I am a fan of genre fiction, a self-confessed geek and proud. Fandom has taken me to various sci-fi/fantasy conventions over the years. I have been to Montreal, London, Copenhagen, Dublin, Glasgow and now, Helsinki. Not so much to the ComicCons with all the glitz and glamour of the big and small screen, but the WorldCons and the EuroCons where the more understated stars of the publishing world ply their literary trade. These are the places where I fangirl my author heroes, listen in on panels about subjects close to my little geeky heart and meet up with the people who understand my book-fuelled references. This year, for the first time, I went to a WorldCon with my business hat on and discovered a whole new level of enjoyment. This is my account of how much can be gained by writers and editors alike from a few days immersed in a seemingly benign convention.
The WorldCon programme is crammed full of panels, presentations and seminars on everything relevant to science fiction and fantasy. A healthy chunk of that is reserved for imparting wisdom on the mysteries of writing and publishing successfully. Without missing out on plenty of time to meet up with friends, I managed to absorb a huge amount of knowledge and advice from writers, editors and publishers just by sitting and listening ... and occasionally raising my hand to ask a question. I attended panels and presentations on a variety of topics including: 'Crowdfunding/Book Publishing', 'Editor's Dream', 'Independent and Dependent Publishing', 'How to Make an E-book', 'New Publishing' and 'So You Want to Self-Publish'.
The information gleaned from people with proven experience in all of the topic areas will prove invaluable in enhancing the service I provide to my independent author clients. Even better, the advice and knowledge that was imparted so generously can be applied to all of the genres I work in. Not just science fiction and fantasy but crime, historical, thriller, romance, erotica and even creative non-fiction.
Amongst the panellists, you will often find your author heroes. By listening in to their take on a particular subject, you can gain a unique insight into their process which you can use to enhance your writing style too, maybe even emulate the great success stories of your genre. The lady in the photo to the left is Robin Hobb, one of my favourite authors. Listening to her speak at the 'Animals as Characters in Fantasy' panel was a personal highlight of the convention.
Each panel and presentation that I attended was filled with writers and other editors. A room full of people keen to learn more about a subject that forms part of their livelihood whilst sharing a love for a specific genre is fertile ground for making mutually beneficial connections. Whether those connections turn out to be business or personal, it doesn't matter. There is also the opportunity to talk to the expert panellists before or after the session begins. They are there to sell their books or raise the profile of their publishing services so they are more than happy to engage.
As well as panels, presentations and seminars, WorldCon provides its members with book signing opportunities, a dealer's room and an art show. All of which give you ample opportunity to rub shoulders with those who have made it to the professional position that you are aiming for.
Alongside all of that, there are many parties in the evenings where you can track down the people who have inspired you and find out more about their path to success in a social setting. I was very lucky to attend George R.R. Martin's Hugo Losers' Party which followed the Hugo Awards' ceremony. It was set in Helsinki's iconic Steam Bar and was filled to the brim with successful writers, editors and publishers. The evening overflowed with interesting conversation, invaluable connections, cocktails and cake.
Taking a Break
Let's face it, ours is a solitary existence. Freelance writers and editors spend a great deal of time closeted in our homes, staring at a computer screen. We seldom get to have a real life conversation with those who understand our highs and our lows, let alone do it in a completely different part of the world. WorldCon gives us that outlet. We can mingle with 'our people' in completely new surroundings, make friends, do some sightseeing and return to our desks renewed, invigorated and inspired.
Next time you are thinking about how to give your professional life a boost, perhaps you will consider attending a genre specific convention. I never knew that the 'business' side of my work could be so much fun and would recommend the experience wholeheartedly.