Just back from Dragon*Con late last night and as usual the day after a big con, I’m sleep deprived, elated and let down all at the same time. Sleep deprivation is obvious, of course – who sleeps at a con before it becomes an absolute necessity? You might miss something! Elated because of the fabulous people met and wonderful contacts made. Our booth included incredible authors like David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson, Faith Hunter, Kalayna Price, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Diana Peterfreund, C.L. Wilson, Jennifer St. Giles, Deidre Knight, John Hartness, James Tuck, Elaine Isaak, and Tracy Akers. Many, many books sold out, including THIEFTAKER by D.B. Jackson and the first novel (and sometimes others) in about every series. I wished I’d brought more BAD BLOOD! I know I wasn’t the only one kicking myself for being conservative. Let down because now I have to get back to real life. Although there’s certainly something to be said for being back at home sleeping in my own bed. No superheroes or Fembots from Austin Powers wander through my living room, but I’ll just pretend my dog is a wookie and make do.
But none of this is in the spirit of the Magical Words articles, so let me do a short piece on con etiquette. Before I begin, it must be noted that overwhelmingly people are sensible about this (especially our wonderful MW readers), but perhaps you can gently point others in the right direction if you know anyone to whom this applies.
First, bathe. No, seriously. I know how much there is to see and do. It’s tempting to skip right over personal hygiene, so I’m here to tell you: THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL. This has been a public service announcement.
Second, while your creativity and workmanship should certainly be on display in your costuming (I’m a special sucker for the obscure or the surprising, like zombie-hunter Beaker), your body should not necessarily BE the costume. For example, a bumper sticker across your boobs does not a costume make. Not in my book, anyway. Your mileage may vary. I’d like to be able to bring my son. He’d love Dragon*Con. I don’t necessarily want to introduce him to the Playboy channel. Y’know?
Third, if you’re going to panels (and that’s a wonderful thing, particularly for aspiring writers), please note a few things:
-When you raise your hand to ask a question or make an observation, plan out what you’re going to say and don’t ramble on into an essay. I say this not to be cruel, but kind. Other people have questions as well and are there to hear what the panelists have to say. The more time you spend framing your question or ranting your favorite rant, the less time there is for everyone else to get their questions asked and answered. (Note: panelists are not exempt from this and should do their best to be succinct so that other panelist can have their say and as many questions as possible can be answered for the audience.)
-Do not shout out a follow-up question, but give someone else a chance and raise your hand again so that if everyone gets one chance, you can then have another.
-Do not ask questions that are really queries and for which the response would apply only to your work. For instance, “I have a fantasy featuring a fanged, pointy eared, green alien creature with cat-like tendencies in a polyandrous culture solving mysteries, curing the common cold and making a mean mimosa. Can I send it to you?” The answer, “Well, I’ll take the mimosa.” Anyway, you get the point. Panels are not the time and place for querying, though you can certainly approach the pros afterward for their cards. Once you’ve got those, feel free to query via their guidelines and mention that you met them at X-Con and enjoyed what they had to say on panel YZ.
-Likewise, author signings are not the time to tell the writer about your book, but a great chance to convey how much you’ve enjoyed theirs. However, if, you’re going to ask a couple of quick, concise questions, it’s courtesy to buy a book and support them as they’re supporting you.
-Unless an author, agent or editor is doing the peepee dance (yes, I said it), there’s almost never a bad time to tell someone how much you appreciated something they wrote or said on a panel. We like hearing that what we’ve said has mattered to someone.
Again, overwhelmingly people were amazing and the exceptions were few and far between, but they certainly stood out, and not in the best possible way.