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Conventions for Authors & Writers 101

When individuals think about conventions, commonly known as Cons, a myriad of images may cross their minds – themed costumes, appearances by notable figures, late-night revelries, and parades, to name a few. However, Cons can prove to be exceedingly advantageous for authors, writers, and avid readers alike.

My perpetual quest as the author of several epic fantasy series is to discover novel and more effective ways to connect with potential readers and even sell a few books. Who am I kidding? I want to sell thousands of books! Yet, despite having friends who are ardent Con enthusiasts, I had never considered attending such events. While I like dressing up, the thought of investing money in tickets and accommodations for a weekend of frolicking through various hotels had never appealed to me. Now, I regret not exploring this avenue sooner!

Depending on their themes and focuses, Cons can offer immense benefits for authors and writers. My debut experience unfolded at DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia, over a Labor Day weekend – a five-day extravaganza that seemed daunting at first but offered a wealth of opportunities. In my first year, I was lucky to have a friend invite me to be a panelist, and that was an eye-opening experience.

In my second year, I applied for Dragon Con’s Professional Status, which made me eligible to be a speaker. While not a high-profile guest, being accepted allowed me to choose panels aligned with my interests and knowledge. Connecting with the directors of various fields, known as Tracks, I participated in four panels out of the five offered as two were overlapping timeslots. The experience was nothing short of amazing.

So, how can being a panelist help sell books?

1.      Exposure, Exposure, Exposure!

·       Your name reaches a new audience and attendees love meeting and speaking with the authors.

·       You might be able to display your books, business cards, or bookmarks during and after your talk.

·       Use QR codes for "Buy Links" and direct interested individuals to your newsletter.

But what if public speaking isn't your forte? Fear not; there are alternative options.

Find out if the Con has a market or rents booth spaces. Typically, these run the entire length of the Convention. Although your presence is usually required, some authors have friends or family cover shifts. However, rental fees may be costly, and if you are limited in number and titles, this might not be economical. Always ask if the Con will allow you to share a booth with another author and split the costs. Although I have yet to do this, authors who have a variety of titles and/or are able to share a space rave about their sales.

Temporary book signing slots and one-night book signing events catered to readers might be additional options. Always read the fine print of the con you are attending to understand the parameters. At DragonCon, lesser-known authors are paired with one or two big-ticket authors. This arrangement allows attendees, having obtained signatures from their idols, to discover you and your books. I do not know how effective this approach is, but I want to mention it since it might be an option and only necessitates your presence for a portion of a day.

DragonCon also hosted a one-night book signing "market" tailored to readers of all kinds. Within the hall, attendees explored various shared tables of over fifty authors who signed and sold their books. As this event required only one night of selling and attracted a substantial audience, I intend to participate in it next year.

Here's a quirky option: Dress up as one of your book characters and tell people that inquire who you are. Pitch your book! It might not lead to a sale, but it will spark interest and draw smiles.

Networking is paramount. Never ignore it. Other writers and authors are not your competitors; they become your support team, cheerleaders, and potential friends. I am so grateful for the support of the writing community and want to help other writers in the same way that I have been helped.

Cons not only benefit established authors. If you're a budding writer or an author wishing to learn more, attend panels. I love going to lectures and panels pertaining to mythology since my fantasy is heavily influenced by old lore. I also seek out topics that focus on the craft of writing and marketing. Bring a notepad and have fun! If you are a reader, and what writer isn’t, panels and book signing events are wonderful opportunities. You might just stumble upon your next favorite author.

In conclusion, I urge you to explore local conventions and literary festivals. Whether it's a small gathering or a week-long extravaganza, find out what opportunities are available. It never hurts to delve deeper into what the world of Cons can offer you!


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