Monday, November 23, 2009

No such thing as a "small" name....

What big name author is enough to get you to a conference?

Honestly? No one. Okay, before you throw tomatoes at me, there are a number of reasons.

#1 Big names at big conferences draw big crowds--what are the odds of getting any "quality" time with them if you don't already know them?

#2 As a professional writer, I'm at conferences to connect with readers of my work, both old and new. So I choose my conferences based on the kind of audience they draw.  I'm more interested in which fans will be there than which "big" names.

#3 Conferences cost money (usually more than it would for me to travel abroad for a week! but then I'm a frugal traveler) and time, neither of which I have a whole lot of right now.

So that's the reality. But here's another reality--relax and let good things happen.

That's how I met the wonderful David Morrell at my first Bouchercon in Toronto. I said hello and told him I lived in Scotia, PA where he set several short stories, precursors to his First Blood novel.

We chatted and he personally escorted me to the very first International Thriller Writers meeting--where I then met tons of my other "gods" and "goddesses". It was at that same Bouchercon where I also met two of my all time thriller heroines: Lisa Gardner and Tess Gerritsen.

This led my becoming the Chair of the first ThrillerFest (a job Shane has this year for TFest #5) which led to my meeting Sandra Brown, Clive Cussler, Lee Child, and many, many more life-long heroes of mine.

Most important weren't the "big" names I had the chance to meet, but the many wonderful not-so-big-yet names who have now become my closest and dearest friends--some published, some unpublished, some writers, some readers, and all more valuable than any chance to shake hands with a "big" name in a bigger crowd.

So my advice? If you're a fan, then by all means go to conferences--we writers love, love, love meeting our readers!!!

If you're a writer and looking for networking opportunities, then get involved!

And for both, volunteer! You never know who you'll be teamed up with--you may end up driving Robert Crais from the airport or escorting Nora Roberts to a signing....

So who is your dream-come-true "big" name to meet?

About CJ:
As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a National Bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller."

The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, was released January, 2009 and the third, URGENT CARE, October, 2009. Contact her at


Hard Boiled Mysti said...

Elmore Leonard!
Rita Mae Brown (though her latest is nonfiction).
James Elroy (for aversion therapy if nothing else).
For big names, there has to be some likelihood of sparks or humor to make me fight the crowds. Does Eddie Muller count as big outside San Francisco/Palm Springs/Chicago/NY?

But really, it's the midlisters I know and love. I'll follow Kelli Stanley or Rebecca Cantrell or Juliet...oh heck, Hailey Lind, you might know her as, or Sophie Littlefield, or Cornelia Read anywhere.

I love a good conference -- one with conflict and gossip and mind-bending hookups as well as lovely talks and stately explanations of craft and history.

Hard Boiled Mysti said...

Or Tim Maleeny! I can't forge Tim!!!!!

CJ Lyons said...

I agree--it's the fun of the interactions that draw me to a conference, not just sitting and listening to a "name" drone on....

Jen Forbus said...

Well, since I just experienced my FIRST conference this year :) I will say that none of the special guests attracted me to the conference. Ironically I went because of an author who didn't end up going - Alafair Burke! Now I have to admit, if I am ever offered the opportunity to meet her father, I'll snag it fast - I'm being honest - but the highlights of my conference? Meeting Kelli, Sophie, and Rebecca, Tom Schreck, Marcus Sakey, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Sean Chercover, C.J. Box, Steve Hockensmith, Jason Pinter, Megan Abbott. I got to hang out with Sophie and Brett Battles and Brad Parks - too freakin' cool! Reed Farrel Coleman gave me an unsolicited hug!!!! Holy Freakin' Cow!! And Louise Penny? Louise Penny? Oh my lands!

I was able to see folks I've met before but absolutely adore: Craig McDonald (and got to meet his wife, Debbie), Michael Koryta (who I know is totally convinced I'm stalking him), Rosemary Harris, and be still my heart Craig Johnson!

Here's the even more amazing thing to me. When I went to Murder and Mayhem this month, everyone I met in Indianapolis knew exactly who I was. And I was literally in heaven!

Nothing replaces that feeling! No matter where the publishing house place these authors on their "lists" - they're all tops in my book!

CJ Lyons said...

Jen, you really should get to TFest--the atmosphere is just like that, one big community, hugs all around!