Or why you too, should be at Comicon part 2
The first con I went to, I was just running taking pictures with cosplayers, buying stuff, and just all around mad dashing everywhere to see the sights! Too much excitement! And that’s fine. Go do your thing. Come the second, third, or fourth Con though, you might start realizing that they sort of become a habit. Similar vendors come and go, and you will see good cosplays everywhere, and photo ops are expensive and involve a lot of sitting in line. And you are a struggling author, so how can you justify the cost and the time involved in a Con? Well here are six reasons why I think writers should be attending conventions.
1. Meet your (writing) Heroes
“I became a writer because a teacher handed me a fantasy novel. Fantasy has the power to change your life through magic. I am proud to be part of that.” – Brandon Sanderson
This is a great one, and for many reasons: meet your writing heroes! Favorite authors, comic writers, um… editors? (That’s a thing right?) And you can support them as well, buy buying merch directly from them, instead of through a 3rd party. You can shake hands with them, get your books signed, take pictures, ask them questions (spoilers 😉 I mean, as long as you are respectful, the possibilities are endless!
But I think the best reason to meet your writing heroes is that it humanizes them. Interact with them, and you will realize that authors are human beings. Even Brandon Sanderson, Mr. Writing Robot, is human and quite a nice guy. He let me bug him and squee about the Wheel of Time and Words of Radiance, and Writing Excuses. Why is this so important? Because when you humanize them, you realize that the goal of being a writer, a professional writer, is not impossible. These mere mortals did it, and so can you!
2. Meet and learn from writing professionals at panels
“Well it seems we are a little off track. I mean, do you guys want to ask us questions, or just listen to us ramble all day?” – Dan Wells
Attending panels to learn, sounds a lot like school, doesn’t it? Hey! What are you trying to pull, Mike? Well, let me tell you, since graduating from university, I still dedicate roughly the same amount of time “learning” as before. But now, I get to pick my courses of study. I read lots of history for research on my Novels, I listen to business podcasts (because writing is a business), lifestyle podcasts (because writing is a lifestyle), I read and listen to current fiction (because a writer still reads, especially to understand the market), and lots and lots advice for writers (because, hey, I’m a writer).
Panels are great because you get to hear professionals talk about the business, or your favorite topics, etc. These aren’t just writers two, but encompass what I think are the four primary occupations involved in the writing industry- Authors, Editors, Publishers, and Agents. There are probably more out there, but just to have the experience of hearing from people in the business is priceless. Here are a collection of panels I attended:
- All You Need is Murder: Death and Other Perils of Being Young
- The Mythology of the Star Wars Saga
- Epic Story Structure
- Keeping up with the Lannisters – A Family Affair
- The Brandon and Dan Show: On Writing and Anything Else
I got a smattering of quotes, but also I wrote tons of tons of notes. I got ideas for future articles to write, ideas for story lines or stories to write, tips on how to look at mythos and archetype. I learned how to approach an editor at World Con this year, and how to find the secret Tor party (wooohoo). Oh, and I got to sit down after walking a few hours around the con. Priceless.
3. Meet new authors and hear their path to success and also make connections
“The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.” – Stephen King
This is kind of an extension on the previous point, but I want to focus on it. New authors are hungry to talk to people (most of them are anyway), and love to talk about their books, talk about their writing process, talk about meeting with publishers, almost every question under the sun. And since they are especially new, their information is rather current. I mean, yes, I read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft but while the spirit of the advice is true and useful, the actual mechanics are not current. He says so himself that “this chapter is both the shortest, and the most likely to be out of date.” If you want to hear authors talk about the current market for new writers, the best way to get a feel for it is to talk to a newly published author. Oh, and buy a book from ’em, please, and get them to sign it.
Here is a short list of some questions that you can ask newly published authors (and reality check yourself)
- How many hours a day, days a week are you writing?
- What tools are you using?
- Are you self or traditionally published
- Pros and Cons and what made you choose that method?
- Did you find an agent, and if so how?
- What markets were you submitting to?
- How many rejections did you get before landing a deal?
- Details of your contract? (be careful of this one) or What should I expect in a contract
- How did you find a cover artist?
- What publicity and social media are you using?
- How much of an investment/gamble was it to get published (money, job, personal life)
The list goes on and on, but they are there and they probably don’t have signing hours or panels. Just a booth and table with their books. But please, support new authors, purchase a book if you are going to be taking their time. Remember, authors are at a con to promote themselves and their brand. It is a business, so be professional.
4. Meet others for your writing group
“One of the rules of our writing group is to never give prescriptive advice. A rule that Brandon [Sanderson] breaks, a lot.” – Dan Wells
Are you seeing others at writing panels taking notes? Going up to authors that you are also a fan of? Chances are, they are a writer too, and chances are, they might be close to your region! Get to know them! Lines for signings and getting into panels might be long, and there is often downtime between panels. Meet other people, ask them if they are writers, find a writing group. Especially if they are interested in the same authors and panels as you, you can expect that they share a similar taste in writing as well, making them a perfect match for fellow critiquers and writing group members. Don’t be afraid to meet people, and email is a pretty non-invasive contact method.
“Personal relationships are always the key to good business. You can buy networking; you can’t buy friendships.” – Lindsay Fox
This part really involves a lot of the previous tips. But don’t be afraid to get out there. A “convention”, by definition, implies a collection of people with similar interests. There are artists who would love to collaborate with decent writers, organizations looking for content writers, and as mentioned before, writers looking for writing group members. And this isn’t just for writers. Photographers looking for cosplayers, and cosplayers looking for photographers, teachers looking for students in their field, artists, comics, and apparel designers looking for anyone to support their content. Make connections! Cross promote each other!
As an example, during the convention I requested and got accepted to grab interviews from:
So hopefully you will see them on the blog soon!
6. Meet Friends
“I’m here to make friends, kick butt, and chew gum. And I’m all out of gum, and my cosplay is too fragile to kick people with.” – Anonymous (lol, I forgot okay?)
Let’s not forget, that even if a person has no professional advantage to you, they are in the same fandom, or a very closely related fandom to you. Honestly, we probably get enough hate from “basics” (non convention goers) we don’t need in fighting between Trekkies and Star Wars fans, Potterphiles and Twiehards, anime fans versus comic buffs. Can’t everyone just get along?
Be kind to everyone you meet. A lot of people, myself included, turn to fandoms because they have a hard time relating to the real world. It might not be pure escapism, but it is a method of coping. Every con will have people coming for the first time, and maybe even those who are only casually interested in the scene. Your actions and attitude towards others will determine if the experience they walk away with is positive or not. In general, Comic Con fans are excited to share with you, willing to discuss, maybe sometimes raring to debate subtle points of fandoms. Make friends! Learn about a new hobby, or a new aspect of culture. Thing of conventions as a “We” experience. “We” are the reason conventions exist, “We” are the reasons celebrities, authors, vendors, artists, and otherstravel to meet us, “We” make it happen.
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