There are different types of conventions a writer can go to, but no matter where you are in your career, you should be attending conventions (cons) when you can.
Not for the parties, nor for the large quantities of top shelf booze although both are kick-ass.
Pictured: Kick-ass booze and party result
You should attend cons because you’ll be surrounded by experts in the field who’ve done what you’re dreaming about.
For aspiring authors, there are conventions, typically run by a writer’s association of some sort, that are designed to help writers learn to write a book that will sell, sell a book they have written, and let them rub elbows with, and even pitch their projects to agents. This is great for writers that are trying to break into the industry. If that’s you, find a good one near you and go there. It’s a great learning opportunity and a chance to network and meet the people who will be your support system and a leg up in pursuing your writing career. Established authors can benefit from these cons too, and are often found on panels that help the audience learn the things they need to know.
When you’re an established author, there are still cons for you. There’s a huge variety, whether it’s a genre-specific writer’s con, from RWA (Romance Writers of America,) to World Fantasy, or industry focused cons like Book Expo America, there’s a con that puts you in the thick of writers and readers in your specific genre or the industry as a whole. These are incredible networking opportunities, and no matter where you are in your career, you’ll learn something too. Plus, they’re fun.
There are also genre cons that have great resources for writers, but have a much broader attendance base. These are cons for the fans as well as the writers and producers that bring the entertainment to them. Dragon con is one of the biggest in the scifi/fantasy genre, Comic Con as well. (Can you tell I’m a scifi/fantasy author?)
The drawback of cons is the cost, which can be a huge issue for the aspiring or even newer midlist author. So start small. Writer-specific cons are usually less expensive and there will be one near you. (Relatively, for some of us.) The bigger cons and the fan cons are once a year events, they’re not cheap, and for most of us will involve the cost of travel as well as registration, meals, etc. Some of them, like WorldCon, are in a different place every year and, as the name implies, may be held anywhere in the world. You may not make it to these without some serious saving or until you’re already published and have some royalties coming in.
The important thing to remember is that these cons are an investment in your writing career. Don’t let the costs scare you off. If there’s any chance you can make one, then pick one in your price range that’s most appropriate for you. Read up on them online and ask other writers on Twitter or the like about cons you might be interested in. Some are family-friendly and can be fun for the non-writers as well. Some are writer-specific and bringing alone the spouse and kids will be a waste of money.
Personally, I’m writing this in the airport as I wait for a flight to take me to ReaderCON, a con for the scifi & fantasy genres. Not only is it fun and informative, I’ll have a chance to strengthen relationships I made at last year’s ReaderCON, and Ad Astra con I attended earlier this year in Toronto.
Can you become an author without attending cons? Sure. Can you maintain a career as an author without attending cons? Of course. But cons are a great way to make sure you’re making the connections and capitalizing on the opportunity to do better, to be more. And, for those who aren’t as far along as you, they’re a great opportunity to give back, and that’s one of the best parts of being a writer.
And the drinks are to die for.
Leah Petersen lives in North Carolina. She does the day-job, wife, and mother thing, much like everyone else.
She prides herself on being able to hold a book with her feet so she can knit while reading. She’s still working on knitting while writing.
Her first novel, Fighting Gravity, is available now from Dragon Moon Press.