The Pros and Cons of Cons (Conventions)
There’s a Con for almost every genre and make no mistake about it, nook conventions are fun! And noisy. Just imagine a building full of people who actually want to talk about writing, and ENJOY it. It’s like heaven for writers.
Okay, so I’m going to do things in reverse order, and give you the bad news first, and the good news last.
So, bad news….
- Conventions are expensive. The fees vary but many are more than $100 per person. Those fees cover the hotel expenses, the promotion and any awards. Add in travel costs (they’re rarely held at low end hotels) and it can cost quite a lot. If you’re a poor writer, it’s a significant chunk of change. Even one close to home will still be expensive.
- Indie authors are still not universally accepted. Readers are fine – although many are still uneducated about Indie writing – but the organizations are still resistant. And not without reason.
To many of them, Indie writers haven’t paid their dues, and in that they are correct. Indie’s haven’t. Many of us haven’t faced innumerable rejection letters, or been through the gun-wrenching process of having our work edited, much less edited to fit a given publisher (or agent’s) notion of what will sell.
And many of us are horribly unprofessional in our dealings with the public. If you think that publishers/agents aren’t watching when you spam endlessly, or bad-talk publishing, you’re wrong. Every time you insist that you ‘don’t need to be edited’ someone notices that once again Indies feel the rules don’t apply to them. (Even if you’re dirt poor, find an sympathetic English teacher at the local high school to at least correct your spelling and grammar. Offer them a percentage of the proceeds and a shout-out in your dedication.)
As a group we still won’t qualify for a RITA (romance), Edgar (mystery), or Nebula (sci-fi/fantasy) awards. So unless you can find a loophole you won’t be invited to sit on a panel – unless it’s about Indie/Self-publishing.
- If you’re not social, it will be interesting. (I advise taking a friend or arrange to meet someone there. I was lucky enough to run into a Facebook friend that first evening. Thanks, Pete!)
- It’s noisy, but it’s a pretty happy noise – lots of people talking books and writing.
- Sleep is not a premium.
Warning: The same rules apply as on Facebook. Everyone there wants to promote their book. Don’t be obnoxious.
The good news…
- It’s a great opportunity to make connections. More than one person spoke of finding an agent, or a publisher, or had someone read their book and pass it on to someone to make connections. You’ll also make a number of personal connections. i.e. friends. Supporters. Readers who might want to read your books. It’s you they’re getting to know, though. Don’t lose a friend trying to sell a book.
- There’s a lot to learn for new writers. Depending on the convention, the panels can be enormously educational, helping to understand everything from how to create good characters, what constitutes noir, or how to write a certain type of sub-genre.
(As of now, many conventions don’t allow self-published writers on the panels, but that may be subject to change. The same rules apply as above. It’s perfectly acceptable to have your latest book propped up in front of you, but you may not want to tie it in to EVERY question.)
- See above. It’s fun. The best place to meet people and make connections is the bar (even if you don’t drink, it’s still fun!). Just enjoy yourself, it’s the best way to make the most of a convention. Just remember that you want to be remembered for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.
Decide beforehand what you want to get out of going to a convention. I met a very nice man who became progressively more depressed the longer he was there. Admittedly, it was noisy, there was a lot of walking from panel to seminar, and – since he wrote true crime – not much that was of help to him. It was a great place to make contacts, but he wasn’t terribly successful at that either.
A few words of advice.
There will be a few notable names there – Lee Child, Mary Higgins Clark, Charlaine Harris – and most are pretty approachable… (Lee Child was very tall, very thin, and a quiet gentleman. Charlaine Harris was funny and entertaining.) Still, be considerate and polite.
For the ladies – save the nice shoes for the first day, and entertaining at night, wear flats during the day. Even though I’d been to a convention before, I hadn’t really considered my shoes, and so had blisters on my blisters.
For everyone, book conventions are a great way to network, meet other writers and fans, learn something new, and have a LOT of fun.