Good day readers. It’s time for another Author Etiquette. We started this little series because we love authors—we wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t. But authors are human and sometimes make mistakes. On occasion we don’t understand and miss some fundamentals in the writing world. Whether you are a new author or a seasoned pro, we hope this column will give you some perspective on issues and help keep you out of trouble.
While conventions happen throughout the year, most of the cons are scheduled in the spring, summer and early fall. If you look at the calendar you can probably guess convention season is in full swing right now. Social media is alight with people sharing where they will be, what panels they will participate in and plans for cosplay costumes. It’s a great place to meet up with friends and make a lot of new ones.
For those who haven’t had a chance to attend a convention, let me give you just a bit of a taste of what goes on.
Conventions come in many different genre flavors. From romance to horror, you can find a con that fits your specific tastes. Many conventions have a theme or specific genre they cater to, but some are a wonderful combination of pop culture, artists, and authors. You can find cosplayers and costume designers alongside actors and musicians. Often there are panels that range from putting together a steampunk costume, to how to approach publishers about games, art or stories. Artists sometimes offer demonstrations on their techniques. Some conventions even have gaming sessions.
Cons are busy places. In between panels, and demonstrations and performances, you can find groups of people talking about costumes, publishing and art. Interviews and podcasts are being conducted along with people networking for new projects.
If you are curious, seek out something small at first. Most cities have at least one convention during the year, some more than one. Check the websites to find out who the special guests are and what days and times the convention will be held. Then go and have a good time. Talk with the people there and make new friends, because one of the best things about conventions is the ability to network.
To the new authors out there, networking is an important skill to develop. While social media does give people the opportunity to network and work together, talking to someone face to face often has better results. Conventions give you the opportunity to talk and contribute to discussions. It allows people to put a face to the name. And it allows you to listen to what’s going on in person.
Networking can be very important for a few reasons. First, you may hear of a new anthology you may want to write for. You might be introduced to an agent or other publishers. You can also get a feel for the industry when you network. When people get together, they talk about their experiences. Some good. Some bad. Listening to how others handle situations can give you some insight on what is going on and perhaps a lead on where things are heading.
Speaking with people you have only heard of or met online can open up opportunities. You might gain contacts for freelancing work. Or hear of a new publishing company. It depends on who you talk to or happen to sit next to at the bar.
There are some basic rules for networking but first and foremost is be professional.
This should really go without saying but always be professional when you are at a convention. Sure you are there to have a good time, but you never know when an opportunity will knock at your door. By being professional you are presenting a demeanour that will make an impression and at a convention, impressions can make a difference.
First, always introduce yourself. An author or a publisher may not recognize you. A simple, “Hello I’m, (Insert Name) and I had a story in your (insert anthology or magazine.)” or “Hi, I’m (Insert name) and we talked a few weeks ago on FB about (insert discussion.)” helps to jog the memory sometimes. But don’t be disappointed if they don’t remember you. Remember that authors and publishers talk to many people on social media and during a convention and it may be difficult to remember everything.
Don’t block the table. If you’d like to speak with a publisher, author or artist about something remember that they are there to make money. Having a booth and attending a convention is expensive. Don’t block their booth or insist they speak with you while things are busy. Stand to the side and be patient. Ask if they have time for a cup of coffee or would like to meet up after things die down. And again, don’t be angry if they simply don’t have time for you.
Leave a business card. Your business card can speak volumes. First it must have your name and your contact information (email only is fine). A simple logo or photo of your work will help someone recall who you are. Also a reminder of what you do on the front helps. Words such as author, editor, publisher or publicist, helps people categorize what you do. Lastly, leave the back blank. This is so that people can write notes so that they can remember who you are and what you talked about.
Follow up. Hopefully you grabbed a business card or already have the contact information of the people you spoke with at a convention. A simple polite email stating that you enjoyed speaking with them, the subject of the discussion and a wish to work with them in the future works great. If the author, publisher or artist is available to speak further, they now have your information at hand. But please don’t expect an immediate response. Most publishers and authors have a lot to unpack and catch up on.
Conventions are a great way to expand your knowledge of the publishing world and to meet new people. Networking can lead to a lot of great projects or ideas. Being professional ensures that everyone has a great time. I encourage everyone to attend at least one—mostly because I know you’ll attend more.