More and more lately, I’ve begun to get people asking if I attend conventions. And while it’s flattering, the answer to that question has been getting increasingly more complex to answer. I mean, the short answer is “no”, the medium answer is “not yet”, and the longer answer is… well, today’s blog, actually. It isn’t a cut and dry issue, but you all know I like to show what’s going on behind the curtains, and this is an obstacle that a lot of authors will have to deal with sooner or later. Some will choose to ignore conventions, others will decide to push-on, but we all have to at least consider the challenges.
Finding a Place
I don’t mean a hotel or an actual con itself, I mean a place within the convention world. See, as a mid-list author, I’m not a big enough name to be invited as a guest, nor do I generally carry enough merchandise to justify getting a vendor table. That means that I’m not quite sure where I fit in with any given Con. A lot of them probably have panels and places where someone like me would be a good fit, but that’s the sort of thing I’ll only be able to learn after visiting them and seeing what they offer (more on that later).
Cons aren’t cheap, and while I’m happy to shell out the cash if I know it will be worthwhile to me or my readers, there aren’t a lot of ready-made venues for people at my current level of notoriety. I’m not complaining about that, by the way, I understand working your way in the writing world is a slow process. Dues must be paid, and if I am serious about starting to undertake conventions then there’s only one way to really kick things off.
I’m Attending Cons… As An Attendee
So, if I’m too small to be a guest and not commerce savvy enough to have merch, the only logical step is to start hitting cons in the same way that everyone else does, as another attendee. This will give me the chance to see which ones I like, which ones have niche spots for us little guys, and which ones I really want to chase the dream of being a guest at. Now, obviously, since cons are pricey I’m not going to start hitting everything across the country, but there are a couple I know I’m going to make sure and attend. Currently, they are:
Comicpalooza: Fanfair (Houston, Texas. Sept. 19th & 20th): The actual Comicpalooza is a pretty big, and costly, event, but this is one thrown by the same people and at a cheaper rate. Plus, it’s sooner, so it lets me get my feet wet as quickly as possible. I picked this one because it gives the chance to get a sense of how these folks run a con, plus my parents still live around Houston so I can skip buying a hotel room. I’ve also sent in an application to be a guest at the real deal, but no word back so don’t hold your breath on that one. This will be my small trial, learning experience.
GenCon 2016 (Indianapolis): I know this one just passed, and that’s part of why it’s on my calendar. This damn thing looks like too much fun to ignore, and the few people I know who have attended love the living crap out of it. Come hell or high water I’ll be at the next one, because it’s a spot I can do research and enjoy myself the entire time.
I’m open to doing, and will almost certainly find, more as the year goes on, but for right now those are the only ones circled with a red pen on my calendar. Now I’m sure some of you are wondering why I’m not trying to attend conventions geared toward authors, rather than general comic/geek ones. I did look into those, but traditional author conventions are actually more about getting writers in front of agents and publishers. It’s built for those who want to get into the industry through the traditional route, and while I’ve got nothing against that, it’s not something I’m looking for at this time. I’d rather go hang out with fun people, connecting with readers and maybe meeting new ones. And there is one type that claims to facilitate that, but…
Indie Author Conventions Are (Almost) Universally Scams
I would love, love, to go to a convention for indie authors. I think it would be shitloads of fun, and might be able to bring in readers from all over to meet their favorite off-beat writers. And I’ve looked for them too, but unfortunately what I’ve found is nothing but cons meant to prey upon the hopeful.
I added the (Almost) up there to cover my ass, but the truth of the matter is I’ve yet to find a legitimate Indie Author Con. Everything is built around grandiose promises followed almost immediately by exorbitant fees. I’ve literally seen people charging upwards of $500 for a single signing table at a convention that they claimed would be slammed and ten minutes of research proved to be historically deserted. No, I’m not linking to any of them because fuck those people, and also because that’s more or less the case with every Indie Con I’ve found. It’s always possible there’s a good one out there and I missed it, in which case if you know of one by all means send me a heads up, but by and large it seems like a good one simply doesn’t exist.
Which actually gave me an idea.
Indie Bar Con
Let me state upfront that this doesn’t actually exist, nor is it likely too. This is just an idea, a pipedream that I thought would be fun. If any of you have the means to make it happen, then feel free to go forth and create it, because I’d love for this to exist.
Indie Bar Con is basically my idea for an Indie Author Con we could actually afford. No giant building to rent or passes to make. A bunch of authors just meet up in a bar, buy some drinks, and hang out. Want to come meet your favorite author or get a book signed? Feel free. No tickets, no passes, just a $5 cover to make the bar happy. Maybe some authors will have books to sell, maybe they won’t. It’s just people hanging out, and with no overhead aside from travel and lodging it’s affordable from the biggest to the smallest of writers.
Just a dream, I know, but maybe one day.
As one last aside, if any of you who read this are associated with any cons, please feel free to shoot me an e-mail. I’d love to learn more about how they work, where various roles fit in, and generally educate myself so I can approach them intelligently.