Keycon was awesome as always. Met even more of my blog followers, and got to chat more with some of the fellow authors I’d met previously, but didn’t have time to talk to as much previously. And even so, I wish I’d had more time to talk to some of them!
I got out of work early on friday, and made it to con in time to hear Samantha Beiko read from her upcoming novel, and it was creepy and messed up enough to make me pick up her (Aurora award nominated) “The Lake And The Library.” Looking forward to that, as well as finishing Chad Ginther’s second book, “Tombstone Blues.”
My first panel, on engines went swimmingly – the room was full, which, even for the smaller boardroom is pretty impressive for ten PM on Friday evening. The discussion was lively – I geared it toward people who know nothing at all about any sort of engine, but there were a couple of people who were less novice. One who knew engines quite well, but less about aviation, and he had tons of great questions along the lines of “okay, I know with a car engine, this works this way, is it different with a plane engine?” And the other was Timothy Gwyn, a commercial pilot and writer working on a sci-fi novel, who was a great resource for when other attendees asked questions about larger, more sophisticated aircraft that I’m less familiar with. I’ve been considering what sort of panels I’ll offer to present next year, and I’m thinking I’ll have him as a fellow presenter for one. But along with them, came a number of other attendees with questions, and it made for a lively discussion.
I went to a couple of Karen Dudley’s panels, where she talked about world-building, and food in fantasy, and learned all about bread dildos. Yeah, and I’m not even going to explain that one – if you want to know, you’ll have to pick up her book, “Food For The Gods.” The Sequel, “Kraken Bake” is being launched on June 3rd, at Mcnally Robinson, Grant Park.
Tanya Huff had some good panels too – the one on non-heteronormative characters in fiction I particularly enjoyed, seeing as “Redwing” has a gay viewpoint character. It was good to hear that getting flak for including homosexual characters in fiction has been very rare, and that I’m not likely to be asked to remove it by an agent or editor. In TV and movies, it sounds like a different matter, but at least in literature, writers are free to be liberal.
Another panel I enjoyed was the Marketing and Publicity for Writers panel with Robert J. Sawyer and Samantha Beiko. A lot of it I knew, but I got a chance to ask about suggestions for how to organize a book launch as a debut author. Also, Sawyer said something that I’ve heard a lot of agents complain about, but I like the way Sawyer phrases it. The agents’ complaint is that writers querying their novel claim that their novel will appeal to *everyone*, rather than nailing down their target audience. Sawyer reminds us not just to not make the mistake of doing that with an agent, but not to do it with potential readers either. Nothing is more annoying than an aggressive salesperson, and he gave anecdotes about how he’s often got compliments on his personality just by not being an aggressive salesperson. And the reason, he explained, is that people who aren’t interested in your novel, even if you get them to buy it, and to read it, won’t enjoy it. Your job as a writer marketing your book is to find readers who are going to enjoy what you write. It’s what Holly Lisle calls you one thousand true fans. To build a core audience that really loves what you do and will buy everything you write should be your goal, not getting everyone and their dog to read it and then write nasty one star reviews because it wasn’t their shtick.
I’ve definitely been trying to do that with the blog, and I hope I’m succeeding. A lot of unpublished writers fill their blogs with writing advice and contests geared toward drawing agents and fellow writers to their blogs to build attention. I agree with Sawyer that this is a bad idea, for two reasons. First, it’s a tad pretentious for a writer to publish writing advice on their blog before they’ve proven they know how to write a story by getting their book published by a traditional publisher. But second, fellow writers are not your target audience. I mean, the odd one might be, but for the most part, they’re more likely to buy your book because they feel obligated to support a fellow author, not because they expect to enjoy the book.
On the other panel I was on, the home grown writers one, several authors spoke about one thing I’ve heard said before, but Karen Dudley’s description of the phenomenon made it clear I hadn’t realized how huge it was. That’s the support for the arts we have in Winnipeg. Karen is from Alberta, and she apparently had a hell of a time getting grants and such from the government to get started writing. But when she moved to Manitoba, things were completely different. People showed up to signings, and cons. There are tons of writers based in Winnipeg – Sawyer has said before that’s the reason he visits so often, because he’s made so many friends here in the writing community.
Anyway, Sunday night I had a great time chatting it up with Gerald Brant and Shayla Elizabeth, both writers of sci-fi, talking about the querying process, and critique groups. Also got to chat with Timothy Gwyn a bit more. That’s one I wish I’d had more time to talk shop about the sky with, but I was rushing off to something or other. I’ll have to hunt him down at the dead dog next year, or possibly at Word On The Water in Kenora, if I make it out there this fall.
Anyway, I had a great con, and I’m looking forward to next year. Hope to see you there!