The coming of spring brings with it several important changes: (hopefully) better weather, the buzz and chitter of insects, the blooming of beautiful flowers, pollen, for my fellow allergy sufferers, and science fiction and fantasy conventions, or cons for short.
Not only are conventions great for celebrating your favorite geeky thing with hundreds of other fans, they’re also the perfect place for authors to promote their work. That’s why, during this time of year, I like to offer up my advice for new authors on how to navigate the convention scene.
Throughout this article, I am liable to make gratuitous reference to a little convention known as Dragon*Con. This is not only because Dragon*Con is seven kinds of awesome, but because it is a good example of several of the things I am going to talk about. Here goes.
Rule #1: Plan Ahead
This goes without saying, but I’m constantly surprised at those who try to simply “wing it” at a convention without doing any research or recon beforehand. You not only need to have your hotel booked (which is especially important at something like Dragon*Con, where the hotels sell out in three nanoseconds), you need to make sure that your target audience for your work is going to be there, as well as if it looks like something you’ll enjoy as a fan.
If the site of bronies or furries makes you throw up in your mouth a little, around the clock anime leaves you cold, or the con’s biggest draw that year is the guy who played the Vulcan gong ringer in the Star Trek episode Amok Time, that con might not be a good fit for you or your book.
That being said, if you like all those things, go ahead and go and have a great time.
To find a great con near you, check out Conventionscene or, for cons in the Southeast U.S., you can’t go wrong with the Southern Fandom Resource Guide.
Rule #2: Be Nice
Nothing will put a fan or potential fan off of you or your work faster than being a prima donna jerk. Don’t do it. Don’t be boorish or rude, don’t monopolize panels only tangentially related to your book to talk about your book, and don’t get angry when you go to a media (film and TV) con and no one knows who you are. Get over yourself. Don’t be “that guy.” (And if you have to ask about the characteristics of “that guy,” then you probably are “that guy.”)
Rule #3: Be Prepared
Bring plenty of pens for signing autographs, and plenty of copies of your books if you’re a self-published author. Even if you don’t have a table set up at the convention, you might get the opportunity between panels to sell copies of your work. Be prepared to do a lot of walking, and try to get plenty of sleep.
Rule #4: Pimp the Con
Conventions rely at least partly on you to hopefully bring in fans of your work to the con, and they expect all of their guests to promote their appearances there using their website and social media. They will also often set up interviews with guests for the news media, and will ask if you’d like to volunteer for this on your guest application. Do it. You might never be asked, but always tell them you’re willing. It might grease the wheels for you with the guest committee, and if you’re called on you might get to be on TV or the radio. It’s a win-win for both you and the convention.
There you have it, four rules for authors new to the convention scene. This list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to share your own con author survival tips in the comments.