Hosting Bouchercon

By Jay Stringer (Bouchercon, Board of Director)

Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, rolls into a new city each year, bringing with it over a thousand members of the crime fiction community. The convention can be as much about the adventure of exploring a new place as it is catching up with old friends or attending panels.

My first time was Long Beach in 2014. I wandered around the East Village Arts District in search of a real food truck burrito. In Raleigh, I was on a mission to find the best fried chicken and barbecue. My time in New Orleans led me to discover Sazerac and shrimp étoufée. In Toronto this past fall, I explored Kensington Market and Chinatown. All experiences I may never have had without Bouchercon.

And the best bit? This all just happens magically, by itself.

Well, no. Each convention is hosted by a Local Organizing Committee (LOC).

This LOC, I’m guessing it’s a secret crack team of experts who descend, ninja-like upon the unsuspecting city?

Again, no. The LOC is made up of crime fiction fans, just like you.

But I’ve never been involved in the decision, so it happens behind closed doors?

The bids are put up for a vote at the General Meeting at the convention. And anyone who is registered to attend, can turn up and vote.

To put all of this another way: You could host a Bouchercon.

So let’s say you’re thinking of doing it. What do you need? What are the steps? For a better understanding, I spoke to LOC members of the three upcoming Conventions. Erin Mitchell (St. Petersburg), Carol Puckett (Dallas), and Rae James (Sacramento).

JS: What made you want to bid for a Bouchercon?

EM: I had a number of ideas about how things could be done and notions about new things to try, and, perhaps more importantly, I wanted to give something back to the crime fiction community. 

RJ: I love the convention and the mystery genre. I wanted to share with those of similar ilk in my local community because I knew it would be received well.  And I love a challenge.

JS: What makes a great host city?

CP: I think the city should be affordable with easy, travel to and from and about. All cities have something to offer. It is nice when a mystery event (Poe, Conan Doyle exhibit or other mystery attraction) can be offered.  

EM:  Accessibility —people attend Bouchercon from all over the world. Not having too much to do in the immediate area, so as not to overwhelm the Bouchercon activities. Affordability—many attend Bouchercon on a budget, so being able to eat without breaking the bank is helpful.

JS: And what makes a great LOC chair?

CP: I think prior Bouchercon attendance is very important. An organizer (or at least a large part of the LOC) should be well familiar with Bouchercon. Attendee expectations are extremely important and should be kept in the forefront of all planning.  

JS: How long do you think it takes to plan a Bouchercon? How far in advance should people be thinking?

EM: Ideally, 5 years. Absolute minimum, 3 years, and the shorter timeframe will not work in all cities. 

RJ: Five years is not too long. For newbies, four years would be the minimum. The first thing we had to do was secure guest speakers. We quickly found out their booking calendars were five years out.  I must confess, I am a planner nerd, so the more time the better.

JS: What was your first step in preparing a bid?

CP: I attended the ‘So you want to host a Bouchercon’ panel. 

RJ: Once we attended the ‘So You Want to Host a Bouchercon’ session, we knew to file an intent to bid.  That letter triggered an email telling us we would be visited by three Board members to evaluate our site for suitability. 

So where does that leave us? People bid to host Bouchercon because they want to give back to the community, or because they have a great venue in mind. Or, as Erin mentioned, because they have suggestions of how things could be changed, and new ideas worth trying. There’ll be another “So You Want to Host A Bouchercon” panel in St. Petersburg, so you can get more information there. In the meantime…

Here are a few specifics to bear in mind:

  1. Your venue needs to have at least 60,000 square feet of event space, and 800 hotel rooms. (All of this information is easy to find, I’ve tested that out by looking at Glasgow hotels. This is a world mystery convention.)
  2. Bouchercon is held in September, October, or November each year. Would that clash with anything at your venue, or in the local area?
  3. Who will be on your LOC team? The National Board is here to help and support you -and we will- but you’ll want a good team around you. People to share the load.
  4. You’ll need to notify the Board of your intent to bid by March 1st. The full written bid doesn’t need to be submitted until June 30th, and we will work with you on each step of that process.

Next year will see the 50th anniversary of Bouchercon. We’re open to innovation and exciting new locations. Most of all, we’re looking forward to seeing new people get involved. We can’t wait to see what great ideas you’ll bring.

For the next step, check out the Bouchercon website, or contact a Board Member.

Jay Stringer was born in 1980. He was raised in the Black Country, in England, but now calls Glasgow home, and his loyalties are divided. He writes hard boiled crime stories, dark comedies, and social fiction. His heart beats for the outsider, and for people without a voice. He’s coined the term “social pulp fiction” to describe his style. You can catch him at Twitter under @JayStringer.

To learn more about Jay Stringer’s most recent novel, click on the cover below:



  1. Cathy Ace

    Excellent piece, Jay – and it makes me realise how grateful I am to all those who take the time (and a lot of it) to organise the Bouchercons (and other conventions I have attended, and enjoy) so I should say it – THANK YOU TO ALL THE ORGANISERS!!!!

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