Those of you who actually know me are keenly aware of how I am at an event. By that, I mean – I’m working.
When I go to a Sci-Fi Con, Alternative Spirituality Festival, Book Festival, or whatever manner of convention/fest/what-have-you that is on my tour schedule, I expect to be bouncing from panel to panel, or workshop to workshop. Stick a book signing or two in there, and I’m all good. That is what I EXPECT to be doing. After all, I am there as an author. This is my job…
Something else that folks who attend the Pagan Unity Festival (PUF) in Tennessee know is that come Friday night dinner, they will find me in the chow line. Not ahead of, or behind them, getting a plate filled. Nope. I’ll be on the other side of the line, slopping grub onto their plates, picking at them, asking them questions, telling jokes, singing, and yes, sometimes even dancing.
Because that way I am guaranteed to meet almost every single person who is on-site. I’m more than willing to admit that I have an ulterior motive for this: I’m selling myself. Not in the lipstick and fishnets next to the lamp post on the corner fashion. Trust me, nobody in their right mind would pay for that. What I am doing, however, is putting a face to a name, and letting folks see that I’m just another warm body wandering the planet, just like them. It is my hope that doing such endears me to folks and makes them feel a little more at ease with buying a book and having me sign it for them.
So far it has seemed to work out well. I have been described by many as “approachable,” whereas I have heard about many other authors being described as exactly the opposite. Of course, I’m not on the NYT Best Seller List, but hey, there’s still time…in theory.
So… What does this have to do with the title of this blog entry? Well, there’s actually a correlation. Thin, but the thread really is there, trust me.
You see, just this past weekend I attended Bouchercon 2011, The World Mystery Convention. This was the 42nd Bouchercon, and the first held in Saint Louis (They are held in a different city each year.) So, with it being so close and my schedule being free, I really didn’t have an excuse not to attend. (First link is to the 2011 convention site. The second will take you to the actual Bouchercon site with all the history…)
But here’s the rub… Hundreds of authors come to Bouchercon. So do several hundreds of fans. However, with hundreds of authors it is really – and I mean REALLY - hard to get a panel assignment. Any author knows that panels and/or workshops at conventions are your life’s blood. They are what put you in front of the crowd, identify you, identify your book(s), and generate new fans, which is what going to these events is really all about.
As it happens, I was damned lucky – I ended up with a panel assignment. Just one, but hey, given that there were several great authors in attendance who didn’t get a panel at all, I was ecstatic.
Our group drew a hard slot, that being 8:30 A.M. on the first day of the convention, but neither the hour nor the day deterred us. We met online, got to know one another – and one another’s works and senses of humor. Before long we were the Big Damn Authors and nothing could stop us. We arrived early, handed out swag, including a load of free books, and then proceeded to entertain the pants right off a room full of folks. As it turned out, people were STILL talking about our panel three days later.
But what of the chow line, Murv?
Well, there wasn’t one. But, as we all know, leaving me idle in the middle of a large, swanky, downtown hotel is just asking for trouble. And when I say ALL, I mean me too. I know it in spades, because I’m the one E K punishes for the trouble I cause. Therefore, being painfully aware of this bit of trivia, I volunteered – and when I say volunteered, I mean I volunteered. Not only did I monitor a couple of panels, I did the next best thing to working a chow line. I worked registration for two days straight.
In that time I “meeted and greeted” several hundred folks, and just like the food line at PUF, I joked, sang, and picked at all of them. I even danced a few times. I had people coming to the registration area to chat and get books signed during the lulls. I had people coming back and thanking me for helping them find the location of a particular panel, something to drink, or even more importantly – the restrooms.
And you know what? I had a blast.
So… Will I attend a Bouchercon again? Honestly, probably not. Unless it comes to Saint Louis again. Or maybe Kansas City or Chicago, but even as close as those two cities are it would be very iffy. You see, even though I had a great time, the luck of the draw is against me pulling a panel again, so it really wouldn’t be worth the registration fee, hotel, food, travel, etc.
Of course, the grand plan is that some day I’ll be important enough that they’ll ask me to be there as a guest of the convention, and not just a struggling author who has to buy his way in. But, you know what? When that happens, I’m going to do something that none of the big names did, at least this year…
I’m going to insist that they let me work the registration desk for at least one day so that I can be sure to meet folks.
Unless, of course, there’s a chow line. I wield a pretty mean set of tongs…
More to come…
PS. I guess you are still wondering about the title of this blog… The Majestic Ballrooms were on the second floor of the conference center portion of the hotel, and were where numerous panels took place (Including Night Chills.) The most common question we received from attendees – over and above “where are the restrooms?” – was, “Where’s Majestic A, B, C?”