All Hail Con Season!
~blares trumpets~ ~thumps chest~
|RWA 2013 Lit Signing: Photo by RT Book Reviews|
If you're a romance reader or writer, you know Romantic Times (RT) just had their big annual Booklovers Convention in New Orleans (check out Jeffe or Veronica's Twitter feeds for all the mischief two of our bordello mates got in whilst there). It's a HUGE multi-day event that once upon a time was a reader-centric event. Writers attended to connect with their fans. While that's still the focus, RT has tacked on -- what James accurately categorizes as a 'Professional Convention' -- offering writing workshops and pitching opportunities for writers both published and aspiring. There was a time when -- as a romance author -- one attended RWA National for all the professional training and networking needs, and went to RT to connect with the fans. These days, what one can get from each event is really quite similar.
The big, big Romance Cons aren't the only ones blending the demands of talent-consumer and reader-consumer. It's happening in other genres and other entertainment fields. It's happening with smaller Cons too. Regional events are morphing into national events. City-centric events are keeping the venues local but inviting national and international talent, often at the cost of emerging local talent. For the sponsors, it's all about attendance. Same too for the consumers. Same too for authors.
Cons are about Revenue & Reputation
Doesn't matter if you're the sponsor, the artist, the agent, the management, hell, even the host-city; the reason to attend a Convention as anything other than a fan is improving Revenue and Reputation. In most cases, the latter builds the former. In writer-speak that translates to Discovery Brings Sales.
Discovery is the holy grail for a writer. Nope, not discovery by an agent or editor. Discovery as in a reader being aware of your book's existence amid millions and millions of other books. Networking, socializing, face-time, call it what you will, it's all about creating a reputation. For some people that is easiest done by attending a Con.
For those folks who hide in their hotel rooms during a Con -- stop wasting your money and your time. Cons are clearly not the appropriate venue for you to build your reputation. There are other ways. Some as equally effective. Re-purpose that Con investment into a marketing push.
Wait, wait, what about all those classes and workshops? Lots of people attend to learn how to improve their craft! Yes. And why do they care to improve their craft? Because they want to sell the book. They want revenue. And they can write the BEST BOOK EVER and without reputation, without discovery, NO ONE WILL KNOW which means NO ONE WILL BUY.
If "public" is something you can handle, then determine your Crowd : Comfort ratio. This will help you narrow down the genre-relevant convention options. Keep in mind, there are only so many hours in the day, only so many people you can meet, and only so many people with whom you can connect. A five-thousand person Con vs a fifty-thousand person Con isn't going to make that much of a difference in the number of connections you can make. Fucking Crowded is Fucking Crowded.
If you're unpublished and what you really want is the attention of an agent or publishing-house editor, that narrows down the Con options. Look for Cons in which you can secure an appointment with the agent/editor. Otherwise, you're investing a lot for a chance encounter.
If you have a book to sell, then the attention you need is from readers so you can build your Reputation and Revenue. Have enough readers and you will have achieved a measurable Reputation. That Reputation will gain the attention of agents and editors because they're looking for Revenue and to enhance their Reputation.
If you're looking to make friends and not feel so isolated in your writing career (no matter what stage you're career is in), then pick the Con with the most lax schedule and best host-city. For gods' sakes, stay clear of snarks and grumpkins. You're building a reputation, you don't want the words "difficult" or "negative" associated with it.
Right, so, in a nutshell, Cons of any size can be worth "it," if you're honest about why you're really attending and have a realistic notion of just how sociable you can be. If in doubt, ask yourself: Will this measurably affect my Reputation? Will this measurably affect my Revenue?