While I was at Penguicon this weekend, I posted a quick Twitter update: “To think I used to come to conventions for the panels…” (I also Twittered about Howard Tayler taking a picture of my crotch, but that’s probably best left for another time. Or never.)
I went to my first con not as a fan, but as a wannabe writer, because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? You go to sell books (once you have books to sell), and to get your name out there, and to network with editors and other professionals, and do panels, and so on.
I enjoy the panels. I did a half-dozen this weekend, along with a reading and an autographing session. The programming was great — big props to the con staff. Fun topics, fun panelists, and good-sized audiences. And according to Larry Smith in the dealer’s room, I sold a decent number of books, too. (I also note that my Amazon rankings are looking pretty good today — though this may or may not have anything to do with the con.)
But the most fun of the weekend? Hanging out at the bar with friends, arguing whether semicolons are pretentious. Chatting about kids/family with Sandra Tayler. Listening to Tom Smith perform 307 Ale in the middle of the lobby. Listening to Pat Rothfuss go on about Spirographs and masturbation. (I came into that conversation halfway through, so I suspect I may have missed something…)
I’m not the most extroverted or outgoing guy, but I love the social side. I’ve never been one for the parties, but I definitely understand how John Scalzi can spend an entire con just chatting with folks in the bar and have a blast.
The networking and the promotion still happen. I’ve landed story contracts and talked about anthology projects at conventions. I’ve made connections with editors who later bought my work. And I do sell some books. But I’ve learned not to force that. For me, it works better to show up and have fun. If people like what I have to say in panels, or think I’m a fun guy in person, they’ll track down the books. Whereas if I’m coming off as a salesman … well, I might sell books, but it’s also very easy to push too hard and annoy people. Not to mention I won’t have as much fun.
One downside, of course, is that I’m pretty wiped by the end of it all. Especially when my hotel room was on the second floor, in a location where people were apparently compelled to run around shouting and stomping at three in the morning. So as a result, I’ve forgotten all of the brilliant and insightful things I meant to say about conventions.
Instead, I’ll toss it out to you. For those of you who are into conventions, why do you go and what do you do in order to get the most out of the experience?