I stopped by a discussion about ThrillerFest over on Murderati where one of the commenters wondered if TFest was a conference just for authors or if it was for fans as well. My two cents...
ThrillerFest is definitely a fun conference for fans to attend. Since ITW is still in the process of building up the attendance base of readers, there is incredible access to the authors for the ordinary fans.
People like Lee Child, Heather Graham, Kathy Reichs, Joe Finder, Barry Eisler and James Rollins (among many others) are just hanging out, standing in the corridors or drinking in the bar. And they'd love the chance to talk to readers.
They aren't constantly mobbed by huge groups of people as so often happens at signings or some of the other conferences. So it's easy to get books signed or take pictures or have a chat. (And they were giving away a ton of free books, so you could get those signed as well.)
Sure, it's expensive -- but everything is expensive. Combine it with a vacation to NYC and you can see the sights AND hang out with cool authors.