual atmosphere, very relaxed, where everyone wore shorts and other resort wear and a no-name aspiring author like me could sit down next to Joe Finder or Doug Preston as they sat on the terrace reading the NYTimes and having their morning coffee and chat. Carolyn Hougan (aka John Case) and I ended up having breakfast together two mornings in a row because we were both early risers, and a friendship/mentorship developed that continued until Carolyn passed away.

ThrillerFest in New York had a somewhat different atmosphere because it was in a swanky hotel, but there was still plenty of mixing it up from what I observed. I think for readers, ThrillerFest is a terrific choice because fans haven't discovered it as much yet, and so the author-fan ratio is very favorable. (I had my big fan moment when I got on the the elevator alone with Jeff Deaver.)

As an aspiring and now a soon-to-be-published author, I use ThrillerFest for networking - connecting with authors in person by chatting after a panel or in the hallway or sharing a drink together very often develops into tangible opportunities. Volunteering is also a great way to meet and talk to authors.

Just as on the Internet, if you don't speak up, you don't exist, I believe that if an author doesn't attend their genre's convention, they're too easily overlooked or forgotten. I've had terrific opportunities that have advanced my career come about from every conference I've attended.

Yeah, it's a lot of money. For me, it's definitely worth it.
"If an author doesn't attend their genre's convention, they're too easily overlooked or forgotten."


That's why I think Thrillerfest should take a hint from the far, far larger San Diego Con and make it easier for professional authors to attend...like comping their membership for one day if they agree sit in on panel or something like that.
It would be great if they could do this. Like Backspace, ITW is a newer organization, so I have no idea if the funds are there. I do know that the Backspace conferences I organize each year in NYC run on such a small margin of profit, if we comped all of our panelists' registration fees, there wouldn't be a conference.

There are ways to get around the lack of funds. For instance, I presented at a writers conference in 2006 where they comped both the registration fee, and my hotel room. But it wasn't until I was there that I discovered two of their major sponsors were notorious vanity presses, which they were presenting as no different than traditional publishing at the major publishers to the poor, unsuspecting writers in attendance. They also charged extra for pitch sessions with attending agents and editors and by my rough calculations, considering the number of agents in attendance and the number of people in line, they made tens of thousands of dollars from that source alone.

Backspace isn't willing to go either of those routes, so at our conferences, all but a handful of specially invited panelists pay the registration fee, and even of those, everyone attends at their own expense.

It's always been my understanding that panelists for Bouchercon are drawn from people who have registered for the convention, just like at Backspace and at ThrillerFest. Anyone know if this is the case?
You've got a point, but the ITW founders and board members aren't exactly struggling financially and they're the ones who choose the venues.

The Grand Hyatt in NYC at the height of the summer tourist season isn't the only option.

Granted, Thrillerfest is touted as more of a fan-convention rather than a professional's conference, but then...so is San Diego.
Believe it or not, July and August are off-season rates in NYC. At the Radisson, where we're holding our conference in August, the conference rate the hotel gave us for sleeping rooms is a hefty $249 per night. But in June, the conference rate would have been $349, and in November, almost $500 for the same room. There are cheaper places to stay, of course, but those hotels don't generally have adequate conference facilities, so it's a tough call.

Again, speaking from my perspective as admin of an organization with 700 members, in the interest of fairness, I think a conference should be supported by the people who attend it, and not from membership dues in general - otherwise, you've got a situation where the member who can't afford to go is in effect helping to subsidize those who can.

Back to ThrillerFest, I'd LOVE to see it return to Phoenix or to some other less expensive venue, but I suspect they're sticking with New York for the same reason Backspace does: it's very easy to get top agents and editors to come when you hold the conference in their own backyard. Plus, a trip to New York presents a convenient opportunity for the published members on our program to meet with their agents and editors or conduct other publishing-related business, so generally speaking, they don't mind making the trip.
Not to mention they don't have pay for cross-country airfare.

Well, I guess when it's all distilled down...as a professional thriller writer with a number of other financial priorities there really doesn't seem to be sound reason for me to attend a thriller writer's convention.
Tourist season is about more than destination, it's also about time of year. Right now is high season in Canada because of March break.

Therefore, flying to NYC in July is astronomical, because it's always more expensive. Flying to Phoenix better because from here, it's closer, and at that time of year nobody wants to go there, so it's cheaper on their end too. The hotel costs are ridiculous in NYC. Once is one thing, but two years in a row? And there used to be some balance with the conventions, so that you didn't have the two biggies too close together. For authors who don't live in the eastern US you're going to chose either Baltimore or NYC, not as likely to pay airfare and hotel to go to both.


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