I’ll be participating in MileHiCon October 27-29, and after I announced that, a fellow writer surprised me by asking what MileHiCon is. This fellow writes fantasy and didn’t know about Colorado’s top Fantasy and Science Fiction literary convention. It made me wonder how many people don’t know what cons, or conventions, are and what they can do for your writing.
In this case, I am attending MileHiCon, a literary convention for the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre. A literary convention centers around books, for both writers and readers. Thus, they tend to be a good place to sell books, network, and learn craft. Most genres have them, including some here in Colorado. The Colorado Horror Convention happens in Denver at the end of October/early November. Colorado Romance Writers hold a mini-con in August. And the Colorado Mystery Convention takes place in early October. There are also writers conferences, which tend to be non-genre-specific, but are great places to network, pitch, and learn from broader, more generalized skillsets. Most people know about Comic Cons, which celebrate comic books. Most cities have them now, and while they aren’t the best place to learn about writing or network, you can sometimes sell a good number of books there, especially if they’re in the speculative fiction genres.
So what does a writer do at a convention? I’ve only been to a few now, but they’ve been spread across the spectrum of cons, so between what I know and some of my more experienced friends know, I think this is a good starting list:
- Get a table and sell your brand. Sell your books, yes, but sell your brand, the image you want people to have of you as a writer, too. Use book marks, stickers, handouts, cards, and whatever other professional publicity items you come up with. A con-savvy friend of mine handed out 4″ x 6″ cards with a flash story on the back so readers would get to know her style. Brilliant!
- Network. Not just with readers, but with other writers, editors, agents, and publishers. Again, get your brand out there, and for goodness sake, whatever you do, follow the Golden Rule of being an author: don’t be a jerk. Be polite, even friendly. I know, you’re an introvert and hate people. Get over it. This is business.
- Get on Panels! Even if you’re not yet published, you’re still a writer, and your viewpoint is unique. Try to get on panels you feel strongly about, but that you can discuss logically and professionally. Ones that you have some experience with. At MileHiCon this year, I’m on panels about transforming characters (several of my Hell’s Butcher Series characters transform), and another on what happens to a story when you add a romantic subplot. Panels get you exposure to a combination of industry professionals and readers, so they do double-duty for you.
- SOCIALIZE. Every con has what they call Bar-Cons, usually on Friday and Saturday nights. This is the time a lot of schmoozing gets done, and when many people who aren’t formally attending the con show up to meet up with cohorts and friends. Stay sober, and mingle. Circulate, talking to as many people as possible. Or even better, have a more experienced friend show you around and introduce you to people.
- Be ready, and swing if the pitch is right. Basically, have your elevator and long pitches ready, so if some editor or agent wants to hear about your stuff, you’re ready on a moment’s notice to make them want your work. And if that chance comes up — DO IT. You won’t regret it, even if it flops.
Conventions can be a great way to sell your work, promote yourself, and meet people in the business of writing (and selling) stories. They can be intimidating at first, but once you get out there, they’re a lot of fun, and can help you grow as a writer.