This year, the 77th World Science Fiction Convention and Eurocon 2019 were less than one week and one hundred miles apart. Worldcon was hosted by Dublin, Ireland and Eurocon was hosted by Titancon in Belfast, Northern Ireland. How could I resist two of my favourite science fiction conventions in two such fabulous cities? I couldn't. So, I went, and it was well worth it. Not just for the warmth these conventions bring to my geeky little heart but also for the volume of invaluable information imparted by experts and idols of the publishing world.
Here are just some of the reasons why these kind of conventions are so useful to authors:
Panels, Workshops, Talks. You can take part as a participant, like I did, which provides great exposure to a room full of avid consumers of your genre. Just sign up before the convention and let them know what your areas of expertise are. Whatever the subject of the panel(s) etc. you find yourself on, you get a brief opportunity to mention your name and book when you introduce yourself at the start. As well as being a participant, you can go along as an audience member and absorb valuable information on all kinds of subjects that will be useful for your content and for improving your path to publication. You will get to put names to faces of agents, editors, publishers, cover artists and authors you admire too, which is always useful when making that first approach. These are some of the panels, workshops and talks that I was lucky enough to attend this year:
When Scientists Write Science Fiction. Participants -- Douglas Van Belle, Kali Wallace, David L Clements, Corry L. Lee Ph.D.
The Future of Organised Fandom. Participants -- Christopher Davis, fromankyra, Liekinloimu, Gerard Kraus.
Editors' Panel: What Makes the Cut. Participants -- Anne Clarke (publisher, Gollancz), Ginjer Buchanan (Guest of Honour, retired editor, Penguin Random House), Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Editor in Chief, Tor Books), Natasha Bardon (Publishing Director, HarperVoyager UK), Wataru Ishigame (Editor, Tokyo Sogensha).
Contracts and Talking Terms. Participants -- Julie Crisp (Literary Agent, Julie Crisp Literary Agency), Liz Gorinsky (Publisher, Erewhon Books LLC), Joshua Bilmes (President, JABberwocky Literary Agency), Catherine Cho (Literary Agent, Curtis Brown), Meg Davis (Agent and Managing Director, Ki Agency Ltd).
Editors' Panel: Challenges and Anecdotes. Participants -- Michael Rowley (Commissioning Editor, Fiction, Rebellion Publishing Ltd), Eleanor Teasdale (Commissioning Editor, Angry Robot Books), Ginjer Buchanan (GoH, retired editor, Penguin Random House), David Thomas Moore (Fiction Commissioning Editor, Rebellion Publishing Ltd), John R. Douglas (Freelance SF Editor).
Human Reproduction and Childbirth in SFF. Participants -- Anne Charnock (Author), Beth Meacham (Executive Editor, Tor Books), A.J. Hackwith (Author), Jeannette Ng (Author).
What Agents Want. Participants -- Joshua Bilmes (President, JABberwocky Literary Agency), John Berlyne (Literary Agent, Zeno Agency Ltd), Lucienne Diver (Literary Agent, The Knight Agency), Juliet Mushens (Literary Agent, Caskie Mushens Ltd).
Small Press (Eurocon). Participants -- Pedro Cipriano (Founder, Editorial Divergencia), Cheryl Morgan (Owner, Wizard's Tower Press), Carole Parker ms.
The Business of Writing (Eurocon). Participant -- Paddy Finn (Author, Starcane Press).
Pitch Wars (Eurocon). Participant -- Damien Larkin (Planning Analyst/Author).
Kaffeeklatsches, Literary Beers, Strolls with the Stars. These provide excellent opportunities to ask questions of the authors, editors, publishers, agents, artists etc. who interest you most, as well as providing the opportunity for them to be able to put your face to your name when the time comes for you to approach them with your work. These are small groups of convention members having a coffee, a beer, or a walk with participants in a fairly informal setting. I was lucky enough to meet Robert S Malan (Author, Editor, Luna Press Publishing), Gillian Redfearn (Publishing Director, Gollancz), John Berlyne (Literary Agent, Zeno Agency Ltd), Ellen Datlow (Fiction Editor). Be sure to find out the sign-up process for these events though. I didn't realise that you had to sign up the day before and missed out on meeting a few other people earlier in the programme.
Book Signings. You are unlikely to have much opportunity to speak with your favourite authors at a signing, especially if they are very popular, but you will get your precious book signed by their own fair hand and may even have your photo taken with them.
Publishing Parties. There are likely to be a few of these rumbling away in the background. They are often private and by invitation only, but occasionally, if you keep your ear to the ground, you can find out about one that is secretly public. I was lucky enough to go to the Titan party in Dublin where I met lots of authors, publishers and editors in a relaxed, informal setting.
Volunteer. These conventions are run by volunteers. Without them, there wouldn't be a convention. One of the ways to get face-to-face meetings with your publishing idols is to volunteer in the Green Room, in hospitality or at the award ceremonies. You won't be meeting them in a business sense, it's important not to use such an opportunity to make a nuisance of yourself, but you will be in a position to make yourself useful and therefore have your name and face remembered when future opportunities arise, as well as helping out the convention.
Awards Ceremonies. Worldcon is the home of the Hugo Awards, science fiction's most prestigious awards. These awards are voted on by the members of the convention, so you will have the opportunity to award your favourite contributors to the genre. I attended the awards ceremony in Dublin and found it incredibly inspirational. It provided me with a great motivational boost. Who wouldn't want to stand up on that stage and get presented with your very own rocket-shaped award?
I hope that overview has provided you with an avenue towards successful publication that you may not have considered before. I will be writing further blog entries giving more detailed information on some of the areas of publishing that I learned about during the conventions. Those and other blog entries in the 'Getting Published' series can be found by following these links:
Getting Published: Beta Readers - What, Who, Where, Why?
Getting Published: Submitting your Manuscript to Agents and Publishers