Home from World Fantasy Convention

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Late post today, and I apologize to my fellow MWers, and to Danielle,, for not commenting on posts from last week.  I was in San Jose, California for World Fantasy Convention.  For those of you unfamiliar with WFC, it is a terrific convention that is geared toward writers — both professional and aspiring — editors, and agents.  The programming is literary in its focus.  Some panels are on topics of general interest (the one I moderated was on writing non-human characters), while others are thematic.  This year’s conference theme was a celebration of Edgar Allen Poe.  There are also tons of readings.  A sampling of this year’s reading line-up:  Guy Gavriel Kay, Jay Lake, Garth Nix, Michael Swanwick, Patricia McKillip, Peter Straub, Ken Scholes, Jeff VanderMeer.   When you’re not in a panel or at a reading, you’re usually in the bar, catching up with friends, discussing publishing or writing or your latest business dealings with other professionals.  I was able to meet with my agent and with my editor, and I caught up with friends who I only get to see once a year at WFC.

I’ve offered this bit of advice before, but this seems like a good time to repeat it.  If you are serious about writing professionally, and if you are nearing the point when you will be ready to send out your manuscript for consideration, either to a publisher or to a literary agency, you should seriously consider attending one of the big industry conventions.  World Fantasy Convention, the World Science Fiction Convention (aka WorldCon), and World Horror Convention are the big ones in speculative fiction.  The Romantic Times Booklovers Convention and the annual conference of Romance Writers of America are the big ones in romance.  The World Mystery Convention is sponsored each year by Mystery Writers of America.  All of these conventions are similar in a number of ways.  They all rotate among cities each year — next year two of the big three in speculative fiction will be overseas:  WorldCon will be in Melbourne, Australia and World Horror will be in Brighton, England.  WFC will be in Columbus, Ohio.  Also, all the conventions are attended by editors and agents, who go to meet with their writers and talk to other editors and agents.  But they also go, in part, hoping to meet new authors.  And finally, all of them cost a fair amount of money.  The conference fees are high, ranging from $150 or so for WFC to over $400 for RWA.  You’ll have to travel to the convention, perhaps by plane, you’ll need to eat while you’re there, and you’ll need a hotel room, although if you can share with a friend, perhaps one who also wants to get published, you can lower your costs.  Still, we’re talking about a considerable investment.

So, why is it worth the money?  Because it’s a chance for you to hear professional writers, perhaps some of your favorites, talk about their work and read from their latest books.  It’s a chance to meet them and perhaps even ask them questions about the business.  And because as any of you who have already queried agents or sent out manuscripts know, it’s a mean old world out there.  Without an agent behind you, it’s very hard to get a publisher even to look at your work, and finding an agent in the first place is nearly as bad.  But these conventions offer you an opportunity to meet agents and editors yourself.  This is not a guarantee that they’ll want to see your work, but it gives you a chance to break down the biggest barriers you face right now — anonymity and obscurity.  If you can meet an agent or an editor, if you can get them to say, “Send me a few chapters of your book,” or even “Send me a synopsis” you can at least get your foot in the door.  You’re not an unknown name on a return envelope anymore.  You’re not another wannabe with a manuscript in an enormous slush pile.  Now you’re the person they met at the Tor Party or after the panel on “Transgender Trolls and their Role in Erotic Fantasy”.  You’re the person whose manuscript they asked to see.  You’re in the room.

This does not mean that you should interrupt their conversations with other writers, or that you should approach them while they’re having dinner, or that you should follow them to their rooms or to the restroom.  Those all fall under the heading of “Unprofessional Behavior.”  They may even fall under the heading of “Stalking.”  But if you observe some commonsense standards of social behavior, if you’re polite and brief and considerate, you just might make some connections that will start you down the road to professional success.  That’s why a convention is worth considering, despite the cost.

I hope to see many of you at WFC in Columbus next year.

David B. Coe

http://DavidBCoe.livejournal.com

http://www.DavidBCoe.com

http://magicalwords.net

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17 comments to Home from World Fantasy Convention

  • Welcome home, David! Though I’ve been to two WorldCons, I’ve yet to make it to WFC. Although, now that my writing has turned more and more towards fantasy, I suspect I’ll be headed to Columbus next year. Anyway, I strongly second your post. Cons are a great way to make connections. I met SF writer Bob Metzger at my very first convention, and feeling stupid and humble and shy, I thanked him for taking the time to talk with me and then apologized for taking up so much of his time. After assuring me it was no problem, he then offered this bit of perspective. He pointed out that just as I struggled to meet him, he was there in hopes of connecting up with the Guest of Honor (I think it was Robert Silverberg) and very nervous about it. That did wonders for me. Whenever I’m at a con, I try to remember that all these publishing people are just people. They want to be treated respectfully but not be avoided. They are at the con to meet with everybody…even me.

  • QUOTE: WFC will be in Columbus, Ohio.

    Hm, well that’s oddly fortuitous. Though my first finished piece is Sci-Fi (and Sci-Fi romance at that) and not fantasy, I may actually save my shekels and go to that, as I’m maybe 30-45 minutes from downtown Columbus. I do have an urban fantasy in the works and a high-fantasy novel as well.

    Neat! Maybe I’ll catch you there somewhere.

  • Great advice, David. I hit the con scene for the first time this year starting with Boskone, Worldcon, and Albacon. Your advice is bang on. I’ve been chatting it up and hanging out with a few published authors since, and some feel more like friends than distant gods who pen stories of valor and betrayal.

    With WFC not swinging eastward in 2011, perhaps Ohio could work. I’d like meet you someday, and eat your brain, err, pick your brain. 😉 Sorry, all this talk about cons has me back in zombie mode.

  • Thanks, Stuart. I think you’d love WFC. It’s far less phrenetic than WorldCon and much more book-focused. And yes, authors on the whole, and particularly those in our genre, are very friendly and approachable.

    Daniel, I hope to see you there. I think it would definitely be worth your while, particularly if you don’t have to worry about the cost of a plane or hotel.

    Dave, I’ll look forward to meeting you in Columbus, too. (Now watch: something will come up and I won’t be able to go….) You’re welcome to PICK my brain any time. From a distance…..

  • Mental image. NGDave with an ice pick. David bleeing, his scalp peeled back, skull hinged open ala Star Trek’s Data, and a dialogue line like, “I know it’s in there somethere.”

    Sorry. Blame it on the time change.

  • >>NGDave with an ice pick. David bleeding, his scalp peeled back, skull hinged open ala Star Trek’s Data, and a dialogue line like, “I know it’s in there somethere.”<<

    Lovely. Simply lovely. I'm just sitting here minding my own business…..

  • I really hope to attend WFC next year.

  • I’m planning on going to WFC 2010 – and I promise I won’t mention ice picks or skull peeling, even after my third drink. 😀

  • I blame Patricia Bray and Joshua Palmatier 100% for talking about zombies eating braaaains. BTW Faith, I prefer to pull the cranium apart manually, in large chunks.

  • Tom

    I’ve been to ArmidillaCon a few times. It was great. But that Albacon sounds intriguing. Wow, thousands of fans gathering to celebrate Jessica Alba. I am so in, man. LOL

  • This thread is degenerating quickly. :)

  • This is one of the benefits of working at a hotel, Travel Discounts. Slashing the cost of hotels out of it and it makes these things a lot easier to stomach.

    BTW – My day job’s firewall has tagged Magicalwords.net as a “Malicious Website” and has blocked access to it. Anyone know why this would suddenly do this in the last week?

  • Squeak

    Mark: When I had Mozilla noscripts enabled that blocked the magicalworlds.net java scripts, there was random advertisements for Aloeride and other odd items before the first post.

    When viewing the source, it appears these ads & keywords are in the main column itself with links to scotusblog.com’s calendar.

    Could be a poor attempt at redirecting site traffic but I honestly don’t know enough about scripts other than to point at the peculiarity as the source for the malicious description.

    On topic: There’s points here that I would have never considered. Here I am thinking you send out letters, maybe an email or phone call, and magic happens if your story is publishable. Do you have any suggestions for first-time attendees on how not to be overwhelmed?

  • Mark and Squeak — that is awful about the site. I have sent it our site manager to take a peek.

  • Squeak asked Do you have any suggestions for first-time attendees on how not to be overwhelmed?

    Eat breakfast. And drink plenty of water. In fact, eat decent food as you normally would. Avoid vending machines at all costs. At WorldCon last year, I was so busy I let myself skip breakfast, then nibbled on junk foods. I ended up weak and sick by the end of the first full day. You don’t want to feel this way when you’re trying to put your best foot forward professionally.

    If you can manage it, pack a picnic basket full of fruits, veggies and healthy snacks to have in your room. If you’re flying, you might want to scope out the neighborhood around the hotel when you arrive. At WorldCon I found a delightful fresh market two blocks from my hotel, and it saved me!

  • Thanks for alerting us to the problems with the site. As to your questions, Squeak, Misty’s answer is a good place to start. I’d add that even now, after attending countless cons, I still try to steal away for a while a couple of times during the con. This year, for instance, because I knew the Bay Area well (I lived there for six years back in the 80s and 90s) I visited some of my favorite old spots. One day I went up into the foothills for a hike; another morning I went to the Palo Alto Baylands, one of my old birding haunts. One day I went off by myself and had a quiet lunch. A little time to recharge the batteries; a bit of down time. You’re “on” at a convention most of the time, trying to be charming and funny and attentive to those with whom you speak. That time away gives you a chance to relax a bit. I try to get away in the mornings because afternoons and evenings are when most business gets done.

  • Mark asked, “My day job’s firewall has tagged Magicalwords.net as a “Malicious Website” and has blocked access to it. Anyone know why this would suddenly do this in the last week?

    This happens to me all the time. I work for a public school, and whenever the IT guys down at the District Office decide to tweak the filters, I will suddenly and without warning find myself blocked from sites that were okay the day before. I was blocked from here once for about two weeks, until I called down to the DO and insisted they fix the filter to allow it through (I’m friends with the second-in-command, so I could get away with it. :D)