So I read Cedar Sanderson’s lovely piece entitled “To Thine Own Self Be True”, and I found that I agreed with much of what she had to say. I, too, have zero tolerance for those who would sexually abuse others, particularly children. Actions like that are intolerable, and have no place in society, any society.
Furthermore, I join her in rejecting the idea that you have to be part of some clique or club in order to be successful in science fiction and/or fantasy. I think success is largely a matter for self-definition. Success for one author may mean winning a Hugo. For another it may mean buying a mountain. For a third, it may mean finally publishing the story they’ve had rattling around in their head for twenty years. Success is personal, and it’s honestly none of my business. But I do know that unless you decide that being feted at WorldCon or any other con is your definition of success… it’s not.
That all being said, I did disagree with two of her major points. Attending a con may not be necessary to your success, but if your definition of success includes networking with others in the industry and perhaps signing with a publisher, then attendance at cons can certainly be very helpful.
Understand me, writers. First, we have to do the work. Write the story first. Make it good. Make it great. This all comes after that first, crucial piece. Write a good story. Then worry about the rest of whatever “success” means.
Okay, back to cons. I will tell you that every “break” or advancement I’ve had in my own fledgling writing career has come about because of my attendance at a convention. I sold my first poem at a convention. I met my mentor and my writing partner (two different people) at Dragon Con. I was offered my first book contract at Liberty Con. I was offered my second book contract at Raven Con. I met both of my publishers at cons, as well as all but one of my coauthors, and every editor of every anthology in which I’ve participated.
Just like any business, writing and publishing includes a networking component. And I have found that cons are the perfect venue for networking and making connections that can really help to move a writer’s career along.
Once the story is good.
That part comes first, remember. But, to be honest, cons have helped me with that part too. My favorite con experiences inevitably revolve around sitting with a group of friends, staying up wayyyy too late over beverages, chatting and brainstorming and coming up with ideas that may go somewhere, or may not, but certainly spark the creative part of my brain. And that’s totally separate from the hours of really quality programing focusing on the technical craft of writing that is available with a con membership. For the price of a few con badges, one can essentially get a master’s class in writing, if one goes to the right panels.
So yes, con attendance isn’t mandatory for success (whatever that means) as a writer, but I honestly, truly believe that it can help. So, if you’re flirting with the idea of trying out a local SF/Fantasy con, I say give it a whirl. Have an open mind, go with the intent to have fun and learn something, take reasonable precautions for your own safety, and see what happens.
The second point of Cedar’s that I wish to address is that of a publisher. Now, again, let me state for the record that I have nothing but respect for authors ballsy enough to self-publish their work and take on the responsibility of doing it all themselves. Mad respect, ladies and gents, my hat’s off to you.
That route is not for me. I don’t have the time, energy, know-how, money, or marketing chops to go it alone. I want a publisher to give me feedback, support, direction for things like marketing and cover design, etc. I would rather pay for professional editing than go without it, but I’m happy to let my publisher foot the bill in exchange for a cut. 😊 If you’re like me, and not really feeling up to going it alone, I’m happy to report that there are good publishers out there. Publishers for whom you’re not just a number. Publishers who will support you and your book, who will help to market you using every trick they know, and who will take the time and effort to help you develop as a writer.
For the record, I write for Baen Books and Chris Kennedy Publishing. Toni Weisskopf and her staff, and Chris Kennedy (who is his own staff!) are phenomenal people, and I’ve had nothing but positive experiences from both companies. But they’re not alone! There are good people working in both small and large press publishing houses. There are probably some jerks as well… but that’s life. My point is that if you, as an author, do your due diligence in determining if you want to enter into a relationship with a publisher, you may find one who is exactly what you’re looking for. They’re not all “gatekeepers.”
So, I guess I’m still a fan. I enjoy the community of those who enjoy the same nerdy pursuits I enjoy. I love the feeling of walking into the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend and knowing that I’ve come home to my people. I love knowing that some of the best in the business have my back, and will work their tails off to ensure that as many people see my work as possible. As Cedar said, be true to yourself, keep your integrity, but that doesn’t mean that you always have to go it alone. Fandom can still be a good thing. We, your fellow fans, are still here to be your nerdy cheerleaders, and to help you reach your definition of success.
Whatever that may be.
Evelyn Adamsen grew up knowing she had to hide her psychic abilities, lest she be labeled a witch. However, when the U.S. Army Air Corps came calling in 1943, looking for psychic women to help their beleaguered bomber force, Evelyn answered, hoping to use her powers to integrate the bomber crews and save American lives.
She was extremely successful at it…until her aircraft got shot down.
Now, Evelyn is on the run in Occupied Europe, with a special unit of German Fallschirmjager and an enemy psychic on her heels. Worse, Evelyn learns that using her psychic powers functions as a strobe that highlights her to the enemy.
As the enemy psychic closes in, Evelyn is faced with a dilemma in her struggle to escape—how can she make it back to England when the only talent she has will expose her if she uses it?