Sci-fi conventions are part of the fun of being a fan or a writer, and every con I go to offers the opportunity to learn something new, meet fantastic people, hang out with other authors, and see new places. That’s why I’m a con-going writer.
Writing is a fairly solitary affair. Once in a while you come up for air to connect with beta readers, agents and publishers, but most of them time is spent inside your own head. My dogs make sure I get exercise, having an uncanny ability to smell the exact moment when I have gotten a great idea, at which point they need to go out to the back yard. But on the whole, writing isn’t a social activity.
Genre conventions are a way for me to include that social piece into my writing life and not get thrown wholly off track. I’ve attended many panel discussions on historical or scientific topics and come away with new ideas for plots, characters or story twists. I’ve learned a lot about the industry by sitting down for coffee or a drink with other authors and listening to what they’re working on, how their relationship with a publisher or agent is going, or what new project they’re developing. In the new world of hybrid careers and professional self-publishing, I’ve learned a lot about how other folks are successfully creating their own ebooks or print runs, sourcing artwork, and finding the best software.
Talking with readers is just as instructional. It’s good to hear from the other side of the desk, to find out what people are reading and why, what they’re tired of, what they want more of. Yes, it’s anecdotal, but it’s still outside input, and if you go to enough cons in a year (and I do), all that anecdotal information sifts together to form trends.
Cons are also places to get contracts. I’ve come home from many a convention with a contract or an invitation for a short story in an anthology, and I enjoy talking with editors and publishers of all sizes of publishing houses because I learn something from every conversation. Good relationships eventually open doors. Besides, it’s nice to talk shop with other people in the business who actually understand the highs and lows–writing is a strange occupation.
Going to cons also gives me plenty of grist for the social media mill, with photos to post on Facebook, bon mots to tweet on Twitter, and new ideas for blog posts. Sometimes, I end up tagged in someone else’s post, which is cool too. And on many occasion, I’ve landed a magazine, blog or podcast invitation just by showing up.
Most of all, cons are an opportunity to reconnect with friends and meet new ones, talk about the fan stuff other people don’t understand, shop the dealer room, and stretch your creative muscles. All the more reason to be a con-going writer!
Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books. My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.