Visit to Thrillerfest 2018: Thrillerfest

Thursday, July 12, was the final day of Craftfest, and at the end of the day was the Opening Reception of Thrillerfest. This was a two-hour reception with heavy hors d’ouevres, and significant networking opportunities. Each Thrillerfest registrant was given two free drink tickets as part of their package.

The first session I attended was by Mark Dawson, “Ten Steps to Making a Living as an Indie Author”.  He gave a very interesting and informative presentation about how he operates as an independent author. He discussed tricks involving maintaining mailing lists, and conversing with your readers via websites and social media. He had very good information, but what he does is certainly not easy. For an independent author, the business side of writing seems to take as much if not more time than the writing itself.

After that, I sat in on a session titled “Loglines, Elevator Pitches or Comparisons?” chaired by Kathleen Antrim. A logline is a one sentence summary of a film book or television program that usually states the major elements of the story. The highlights of this session for me were Rick Pullen and Linda Sands who writes about female truck drivers. The main thing I learned was that there was a program on the internet called killogator that generates short loglines based on a few questions about your novel. It appeared to be worth investigating further.

My next session was chaired by John Lescroart entitled “Adventurers, Secret Agents, or Assassins”. The highlights of this session were presentations by Gayle Lynds and K.J. Howe, who is the head of the Thrillerfest, and who has written the award-winning debut novel. She was really enthusiastic about her book, and is a very sincere and outgoing speaker.

This session was followed by a session on “Getting the Legal Facts Correct” chaired by Jonathan Putnam. The highlight of this session was a presentation by Nancy Allen, an author of legal thrillers with whom I was not familiar. She comes across very much like her main character, a “rough around the edges” smart lawyer with deep Ozark roots. I haven’t read any of her books, but if her character in the book is anything like Nancy Allen is in real life, readers are in for a treat with a very colorful main character.

Just before lunch, I attended a session in which George R.R. Martin, the author of the Game of Thrones, was interviewed by his editor. He has been designated as this year’s “ThrillerMaster”. Not surprisingly, the session was attended by very many enthusiastic participants.  He is a pretty interesting character, and told some very entertaining stories.

Due to some personal commitments, I left Thrillerfest after the George R.R. Martin interview. There were two more sets of four parallel sessions and an interview of Megan Abbott by Lee Child. In addition there was another cocktail party I was unable to attend.

There were numerous book signing sessions throughout the day. It was a very filled program with four choices of sessions run in parallel. Thrillerfest makes audiotapes of each session available at extra cost should there be any sessions a participant may have missed.

On the second day of Thrillerfest, I attended a session titled “Hoorah, Hooah, or Oorah: Heroes of Today”. This session included presentations by special forces personnel, always interesting to see and meet in person, but not of much direct value to my own work.

The most valuable session of the entire Thrillerfest experience was the Debut Author Breakfast which was very well attended and excellent. It is very interesting to see what was published within the year and get a handle on what sells. Steve Berry was the MC and did a really good job getting through all of the authors. He also made the valuable point that these books would be good to read, or at least look through to see what sells currently. I thought that was an excellent, but expensive idea.

I attended an interview of James Rollins, the Silver Bullet Award winner, who was interviewed by Steve Berry. Rollins was an ex-veterinarian who made it very big as a thriller author. He and Berry did a lot of reminiscing, and it turned out to be a very good interview.

There was a large panel session of past and present ThrillerMasters including Lee Child, Heather Graham, George R.R. Martin, David Morrell, and R.L. Stine. They did a terrific job, and it was an entertaining and informative panel to attend.

In addition, there is a large Thriller Awards Banquet as well as a pre-banquet reception at the conclusion of the second day of Thrillerfest. It is not included in the Thrillerfest Registration and does require an extra fee. I have never attended this banquet, but have heard it is a lot of fun.

Thrillerfest had a very different vibe than Craftfest. For me, Craftfest was a much better experience. I learned a lot during those classes. I found the panel sessions at Thrillerfest to be highly entertaining but less informative. There was a good deal of bookselling and promotion of the authors’ individual brands. To be fair to the presenters, however, the self-promotion never intruded on what were very interesting and informative sessions. The authors were very generous with their time and advice, both inside and outside of the formal presentations. The business of book selling never overshadowed the honest sharing of knowledge. The Debut Authors Breakfast is not to be missed. It was that same strange mix of  information, inspiration, and intimidation all rolled into one. These authors work very hard at their craft. They are surprisingly open with advice and their own stories of both success and failures. There persistence and discipline might be the overwhelming theme of the conference. The conference is expensive, as is staying in New York City, but if you are serious about writing thrillers or just want to see what thrillers are all about, this conference is a lot of fun. Exhausting but fun!



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