From The Booking Desk:

This is the first of four blog posts I’m calling Countdown to Bouchercon.

How to Prep for Bouchercon 101

1. Obviously, the first thing to do is to register for the conference and book your hotel room. There is certainly still time to register for Bouchercon, but finding a good hotel room may be more of a challenge. That said, don’t despair, sometimes rooms do open up and there are also other options: a. you don’t have to stay in the conference hotel; b. you can rent a home for the week; c. find a roommate who is hoping to keep costs down.

2. Explore the “official” attendee list. Take your time and look at all of the names – both authors and fans. You may remember some folks you met at previous events or see names of folks who are long-time members of the community who you have always wanted to meet. Click on the hyperlinks for each author. This will take you to their webpage, where you can scope out their latest books. This is especially useful for authors who are attending for their first time. You don’t want to go all weekend and then find out that the author of the hottest debut novel of the year was there and you missed talking to her/him.

3. Print out the gird version of the panel lists. Browse the list one time looking at the names of the panelists. Highlight those folks that you are hoping to see/meet. Then go through the list a second time looking at the panel topics. Highlight those that are of interest to you (even if you have not highlighted any author names on those panels – that’s how you discover new-to-you authors). Be sure to look at the evening events as well, so that you know what is happening around the area during the weekend.

4. Now take that highlighted list and prioritize things that you absolutely do not want to miss. Try to limit this to no more than 4 or 5 things a day, if possible. This will become your blueprint for the weekend’s events. Anything else that happens beyond those panels/events is going to be icing on the cake. (NOTE: There will be plenty of icing, but you need the cake base on which to place it.)  Always remember, you can’t do everything and you will enjoy those other things more if you don’t overbook yourself.

5. Begin to make contact with those folks you are hoping to have dinner/coffee/brunch with. Bouchercon is like a reunion for folks, so they are going to be fielding tons of requests. There will still be time for plenty of ad hoc gatherings, but putting out the feelers early makes things easier.

6. Remember, Bouchercon is a volunteer-based event, so please find time to give back to the event in any way that you can. For me, I do some time-keeping on panels to help out. Maybe those things are not of interest to you, but there are many other places where extra hands are needed. And volunteering will be much more rewarding than simply the idea of giving back. You will meet tons of new folks through these efforts and some of them may become lifelong friends.

7. If you are getting into town early or leaving late, be sure to check out the conference location. Scope out something you want to see and gather a group to explore it together. Remember, you are here to have fun!