Writing Excuses Season 3 Episode 9: Conventions You Should Be Attending

As genre-fiction writers we attend a lot of conventions. As aspiring genre-fiction writers you probably want to be attending conventions. But which ones should you spend time and money on, and what should you plan to do while you’re there?

We start by categorizing conventions – literary conventions, anime conventions, media conventions, conferences and trade-shows. Comic-Con, which just wrapped up today, is a media con. WorldCon is a literary con.  Clarion is a conference. BEA and E3 are expos.

As authors and aspiring authors we want to focus on the conventions where we can rub shoulders with editors and agents. So have a listen and find out where you should be, and why…

We’ll cover what you should be doing at conventions in next week’s ‘cast. And here’s hoping we’ll see you at WorldCon!

This episode of Writing Excuses is brought to you by Dungeon Crawlers Radio, those nice guys who interviewed Howard at ConDuit, and then bailed Writing Excuses out when our recording equipment didn’t make it to the show.


32 thoughts on “Writing Excuses Season 3 Episode 9: Conventions You Should Be Attending”

  1. I have to say I really love topics like this because a lot of the writing tidbits you can find opinions a lot of places (all different of course ;-)) but this is something I haven’t seen advice for elsewhere, and gives a lot to think about. Of course a question this makes me ponder is “when is it time to go to a con with the intention of talking to editors/publishers?” After all if you get an editor’s interest but you’ve only got half a first draft done, does it really help? By the time the time you’ve got something presentable he may have forgotten you.

  2. “And in his pocket he has a…”

    Cat, of course.

    Our doughty protagonist takes out a mewling kitten and swings it by the tail. Immediately a swarm of editors descend upon him, shrieking their demands that he let the helpless creature go; our protagonist lets go the kitten’s tail, and the hapless beast goes flying out over the crowd.

    Unfortunately for our protagonist, he finds that he is unable to get the attention of an editor after this (he tries the cat-swinging trick once more, and this time invites the wrath of PETA down upon him); his reputation as a cat-swinger ensures that his books will never see the light of day.

    The kitten, on the other hand, lands on top of a nine-year-old girl whose love for it is instant and complete; she takes it home and the kitten lives happily ever after. Well, until it dies.

  3. I haven’t been able to listen to this weeks episode yet, but it seems to make sense that you shouldn’t approach a publisher unless you have at least one finished work, otherwise they would have no way to know how serious you are.

  4. this website is three hours in my past, huh. also, is worldcon the best con to go to to meet publishers and agents/editors?

  5. sweet. :D i was listening to this and i was all, something i can comment on, yay.

    i’ve never been to a convention, but i’ve been to a conference. they’ve got one up here (near where i live) every October. the SIWC, or the Surrey International Writers Conference (http://www.siwc.com), occurs over one weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), and it’s full of little panels or workshops, meetings with agents and editors, and lunches and dinners where you can talk freely to authors and agents. it’s about the cost of one of my English lit classes, so it feels like a weekend-long class.

    sure, it’s in Canada, but i do recommend it if you live on or near the Pacific coast.

    i didn’t go last year because the workshops didn’t sound interesting, but this year looks like fun.

  6. And in his pocket he has a…magic ray gun that turns all the authors into characters from their books. Brandon becomes a koloss, Dan becomes a serial killer, and Howard becomes a walking pile of poo. And Steven King becomes a killer clown that murders everyone.

    And they lived happily ever after.

    Seriously, though, I never thought about a convention before. I’ve been to a conference, but never a convention. It would be difficult for me to attend any of them, though, not so much because of money but because of time. Maybe I should try one, but which one? I eagerly await the next podcast.

  7. @Patrick – if all you have is half a first draft (of a first novel) then you don’t want to be going with the idea of pitching to an editor. That isn’t to say you can’t learn a lot about the business by just talking to editors (and more important, listening to them), which is all good.

    If you can get that novel (or short fiction piece) in shape to send out within a reasonable time (month? two?) of meeting that editor, it certainly doesn’t hurt to remind them of that in your cover letter. (Well, assuming you didn’t do anything to horribly embarrass yourself, that is.) It may not help — your work still has to stand on its own — but at the margin it might make the difference between a form rejection and a personal one.

    (Of course, there are always exceptions, your mileage may vary, yadda, yadda, yadda.)

    – Alastair

  8. Raethe, that makes me think of Due South. I’ve been watching it on DVD, and just the other day watched one in which Benton tells a story about his schoolyard bully who came to school swinging a dead otter over his head, and it turns out that technically he wasn’t doing anything illegal because he shot it first. See, it was against the law to swing a live otter…

    And then we find out later in the episode that a particular scar on Ben’s collarbone just happens to be from being hit with a dead otter.

    I’m going to listen to the podcast first, but I have a feeling from the writeup that you guys didn’t touch on conferences for children’s books (I hope I’m wrong!), and I will come back and give you guys a list of a few good conferences to look out for if you’re interested in writing for children and young adults.

  9. Okay, so the one that you covered was a good one, and falls under writing conferences–BYU Writing for Young Readers. I think I’m going to make this a post on my blog for tomorrow, though–I have a copyedit to work on tonight. A lot of great information here, though, guys!

  10. So glad you are doing these two episodes. I have been trying to get to as many cons as possible this year and as a newbie con attender I have been both frustrated and pleasantly surprised. The hardest thing for me has been attending cons solo and getting up the nerve to try to make friends and chat people up, and I don’t just mean people I idolize- I mean anyone, period. I’m not shy, but I learded pretty quickly that a lot of folks seem to attend cons to (ahem) hook up, and that’s not my scene. I’d really like some advice on which of the smaller literary cons (which are more affordable than the big ones) are less lifestyle oriented. Not trying to rain on anyone else’s hook-up scene, it’s just so not my bag.

    Of the three cons I attended so far in 2009 I think I liked Balticon best. Some really great panels and interesting speakers. Met some fabulous authors I adore, although sadly no editor friends were made.

    Do others here have a few positive reviews of cons to share? I’m definitely in the con market.

  11. Comic-Con still has writing and comic art sumisions for comic studios. (so certain people would still be able to take advantage of Comic-Con (San Diego)) The rest of the convention is fanfest/pop culture convention. I love going every year, being from San Diego since college.

  12. @AlanHorne The best way to do a con if you don’t have a whole lot of time is to go to one that’s local to you.

    And to follow up on what AJWM said (and I’m pretty sure that the guys will cover this in more detail next week), when you meet an editor at a con it’s not about pitching your book to them. It’s about you showing them you’re… normal, or at least, not crazy, which goes a LONG way in this business. That you’re a professional. I will spare you the stories from the slush pile, but if you ever want a bit of entertainment and education on what not to do, go to Twitter and search for the terms #pubtip, slush (without the #) and slush realization, and of course the infamous #queryfail. Professional behavior though will give the editor the feeling that they could work with you–or might lead to other connections that might lead you to meeting the *right* editor for the book you’ll be finishing next year.

    Why am I still up? I’m going to let it rest, and I’m sure the guys will have more details on this kind of thing next week or the next, whenever they get to what should you do at these cons.

    Also–a list (in progress) of conferences specifically focused on writing for children and young adults on my blog here: http://www.stacylwhitman.com/2009/07/28/writing-excuses-conferences-and-conventions-for-childrensya. Oh–looks like it was already in the comments as a pingback. Oh well.

  13. Stacy, I’ve never heard of Due South, but that sounds… pretty hilarious, actually. I’m going to have to check it out now. :D

  14. Great stuff, very helpful!

    I’ve been wondering about this for a while. I’d always heard that cons can be good to attend for aspiring writers, but never could figure out what I should be looking for.

    Looks like World Fantasy Con is really close by for me. Awesome!

  15. I am so geeked for this podcast and the next! Thank you guys for such a terrific resource.

  16. @Eliyanna,

    I just wrote up some thoughts on a way to figure out precisely which cons you should attend and have a good time regardless of their reputation or type. It got too long so I made a post out of it on my site. Hope it helps.

  17. Does anyone know if there is a list of literary conventions in Utah (or surrounding area) on the web?

  18. Just wondering what you guys think about SpoCon in Spokane, WA. I’m a Montana resident and am looking for my first con to go to. I’m hoping to be able to attend a more literary con than media. I see Brandon will be at SpoCon this year. What do you guys think? What’s SpoCon typically like?

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