The Year of Living Authorly: Post 5 Conventions–Image

March 3, 2017 1

Welcome to post 5 of The Year of Living Authorly. The subject of this post is one I initially had to grapple with, but I eventually made my peace with. You’re an author at a convention. You want to attract people to your work. You want people to have a certain image of you. What is the best image to put forward?

Much like an online persona, it’s best for authors to do something they feel comfortable with. I’ve seen authors dress as their own characters. I’ve seen authors dress in vaguely fannish clothing. I’ve seen authors dress like I might dress for my job as a professor. Is anyone one of these approaches better than another?

Conventional wisdom suggests that it is best to treat your author work like you might other work, that you should dress like you would as a professional. BUT I know that some authors trade on the kinship that they feel with fandom, and wearing a big floofy hat, or dressing vaguely like Jim Dresden is expected for these authors.

My particular dilemma with image is that I come from cosplay roots. From about 1985 until around 2007 or so, if you’d asked my friends what I did at conventions, they would tell you I made awesome costumes. Seriously, I used to do about 5-7 costume changes a convention. It was my raison d’etre for going to these things. And it was a blast. I was taken very seriously in the world of fandom costumers, and people still oooohhh and aaaahhh today over those pictures.

But I ultimately decided that in order to go where I wanted to as an author, I needed to professionalize. Why? Well, I wanted other people to publish me, and I wanted to make sure that I was seen as a capable person who could meet deadlines and took my work as an author seriously. I didn’t feel I could do this while I was dressed as an anime character or even Granny Weatherwax (and honestly, who wouldn’t take Granny Weatherwax seriously?). I thought it would serve my image better to go away from being a fan to being a professional.

I have to tell you, I’m not sure if this is the right decision, but I am comfortable with it. I will not go so far to say that I might never get fannish at a convention (read tshirts, goofy hats, etc), but if there’s a convention where I want people to think of me as a professional author, I am going to dress in a professional way and comport myself like a person who takes writing seriously. And honestly, there are cons where I feel I am not going to meet people in the publishing industry, but they are few and far between. The con I attend where I geek out the most, Convergence, is still a place where agents, editors, and fellow writers are going to be, and you never know when opportunity will come knocking.

Okay, so, that said, I know lots of authors who work the other mojo to their advantage. Chris Paolini used to dress up as a character from his book while he did his readings, I understand. Many writers make a memorable impression in fannish clothing. Cool. Do what works for you.

Me? While I don’t want to blend into the background, what I do want is for my demeanor and my work to be taken seriously, even though I am writing about demon binders in the 19th century. So, my advice is this: be professional until maybe you have gotten where you want to go. Then, maybe, you can play a little.

 

Next up: The cost of conventions. Can you afford them? How much does a convention cost anyway?

The Year of Living Authorly: Post 3 Conventions–Atmosphere

February 17, 2017 0

Welcome to the third post of the year of Living Authorly. Ironically, the rest of the Unreliable Narrators are at Boskone this weekend, and I am staying home to FINISH MY SEQUEL to The Vessel of Ra. Yes, this weekend, the 3rd draft is over, and I will send it off to the tender ministrations (?) of my readers for a couple of months. Also this weekend, a lot of professorial work. Can I have a booyah?

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Right. Conventions. Right. Okay. I have been going to Science Fiction/ Fantasy/ Comics/ Gaming/ Animation conventions on and off since I was 19, which was a veeeerrrrryyyy long time ago. My reasons for going? Same reasons I’m doing this podcast, man. I’m a geek. A nerd. A fan. Formerly a costumer. I actually like the darned things! I was never faced with the author decision of not going to conventions, because, well, I’ve always gone to conventions. My problem was almost the opposite of many authors. How did I get people to stop thinking of me the way they’d always thought of me, as a fan, and think of me as an author? Or, as I became older and spent some time as a Secret Master of Fandom (Mindbridge Board President for countless year, me), how did I make the transformation to industry professional?

I have so much to say about conventions for professionals that I’ll be breaking this into several posts:

Atmosphere

Panels

Image

Cost to Attend

Promotion and Touring

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Is the fan convention experience right for you? Just like the post I did on social media, a lot depends on you. Do you mind interacting with people when they are potentially socially awkward (as in, my peeps who like something so much they squee)? How much of  an introvert are you? How much do you enjoy what the convention is celebrating? Do you like meeting and chatting with strangers? All of these are reasons to consider whether a convention is right for you or not.

Remember there are many different kinds of conventions: all the way from the small and personal (100 or so like 4th Street) to ridiculously record breaking and huge (San Diego Comics Con with 110K and counting). They come in all kinds of flavors as well, like the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts and Wiscon (both part academic con coupled with fiction and intelligent discussion. Vanilla Bean.) or Convergence (everything all at once, big, with lots of costuming and celebrations of fannish life. Ice Cream Parlor Kitchen Sink Sundae with extra Jelly Beans and Gummy Worms on top.) or D23 (Celebrates all things Disney for fans of all things Disney. Going this summer for the first time as a fan only, not a writer. I’ll get back to you, but I figure chocolate-coated Mickey ice cream bar on a stick.)

The first thing you’ll want to figure out is if the actual convention is what you’re looking for in terms of enjoyment and comfort. I usually use these criteria when I think about trying out a convention I’m not familiar with.

  1. Do the panels at the con interest me as an attendee? As a potential participant?
  2. What is the convention about? Do I have interest in this particular kind of gathering as a fan?
  3. Am I able to interact with people who would make me comfortable (are my author buddies going? are the fans attending likely to be interested in areas I am interested in? Am I interested in the guests?)

What you will notice is I don’t ask the question: Is my reading audience at this convention? I should totally get in the habit of asking that question, and it will probably influence cons I go to in the future, because I now have a book to support. However, the questions above are the most important to me, because if I’m not enjoying myself, I will not come across as a person whose work you might be interested in when you find out about my writing. A lot having an online presence, I don’t want my convention self to come across as forced or inauthentic, or be solely focused on my books.

Therefore, personally, I am likely to go to cons that have an academic component (see notes above about spending weekend as a professor), or have a writing track (yeah. That makes sense.), or discuss social issues or the kinds of fandoms I like, or just make me feel happy about being a fan (liking many things geeky got me into cons, after all.) There are conventions for so many kinds of fandom. Some cons appear to be one thing, but have surprising features. For example, I have been curious for a while about GenCon’s awesome writing workshop, and that’s a gaming convention, so always check out all the offerings of conventions you’re considering, even ones that seem on the surface like they’re not your type of con.

Every year, you can pretty much count on me being at Wiscon (Feminist SF Convention in Madison, and very close to me. Also a trip with 3 amazing friends, so bonus), Icon (my home base con that I used to help run. Now I run a writing workshop there during the con), Convergence (a con my husband and I do together, and one I geek out a lot at, plus can hang with author friends and be on panels). I do try to make a couple of other events a year. This year, I’m going to Minicon. I’ve never been, but Jim Hines, who I admire a lot and is a good author friend and now sensei is guesting, so I’ll be trying it out. Also, I’m returning to C2E2, a comics con in Chicago, because the guy who played the Punisher is going to be there, as is the voice of Kaos from Skylanders, and I am going just as a fan, but may snag potential podcasting interviews with folks I admire. In the past, I have hit Worldcon, San Diego Comics Con, 4th Street Fantasy (this one is a gem among cons for writers), Capricon, and my god, I’m just grocery listing now, but you get the idea. I’ve been going to cons for 33 years, and yeah, that’s a lot of cons.

There are so many types and flavors of conventions for you as a writer, of various degrees of proximity, I cannot help but encourage you to get online and ask people where they go and what they like. Go with a like-minded friend at first, if you can, so you can have an introvert buffer. You’ll play hit and miss until you find the venues that make you comfortable.

Next week over at Writer Tamago Post 4: Conventions–Being on Panels