If You Want to Write, You Have to Attend

With BizarroCon coming up in October, I’ve been thinking a lot about how crucial attending conventions is for writers, whether they’re new or established. If you decide you want to be a writer, you start by just writing for fun, then you improve your skills, then you try to get some work published, then you join an online writing community for support and comradery, then you start attending conventions. If you are at all serious about being a writer, you have to attend conventions. Perhaps you thought writers lived solitary lives? They don’t. Writers live very social lives. You’re not going to get anywhere if you just sit at home all day. You have to go out and interact with editors, publishers, and especially other writers. All the time. Conventions are where everything happens in the publishing industry. You want to be a part of that.

This is why you should be attending conventions (especially BizarroCon):

1) Publishing deals. Most publishing deals aren’t done through the submission process, they are done over beers. Almost every publisher who’s ever asked me to write them a book, happened at a bar at a convention. This is because: a) publishers recognize and make friends with authors who attend conventions regularly, b) publishers feel out writers at conventions and see if they’ve got the right drive and character for the job…like any business deal, you want to get to know the person you’re about to do business with, and c) publishers know that serious writers attend conventions. At BizarroCon, so many new projects and book deals came out of the convention that it was hard to count.

2) Meeting your heroes.
At conventions, you don’t just get the chance to buddy up with some of your favorite writers, but share crazy experiences with them. You might just find yourself in a hotel room late at night getting whipped by a dominatrix with Neil Gaiman and Jack Ketchum. (This actually happened to me, though only I was getting whipped by the dominatrix, they just watched and laughed.) At small conventions, like bizarrocon, you’ll pretty much be best friends with many of the writers by the time you leave.

3) Support your genre.
If you are part of a genre or writing community you want to make sure that it thrives. One way to do this is to attend conventions. Nothing reinvigorates a writing community better than having a well-attended convention, with as many major players in the genre as possible. If you are an established writer you especially owe it to your genre to attend these events. Nothing depresses a writing community more than a convention where most of the major players are absent. If you are a bizarro fiction writer or want to be a bizarro writer, attending BizarroCon at least every other year (if not every single year) is a must. If attendance is too low at BizarroCon then it sends out signals to the community that there is a loss of interest in bizarro fiction. If it is well-attended it inspires everyone involved to take action, write more books, publish more books, promote the genre more, create more bizarro events, etc. Perhaps you don’t write in a specific genre, but you probably fit in somewhere. Even literary fiction is a genre.

4) Education. Conventions are a good way to learn tips on improving your writing skills, developing self-promotion skills, and how to make a living as a writer. You can learn these things by attending panels, joining workshops, or just striking up conversations with those who are experienced in these matters.

5) Making friends. The friendships you build by attending conventions regularly always pay off. They might recommend you to publishers or magazine editors. They might give you tips on how to succeed. They might become fans of your work and promote you to their readers. They might give you advice on anything from getting health insurance as a writer to which publishers you should avoid. These friendships can, at times, make your career. You can never have too many friends as a writer. Although you shouldn’t make friends just to help your career. If you did, then you wouldn’t exactly be friends.

Other things to keep in mind:

1) You can’t just go to conventions and expect them to do anything for you. You have to put yourself out there, socialize, make friends, have a good time, and get the most out of it you possibly can.

2) Attending conventions might be expensive, but they are important. Necessary. You just have to save money for them, even if you have very little money to save. I know several unemployed people who make it to cons across the country every year. I know of people who risk losing their jobs by going to cons when they don’t have any vacation time available, but they still go.

3) You’ll never regret attending a con, but you’ll always regret missing one. Don’t let excuses get in your way. Just go. You’d be surprised how everything seems to work out in the end, even if you don’t have vacation time left and it’s the busiest time of year at your day job and could really use the money to pay off debts and don’t know anyone at the con and will have to miss your wife’s birthday and have a deathly fear of flying and can’t really afford food once you get there and can hardly move because of a freshly broken leg. Just go. If you have enough money in your bank to afford a plane ticket and a convention pass (or have a way to earn that much money by selling plasma or your dvd collection) just buy them. Things will work themselves out later.

For more information on conventions, from a bizarro writer’s perspective, check out Jeff Burk’s blog entry: A New Writer’s Guide to Conventions

If you write or want to write bizarro fiction, you should attend BizarroCon in October. Go to: http://www.bizarrocentral.com/convention.asp

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: