Not sure I’ve ever written one of these, but I figured I’d talk about conventions. In my mind there are two types of conventions.
- Fan Conventions
- Writer Conventions
I lump anything that is more focused on fans in here. This can be entirely focused on fans – like Dragoncon and any Comic Expo towards mixed conventions like the World Science Fiction Convention or the World Fantasy Convention. In all these cases, the point isn’t to just focus on writers but often to promote the writers to fans.
I generally see such conventions as useful for the writer to go out and do panels on. It gets your face and personality out there, while not confining you to the booth.
In general, and after speaking with a lot of people, booth sales are very, very hard to do right. You need a lot of books, you need to keep costs down and often, you’re better off writing. The only times when it makes economic sense is when it’s a local convention, when you don’t have to pay for accommodations and as such, only have booth fees to pay.
It is possible to sell books that way, and some authors do make their living / most of their sales working booths, but I generally don’t want to do that. I did enough booth work at conventions in my previous business to know it sucks and is incredibly draining.
Whereas doing panels, while draining in a different way, are more fun. You still get to promote your books, but also you get the added benefit of meeting new authors and getting your name out. In many of these conventions, groups like the SFWA also have con rooms (or used to – less of them these days due to COVID).
Anyway, fan conventions are fun, they’re meant for promoting your work; but realise that unless you get on a large and well attended panel, you’re promoting to handfuls of people at a time.
My personal view? It’s fun to do, but only if you intended to do the convention / visit the city anyway.
Which is what I’m doing for Montreal’s World Fantasy convention and Washington DC’s Discon (and, supposedly, Dragoncon except I had to cancel).
Writer conventions don’t have fans. You might find a few in other writers, but the goal isn’t to sell your book but to learn how to sell your book or write better. Now, I don’t do many writer conventions on craft as yet – there are plans for some later on, but a lot of that has shut down due to the pandemic. We’ll see what happens, but I much prefer doing such conventions / training in person.
So, other writer conventions focus on the business side. Superstars and 20books are where I head towards, the first since I’ve heard great things about and the second because I have been there and it’s great for networking.
And that, to me, is the biggest thing. Sure, the seminars themselves often have tidbits of information that are worthwhile hearing about and occasionally learning from, but for the most part, the networking is the most important bit.
Because the networking is where you get to put a face to names, get a chance to make connections which might get you things like:
– entry into anthologies and/or Storybundles (both of my Storybundles have been due to having taken part in a writer convention and the networking from there)
– anthology options (even if nothing more than someone poking at you and saying ‘apply for this’).
– finding co-authors (A.G. Marshall was found at a writer convention).
– finding cover artists and other contacts
– business tips from other authors (when shooting the breeze of what works)
And on, and on. Writer conventions are expensive, but the in-person chats over coffee are incredibly useful.
What if I can’t afford to go?
Not everyone can afford to go to such conventions. They might not have the time or money. So, virtual conventions are happening with more frequency and many of the best have breakout rooms to chat. The gods know, I have made a ton of contacts just chatting with people online in Discords, etc.
Clubhouse is another great place. Check it out especially since there are quite a few author focused chats on Clubhouse and it’s a great way to touch base with people (often at the end).
And, obviously, Twitter seems to be on the menu too… Though how well yo do that and if you want to wander into that potential minefield, I’ll leave to you.
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