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September 2014

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Con Book - Steampunk

Gail's Entirely Subjective: Why Attend Conventions?

Dan has an excellent post on this subject he is at a slightly different stage in his writing career from me and I suggest you take a look at his list first, if you are still launching. Here is my take from a wise old "one year in and several hundred thousand in print" using some of his same bullet points from a different perspective . . .

Con Pros

1) Networking. Yes, even established authors with contracts in place and projects for the next 6 years need to network. A fellow author once explained it to me thusly. "I'd been trying to get a collection of my old shorts off the ground for months. I visited a convention where the small press publisher I'd been talking with and my agent were both on hand. Over the course of one lunch we had everything settled. It could have taken another six months without that lunch." Also it's good a place to meet podcasters and fellow authors for blog tours and interviews.

2) Fun. I rarely find conventions entirely fun anymore (with the possible exception of BaltiCon). Don't get me wrong, there are moments of great conversation in the hallways, and interesting questions on panels. But for me they are now mostly work. I like to work so that isn't a drawback. A fan can blindside you at any moment, so I always have to be on form, polite, and gracious. This can be as exhausting as it is rewarding. On the other hand, there is the tribute factor.

3) Vacation. It is nice to travel away from home. But again this has it's drawbacks. I find it impossible to write on the road. I do enjoy traveling though, when I can get out and about the city I am visiting. I miss it from my archaeology days. However, most conventions or book tours all you get to see is the inside of one hotel after another, with very little time to explore foreign lands unless you can arrange an extension and see to the expense yourself. However, it is an excellent opportunity to have dinner with old friends, if you are like me and seem to have inexplicably scattered them all over the world.

4) Education. I don't benefit from this very much anymore. Sometimes I sneak out to a hard science panel, but last year any convention I visited had me scheduled so full I couldn't really make it to anyone else's panels. However there is a lot of conversation education between authors, see point 6 below.

5) Business. At the larger, more important conventions, it's not just making new sales, it's also ensuring that your relationships with your existing editors, agents, publishers, and publicists are working well and smoothly. Nothing beats a face to face meeting to allay fears on everyone's part.

6) Counseling. Absolutely no one else understands what a professional author's life is like except a fellow author. These days most of my time at conventions is spent kvetching in the greenroom or the bar with other authors. You can ask the old warriors for advice, discuss contract points, drop hints as to which houses or editors to avoid, and so forth. Publishers and even agents aren't always so thrilled about this side of convention life, but for us authors it's not only a way of protecting ourselves: there is other feedback. We learn what questions we really need to ask our agents. Advantages in taking different contract points and hits from different houses. Compare war stories over cover art or copyeditors. And we also gain emotional counseling: how to make it through the day and hit a word count, how to deal with the psycho fan, and how to cope with a bad review. Some of my most lasting friends are now fellow authors, and when I decide to go to a convention knowing one of them will be there weighs VERY heavily in the decision making process.

Con Cons

1) Expensive. I'm going with Dan on this one. A convention can, indeed, cost anywhere from $400 to $1500, depending on travel, hotel, and food. Most of that is tax deductible when you are a full time writer, but it is still a large chunk of change. If the convention is a small one and doesn't offer many of the benefits listed above, I am unlikely to attend unless I have been invited (and thus costs are covered) or I can allay many of the costs by staying with friends locally, bringing my own food, and so forth.

2) Culture shock. I don't get this one much anymore. But for me there was a two stage transition of shock to come with, from fan to debut author and from debut to pro. The adjustment was pretty steep. Now there can be fans or even convention staff who get a little too familiar. There is a reason most of us authors end up holed up in the greenroom - self preservation.

3) Con crud. I work to prevent this one by wearing gloves, eating properly and getting enough sleep, but I still managed to catch a whopper of a cold from WorldCon last year which made a pathetic little croaking frog on my book tour. The lesson I learned was never to plan anything back to back if at all possible.

4) Bad cons. Again I agree with Dan, sometimes they just aren't any good. Unfortunately, from an author perspective, these get blacklisted pretty fast. I tend to file cons away as, either 1. really I just am not going to bother again, or 2. I'll check back in two or three years, see if they have things sorted out. It's hard for a convention to rise above that kind of reputation, because, see point 6 above, authors talk. Learning how to predict this ahead of time, now that is a skill I wish I had.

5) Burn out. This one happened to me at the end of last year. I just did way to many events in 2010. By the end even another BaltiCon would only have drained me to a bitter shell of nothingness. So learning how to balance the number and type of conventions, versus the amount of travel, versus book tours, classes and other appearances is also vital. I axed myself way back for 2011 to only one convention a month, and that not starting until the end of March, merely for my own sanity.

Your moment of parasol . . .


Gail's Daily Dose
Your Infusion of Cute:

Your Tisane of Smart:
The Victorian Bolero

Your Writerly Tinctures:
Killer literary agent Joshua Bilmes has a blog worth following.

Audiobook review from Geeky Blogger says, "The narrator, Emily Gray, was fantastic! The only voice I found annoying was Mr. Seimens but even then he was annoying anyway. The reading pace was fantastic and the nuances were just perfect."
SPOILER ALERT! Series review fro Radian, "What they are is a lot of fun. I was hooked from page one, where Ms Tarabotti blatantly attacks a vampire with her parasol, simply because he is being rude enough to try and eat her."
Even bigger SPOILER ALERT! Really, DON'T READ THE BLURB ON AMAZON if you haven't read the other books first. Series review from Ginger, "I'm always excited to share a series of books that I loved so much I practically devoured them. This series is one of those."

Heartless: Copy edits done. It's available for preorder on Amazon.
Timeless: Back at it.
Secret Project F: We're waiting. We're waiting.
CAKE in Space: Trunked.
Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded is out.
The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2 is out.

Quote of the Day:
"Of all precious stones, the opal is one of the most lovely and the least common-place. No vulgar man purchases and opal."
~ Routledge's Etiquette for Gentlemen (c. 1850)

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