Talent isn’t enough.
Unless your daddy’s rich or has connections, every single person who has made themselves successful has been obsessive about their craft. They understand that it takes more than talent to get ahead — self-promotion plays a large role, along with a willingness to never give up no matter the rejections.
Without getting too far into that discussion, however, let’s limit this to the topic of appearing at conventions. Assuming you are an aspiring writer and assuming you want to promote yourself, you need to go where you can meet (a) other similar writers, editors and publishers, and (b) readers who may be interested in your work.
Since I write in the science fiction/fantasy genre, I have tried to attend as many science fiction conventions as possible. (See my schedule to the right under “Upcoming appearances”.) Since I had published a magazine on film animation in the 80s and early 90s (Animato!) and since I wrote a Rule Book and Players Guide for one of the largest live action roleplaying games in America (see The Alliance), I was able to present myself to these conventions as someone they would want to have as a guest, to speak on their panels. This provided me with free admission, a few perks, and the opportunity to promote myself to people who would actually be interested in what I had to say. I also was listed on their web pages and in their program books, along with a short bio.
When ARCH ENEMIES was released, it provided one more opportunity for promotion, and I now was able to sell myself to the conventions as a published author.
A few days ago, I returned from the World Science Fiction Convention which this year was held in Montreal, Canada (a lovely city but with the world’s worst Chinese food, even in Chinatown). It’s in Australia next year. I don’t think I will be able to make that one.
It was tremendous fun. I had the opportunity to meet and speak with many famous writers, editors, and artists, and was on a number of panels — the largest of which was about computer animated films. (As an aside, it was a pleasure to meet Mike Resnick in person after interviewing him for this blog a while ago. “Ask tougher questions!” he admonished me.)
Most importantly, I had my book for sale in the dealer’s room, and was listed in the program for a reading and a book signing. Not surprisingly, in a convention packed with many things to do, I did not receive a huge crowd for either, but the books in the dealer’s room sold out — a good sign that perhaps my promotions were successful.
For the reading, I decided to present the pirate short story I am working on (“X Spots the Mark”). I loved doing the pirate accents and the audience seemed to have a good time. After, they requested that I read some from ARCH ENEMIES and being the ham I am I was pleased to oblige.
The nicest encounter came during the book signing. I was given the assignment of being at the signing table from 6:30 to 7:00 pm on Saturday night, when basically everyone is at dinner and preparing for the big Masquerade an hour or so later, so I had nice conversations with the other not-so-well-known authors, artists and editors who wondered if anyone would show up. A teenage girl came to me and asked me to sign her autograph book. “Ah, in case I become famous some day?” I asked. “Well,” she shrugged, “you’re already more famous than me.”
But back to the topic: Every time you attend these things, you get better known in the community. People say “Oh, I remember him; he spoke well at that panel. Maybe I’ll try his book.”
And you make connections. I had a nice conversation with Jim Morrow, for instance, who agreed to submit to a future interview for this blog.
Now I just need some tougher questions.