The Pros and Cons of... Cons.

2012-Feb-29 -> from the 29-days-of-fantasy department Tags:

Today only comes around once every four years. The 29th of February, a leap day to help keep our calendar straight, and the reason this event was called 29 days of fantasy.

My final guest blogger this month is Jim Bernheimer, and brings us a write up on the pros and cons of cons... or conventions. I hope you enjoy it.

First I'd like to thank Thomas for inviting me to guest post on his blog. I've been writing professionally since 2008 and am actually celebrating my three year "anniversary" of publishing my first full length work this month (the short story collection Horror, Humor, and Heroes). With Gryphonwood Press, I have two series in progress (Dead Eye and Spirals of Destiny) and under my own imprint of EJB Networking, I have published three volumes of Horror, Humor, and Heroes and my supervillain adventure novel, Confessions of a D-List Supervillain. All my novels are available in print, electronic and audiobook format. My website is

One of the best parts about being an author in the science fiction/fantasy/horror realm is participating in conventions and getting out there and meeting other writers, making new fans, and picking up tips and tricks from people on their own publishing journeys. As an author, just starting out, you'll want to consider giving a local one a try. Attend one as a fan first to get an idea of what it will be like before you throw your hat into the ring. There are plenty of websites out there to tell you when and where a convention might be. I use as my reference.

A con is a wonderful thing from zombie walks, outrageous costumes, to meeting "big name" authors and guests from movies or television. Last weekend I was at Shevacon in Roanoke, Virginia. The writing guest of honor was Timothy Zahn, who wrote the books that immediately followed Return of the Jedi. Had I opted to go to Mysticon instead (also in Roanoke, but the following weekend), I could have had a chance to meet Sherrilyn Kenyon.

Over the past few years, I've met actors like Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica), Claudia Christian (Babylon 5), and David Lawrence (Heroes) among others. They were even nice enough to pose for a picture with me while holding a copy of one of my books. At Shevacon, I got to have a few minutes of conversation with Jeremy Bullock, who portrayed Boba Fett in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Next there's the networking. For those of you reading this who are authors, you get the opportunity to socialize with all the other guest authors. Meet them, learn from their successes, learn from their mistakes, and find out how you can take your writing to another level. After doing a few panels with Gail Z. Martin, she was nice enough to invite me to do a guest author spot on her popular Ghost in the Machine Podcast. A convention is a wonderful way to get exposure. People will look at the websites for the convention and see who is going to be there. What do they see? Hopefully you, your bio, and website. That's several months of advertising alongside of all the other authors who are blogging, tweeting, and facebooking (is that a word?) about their appearance. These other authors have cultivated their own fanbases, so reach out to them and try to tap into that resource. Just remember that it's a two way street and be equally as willing to help out the writers who are willing to help you.

Some writers are painfully shy and getting on panels is a great way to overcome that. Generally, it is anywhere from three to six panelists discussing a topic, so you don't have to carry it all yourself. The audience asks questions and participation varies, but is usually good. Odds are, if you're witty, somewhat interesting, and humorous, people who saw you on the panel will stop by your table and check out your books.

That brings me to the next topic, have a table. Doing signings is a rush. I won't say that there is nothing better, but it's fun. Sometimes you'll spend ten minutes talking to a fan and then they'll politely leave, but other times you'll sell three or four books to someone you never expected would be a fan. In this digital age, there is still room for personal connections. Even if there is no sale, if they take a business card there's a good chance they'll pick up your ebooks. I always see a surge in electronic sales in the week following a convention.

Now that I've dazzled you with all the fun and networking you can do at one of these you're probably wondering why I don't just do cons all the time. The answer is simple, it's expensive. Today's trip to Roanoke will cost me a tank of gas each way, two nights in a hotel room, $90 in table fees, and food costs for Friday through Sunday. That easily reached $400. Did I make $400 in book sales last weekend? Not even close. Right now, I have reached a level where I can comfortably do four or five cons every year without breaking my budget, so I pick and choose where I apply to go. Something to remember is that these conventions typically book their guests six months in advance, so plan ahead.

Thanks again for having me Thomas!

These last 29 days have been amazing, and even though I've had a hard time keeping up with the posts during the last week, I would totally do this again.

I'd like to take this moment to offer my most sincere gratitude to all the people who brought me such great posts each day of this month. I hope you'll stick around as I go back to my routine. I've still got lots to offer! (possibly even a serialized novel)

Thanks for reading!

I'm always interested in hearing what you have to say. Contact Me, I'd love to hear from you.

Don't forget to join in on the conversation in the comments section below.

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