WF 2008 – getting into the program.

In an online discussion with my publisher in Texas (who had tried to make time to attend the convention but had to drop the idea) she told me that to get the most value from attendance one had to become part of the program, so people who ‘count’ have a chance to see you as an active talent. Before this I had intended to attend and lurk in the background to learn, but I thought I’d better take her advice.

I guess the first route one should follow to become part of the program is to watch the pre-convention information from the organizers, and be ready when they begin soliciting participation from those who have signed on. I’m told this could be of many forms, from requests for volunteer help, to reading, and to sitting on a panel. This convention featured, usually, four simultaneous streams in four different function rooms, and two of them were largely for author readings. I put my name in when the call came a few weeks before the event and they put me down to do a reading – in the first hour of the program.

This had both advantages and disadvantages. Only about half of the attendees had arrived by that time. (I saw some trickling in on day 3) so I wouldn’t be playing to a full house. On the other hand, the author slated to read for the second half hour didn’t show up, so I was able to keep my small audience (less than a dozen) for the whole hour by interspersing readings from two novels with some discussions I invited them to join. As a consequence we talked about genres, publishing, writing, conventions – whatever – not deeply, but enough to provide a warmup for those present (as well as me).

The next route I learned from people I met during the convention. I was urged to join SFCanada, a speculative fiction group of published authors – and subsequently did so. I learned from a lady (a fellow author with the Texas company) who I had looked to meet at the convention, that these largely B-team author groups (those of us who do not command 5 figure advances) provide the foot soldiers for organizing and sitting on panels in the program to save wear and tear on the A-team authors (who do). Being visible at conventions and belonging to groups like SFCanada are a route to greater networking and greater exposure as a writer.

Which leads to another way to be noticed. You will be attending many panel discussions anyway, so look to come up with a provocative question when the panel is opened to questions from the floor, and then look to buttonhole the panelist who fielded it. This takes a bit of ‘push’ because when the panel ends they are intent on getting to the next part of the program. This is where one has to use one’s own inimitable charm and occupy their attention and responses . . . at least until they reach the door.

Those who have already started on the ‘being noticed at conventions’ route have a head start for all the subsequent ones they attend. They are recognized by friends they’ve met before and might already be on first name basis with the authors you hoped to meet. Another method is to be at the convention for a third party organization. I met a young lady librarian who seemed to be attending all the author readings I did (including mine) on behalf of an online SF review  magazine. I met a young man who was there on a very similar task as I was, drumming up advance notice for a novel not yet released – a macabre comic novel called “Breathers” and written from the POV of a zombie. He was on his third convention for the year and had more to go. And then was another young lady who confided that she hadn’t yet finished the first draft of her first fantasy novel, but as a academic, turned out to know a great many people there – well enough to be invited to participate in two more conventions in 2009.

So, I suppose the first requirement for profiting from convention attendance is a credential – either a completed work or a published work – from any of the 70,000 small presses, if NY does not know you – or an academic profession that gains you notice, a mission from an interested organization, of a job in the industry. Then I’d suggest the next is to enjoy the program; talk to everyone who will stop to chat a moment; sit in on all the readings of other writers you have met online; make the acquaintance of a name or two; and don’t forget to look up people in the writing world you may have met many years before and hardly recognize.

The writing business is no different that any other – socializing and making sure people know your face can make a difference later when something with your name on comes across their desk.

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One Response to “WF 2008 – getting into the program.”

  1. joylene Says:

    The more you talk about the convention, the more I wish I’d been there. But it was only for SF & Fantasy writers, eh? Too bad.

    I tuned in today because I was certain you’d be talking about Ottawa & our little takeover. Your current topic is more interesting.

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