tcastleb: (Default)
( Jan. 28th, 2007 08:43 pm)
I came across this post ( by Patrick Nielsen Hayden tonight regarding the World Fantasy convention, and it, along with many of the comments, got me thinking.

I went to the convention because a) I knew Walter Jon Williams, who attended, b) when I saw both Elizabeth Moon and Lynn Flewelling as attendees, those were the tipping points that made me REALLY want to go, c) as a wannabe fantasy writer, I figured it would be a great place to do some network and meet people. Added bonuses, which came later, were one of my Clarion-mates, Ian, a couple 2004 Clarionites, and one of my SHU buddies, Maria Snyder, who introduced me to some Luna folks and her SHU buddy, Judi Fleming, and hanging out a bit with the Slushgod himself, John Joseph Adams. Oh, and I do have to mention Tim Waggoner, whom I met at an autograph table and was delighted to see join the SHU faculty.

But, at the end, I almost felt like the best thing I got out of that con was my cowboy hat. Yes, it was cool to meet the different people. I got lots of autographs and a pile of "free" books. (Free being in quotation marks, because of the realtively high entry fee.)

So I have to agree with the commenters that said it's hard if you don't know a lot of people. Granted, I'm not exactly the outgoing type, and I did know random people from various locations, but none of them well enough to depend on them to know I wouldn't be alone a lot.

And for me, it sort of wasn't a good place to network. Some of the commenters mentioned it was a bit like a country club, and I could definitely see that. It seemed like the editors and agents were there for a chance to meet face-to-face with their clients, and while I managed to see a few I recognized, I sort of lacked the guts to go up and try to start a conversation that might lead to a pitch. I did get to go to one agent's and get her card, so that was nice, but otherwise . . . nope.

I think I was also sort of hoping to be able to make some sort of magical connection with someone that would be a more long-term connection, like a really good friend or pen pal or crit partner. Cons are too short, and places like Clarion and Seton Hill, long-term programs, end up much better for things like that. (Admittedly,

My favorite part? Honestly? Driving Maria around on the last day of the con, watching her go do her bookstore thing, and having her help me pick out my hat. See? Nothing to do with the con.

WorldCon was better on the networking side, because I personally knew more pros (from Clarion, mostly) who could introduce me to other folks, so I didn't quite have to fend for myself.

PNH mentioned (see next paragraph, which I added after I wrote this) that WFC isn't exactly a place to go to increase your readership, which is understandable. If you're going to hang out with your other writer friends, a large chunk of them probably already know you and are reading your books anyway. More fannish conventions like WorldCon are better for increasing readership, well, because there's hundreds of fans. I picked up a couple of Sherwood Smith books because I saw her on a panel and thought they sounded neat. Not so much at World Fantasy, even though I did go to various readings and panels. Well, okay, I did get Alma Alexander's books because I sat in the lobby near her for a while and she seemed like a neat lady.

But I think [personal profile] pnh sums it up the best when he says this in reply to a poster who said WFC seems to be the con to go to for the new and midlist writers who need to network:

"Or, rather, who's been convinced they need to "network."

I'm increasingly dubious about the extent to which "networking" at cons really helps most writers build their readership, as opposed to simply staying home and writing better books. If that kind of popularity were all that effective at building one's career, the late Wilson Tucker's novels would have been bestsellers."

Then there's the arguments that networking is meant to build a larger web of professional colleagues, and I agree that knowing someone who knows someone can help a LOT. Another commenter said, and said it well, that networking needs to keep in mind more that the current project at hand, and one has to look forward in time to see what might happen, and to look around to both those with more experience and those with less. And it works a lot better if you can talk to people about more than business. Which is true, and which is something I feel that I'm not very good at because I haven't learned how to do it very well.

So, I don't know. Now I keep wondering if other cons are really worth going to until I actually manage to get something published and noticed, or if I learn to talk to people better. I have contacts ready to take advantage of once I get something ready to submit. I really, really want to go to Wiscon for several reasons, because of the philosophy behind it and because my SHU mentor is going, and I think so is Nicola Griffith (whose stuff I adore right now) and her partner, another SF writer.

But it's a neat trick to get out of it what I want. It's one of my neuroses, I know, that I always want to get something worthwhile out of everything I put effort into, and just doing something for the fun of it somehow doesn't compute.

Okay, this is long and rambly, and a product of a slow night at work, and congrats if you made it this far. This post is brought to you by the letter "N," the number twenty-three, and my subtle disappointment that I couldn't find the two agents I met perviously and whom I know are here at the hotel. I just wanted to say hi, but now I worry that they think I'd be stalking them, or something. No. I did just want to treat them like a real person and be helpful or something instead of tossing first chapters at them.


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