I’ve been to conventions before. My very first was a Star Trek Creation Convention during high school, and you can probably guess what that was like. In college, my best friend and roommate talked me into going to what I think was the first Xena: The Warrior Princess convention ever, where I was in the minority because I’m actually more of a fan of Hercules. Our university science fiction club and games club hosted the con suite at Lunacon for a couple of years, and since then I’ve been to Readercons (my favorite), Worldcons, World Fantasy conventions, and Wiscons. But none of them are anything like Dragon*Con.
I’m really glad my editor, Lou Anders, convinced me to skip seeing all my friends at Worldcon and attend Dragon*Con instead, as they both overlapped Labor Day weekend (along with PAX). Pyr Books had a large booth at Dragon*Con–the only science fiction and fantasy publisher in the massive, three-ballroom dealer room. It’s a decision that paid off for them, and for me, because there are a lot of enthusiastic readers at the convention who have both the desire to spend large quantities of money and a passion for discovering new books and new authors. So many times I heard someone announce, “Give me a book recommendation!” “I am looking for something new to read!” “I would like to give you cash for your books!” Music to a debut author’s ears.
I am so grateful to the many people who took a chance on a new author and picked up Fair Coin. There was such a great response, we actually sold out of copies of my book just before I had to leave for the airport on Monday afternoon. That’s a terrific feeling. It was a thrill to meet dozens of readers; talk to writers working towards publications of their own; sign lots of books; and hang out with fun, happy geeks. I tried to stay in the booth as much as possible to help sell books and sign copies, but I also wanted to get some of the con experience and meet some new and old friends; still, it seemed like every time I left the booth, I missed someone who was looking for me. That’s a fine way to develop a complex.
I also learned something about myself: I hate doing the “hard sell.” I like to think I’m somewhat savvy about marketing, but there’s a line I don’t like to cross, and that’s pressuring people into paying attention to me and/or buying my book. Fortunately there were people around me who are better at that sort of thing (I’m fine working in a team), but I think I did pretty well by compromising and trying to engage receptive people in conversation without pushing my book at them. I had an easier time talking up other great Pyr books, like Planesrunner and Lightbringer.
See, I’m used to being on the other side of the vendor table, and I know how hard it is to look a creator in the eyes and say, “No thank you,” for whatever reason. (Usually lack of money, not interest.) This is yet another reason I don’t think I will ever self-publish, because you need to be a lot bolder about getting your work out there.
It was also super exciting to finally meet Lou (though we’ve e-mailed plenty and talked via podcast before), my fabulous copy editor Gabrielle Harbowy, my publicist Meghan Quinn, and publicist-by-proxy Lisa Michalski. They are all fine, beautiful people who had a hand in bringing Fair Coin to life.
It was also great to hang out with fellow Pyr authors K.D. McEntire (and family), Jon Sprunk (and his wife, Jenny), Clay and Susan Griffith, Philippa Ballantine, and Andrew P. Mayer. Jon is also a JABberwocky author, and it was a treat to meet up with agent Jessie Cammack and some other clients at the convention for a quiet dinner and conversation amidst the chaos. One of my regrets from the convention is not spending more time with everyone due to my poor time management and utter exhaustion. Next year!
My other big regret is not meeting Dean Cain, though I did catch fifteen minutes of his event. I didn’t make it to many events, aside from the two panels I was on in the YA Lit Track, on whitewashing in YA and YA book covers. I think I managed to not make a fool of myself in front of everyone, and the audiences were engaged and thoughtful about the discussion. (Many thanks to Bev Kodak for organizing that and including me, and to moderators Lil and Jana!) I just wanted to spend more time with people and in the booth, and it took me up to 45 minutes to get anywhere because of the crowds.
Did I mention there are a lot of people there? By some estimates, upwards of 60,000. I’m afraid the New Yorker in me kicked in a few times as I tried to get through the shambling masses, only some of which were dressed as zombies. I also didn’t take many pictures, gambling that there would be a lot of better photographers posting their shots online. I was delighted to find someone cosplaying as Ron Stoppable; I never did see Kim Possible, though we did try to call her. I randomly ran into an old friend, and got to catch up a little with some of my favorite YA authors who were also missing out on Worldcon.
All in all, it was a terrific experience that I might have enjoyed more if I hadn’t already been away from home for a week at Wellspring in Lake Geneva, WI. But that too provided an unexpected bonus, since I was able to pop in for the end of the Chicon Pub Crawl in Chicago the night before I flew to Atlanta, where I saw Rajan Khanna, Bill Shunn, Chris Cevasco (who had left Wellspring half-a-day before me), Cesar Torres, and several others. Also, Chicago seems like a lovely city that I would like to get to know a little better.
Will I do Dragon*Con again? I’ve already booked my hotel for next summer. Rooms are going fast!
For some other recaps of Dragon*Con, I direct you to blog posts by Lou Anders and Jon Sprunk. You can also get a flavor for the convention through the articles at the Daily Dragon Online. I contributed to the piece on what the “future book” might be like.