The Practice of Creativity

What I Learned at a Sci-Fi Convention

Posted on: February 2, 2015

illogicon

Although I primarily like to write speculative fiction (generally known as ‘sci-fi’), it’s been years since I’ve attended a science fiction convention. Probably around twenty years. Science fiction conventions or ‘cons’ are gatherings that take place across the country. They feature writers, editors, illustrators, gamers and lots of people who love reading science fiction and fantasy. There are typically panels about writing, panels about the genre itself, costume competitions, author readings, and lots of people really into sci-fi. The work of any con is done by volunteers, by devoted (and organized) people who love the field. Con organizers are amazing people.

A few months ago, a local writer suggested that I check out an upcoming local con. This happened to be ‘illogiCon iv’, a local con happening about forty minutes from where I live. As an upcoming writer, cons are a great place to meet fans, other writers, and soak in the field from a variety of perspectives. My writer friend even suggested that I email the organizers and see if they needed a moderator. I decided to do just that and so a few weeks ago I got to attend Illogicon! I moderated two panels: ‘Social Scientists’ Science Fiction’ and ‘Why Does it Take an Editor a Year to Read a Book?’

I loved illogiCon! I attended great, thought-provoking panels, discovered new authors, networked and utterly enjoyed myself. My only regret is that I didn’t stay at the hotel instead of commuting. Next year I won’t make that mistake. At most cons, the panels and performances run until 11pm. And, then there are the room parties!

I was happy to see that there was an explicit no harassment policy (as this has been an issue historically at many cons) and also that a wide variety of people across age, race and ability attended.

illogiCon offered a wide variety of panels. Everything from ‘How to Create a Podcast’ to ‘Diversity and Representation in Genre Fiction’ to ‘Steampunk to Cyberpunk: A History’ to ‘You’ve Finished Your First Draft. Now What?’ And, I’m very sorry that I missed the performance by the ‘League of Extraordinary Belly Dancers’.

I’m splitting this post up into two parts because there’s so much I want to share with you.

What follows below is a brief summary of some of the points made at two of the panels I attended. I have generally taken some liberties by paraphrasing panelists’ comments.

All Roads Lead to… (a discussion of publishing across the spectrum—self-publishing, small/medium publishers and large publishers)

Lynn McNamee, Clay Gilbert (absent due to illness) Michael G. Williams

This was a lively panel. Lynn is the owner of Red Adept Publishing, a small publishing house and Michael is primarily self-published.

Some takeaways-

-Everyone should self-publish something because you learn so much about the business of being an author
-If you self-publish make sure to use a professional editor, cover designer
-A small publisher is looking to find novel ways for you to enter a reader’s ‘eco-system’
-Google+ is turning out to be a good community for self-published authors
-Smaller publishing houses often work very hard to support an author and should not be dismissed as an option
-Working to get an agent is a good thing as they can enable you to concentrate on writing while they concentrate on rights and other issues

Building Your Brand: Promoting Your Book or Project on Social Media (Whether you are published by the Big 5, marketing your book online is still largely up to you.)

Panelists: Gail Z. Martin, Lynn McNamee, Susan Griffith, Chris Kennedy, Clay Griffith

This was a fantastic panel with established authors who shareed how they manage social media and marketing.

-When you engage with fans, be 100% present
-Building a brand is different than building your personality
-When thinking about your brand, consider: What is that you want you and your stories to be known for?
-Relationships (in person with booksellers, fans, etc.) are just as important as selling books
-Some authors pay to ‘boost a post’ on Facebook once a month
-Engage readers on a personal level; keep it warm
-Make sure the cover represents your book and genre; remember that 53% of purchase decisions for books are based on a cover (if you are self-published, make sure you have a good cover!)

 

Stay tuned for part 2!

 

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1 Response to "What I Learned at a Sci-Fi Convention"

I imagine going to a sci-fi convention would be interesting.

These are all great points. Building relationships is extremely important. And although I’m not self-published, I am loving Google+! 🙂

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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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