Why I go to Conventions
Thanks for stopping by the blog. Today it’s all about conventions (cons); why I go and why you should too. Be you a writer, published or unpublished, traditional or indie, or an avid reader, there are good reasons to go for everyone.
Now my experience is purely based on the UK and on relatively small-scale cons. If you’re from the US it will likely be different – not least because travel distances are vastly greater – however please stick around, as I imagine it’s much the same once you get there.
So why go? Well, the main reason is simple, and it has nothing to do with marketing, or selling or anything sleazy like that. Really it’s just to be sociable. Writers spend a lot of time on our own bashing away at a keyboard. Avid readers likely spend a lot of time sitting reading, by nature a solitary activity. We can connect online but it’s not quite the same as chatting to someone over a pint or coffee. Conventions began before the internet, to act as forums before there were such things such Facebook pages. It’s meant to be one big party. For an indie author this is even more important because you don’t have a treehouse of authors from your publisher you’re naturally a part of. Thankfully, virtually every author I’ve met through cons or related events are friendly. Noses aren’t turned up. In the end writers like talking to other writers; we like swapping stories, talking through sticky points we overcame (or need help in overcoming). And if you’re a reader? WRITERS WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU. There is nothing better than someone coming up and saying ‘hey, I liked your book’. So if you’re at a con and you notice your favourite author is in the room, feel free to go over and politely say hi. Politely being the key word there. Cons are tiring and for biggish authors working panels or signings all day it’s especially tiring. So bear that in mind.
Which leads me to the next thing about cons. You can bump into some real mega stars, which is undeniably cool. Over the past year alone I’ve shaken hands with Brandon Sanderson (FantasyCon 2015), had a twenty minute workshop with Joe Abercrombie (GollanczFest 2016), had an awkward run-in with Joe Hill in men’s room, and drank with Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear (FatnasyCon 2016). I’ve also had the pleasure of being on a panel with Ben Galley (Nineworlds), someone I very much admire forging a name for himself in self-publishing. This also means ALL THE SIGNED BOOKS of the world. Here are a few…
There are many more people I’ve met who have made these cons special but to name them would take up most of the blog post. It’s not just writers but editors, marketing folks, publicity people, booksellers, everyone that loves the genre. All of this means I feel I’ve made real connections in the community and can now actually have those interactions on social media, which every panel on self-promotion always says is so essential.
Do I sell my own books at cons? I have although interestingly the best one for that was a little non-book related one called GamesFest out in Tring in Hertfordshire. It’s nice to make some sales but really it shouldn’t be the point of going if you’re an author. You probably aren’t going to sell crazy amounts and it’s going to be far better for you if you spend your time in the bar area getting to know people than stuck behind a table in an expo hall. Depending on the con I’d be highly unlikely to claw back to the cost of a ticket, travel, accommodation, food, drink and the books themselves.
Which leads onto a downside. The unfortunate thing is cons have tickets and tickets cost money. This can range greatly depending on the size of the event and how far you book in advance but a £30-80 ticket for a weekend is quite normal. Tally up all you spend getting there and possibly staying nearby, and it can add up. Overall I’d say it’s absolutely worth it if you have the cash to spend. Think of it like investing in yourself. Once you consider the connections that will hopefully last years, coming away with great memories and stories then it begins to look like good value for money. I’m trying to be optimistic of course but you have to be in these things. One thing for sure is that if you sit around and do nothing, and meet no one, and don’t engage at all then your future looks bleak indeed.
Trade hall at GamesFest
So that’s why, even as an indie author, I go to cons. I hope I’ve helped nudge a few of you into deciding to go as well.
cons, conventions, fantasycon, gamesfest, gollancz fest, nineworlds