So by now most of you know I have a new novel out, Simon Says, and the next anthology, Infinite Stars: Dark Frontiers, is out in 3 weeks, close on its heels. So I am on the promotion bandwagon for a bit. Here’s two chances to catch me live this week:
Monday: At 8 p.m. CST U.S., find me on Keystroke Medium Live on YouTube, Join me and hosts Josh Hayes and Scott Moon as we talk about writing, police, the book, and more. Be sure and login early so you have your name in the chat window and can ask questions.
Tuesday: At 3 p.m. in the afternoon, you can call in and ask questions as I join hostess Sherri Rabinowitz on Chatting With Sherri live on blogtalk radio. The call-in number is 646-915-9580.
I’ll be talking about my research process for writing the John Simon Thrillers, including real live ride-alongs with KCPD on all night shifts multiple times, and other adventures, and taking questions. Who knows? We may even give away a book or two. So tune in please!
This weekend, I will be a Special Guest at Columbia, Missouri’s ComicCon: DoDecaCon. Fellow guests include New York Times bestselling author John Jackson Miller.
Here’s the layout of booths. I will be at Special Guests Table 2. (click to enlarge)
My panel schedule is Saturday only, with the following two panels:
2:00 PM Special Guest Q&A with Bryan Thomas Schmidt, John Jackson Miller and D.A. Roberts-Main Stage
3:00 PM Writing in an Established Universe with John Jackson Miller-Panel Room A
Barnes and Noble, Columbia, will be selling my books and I will sell others at my table. To help me out, please buy my Baen books from B&N then come have me sign or personalize. I will likely do signing times each day at B&N as well (TBD). The rest of my books will be on sale at my own table, Special Guest Table 2.
Okay, I am going to Los Angeles for Stan Lee’s Comikaze Comic Con, a place I lived for 7 years and have not visited in 19. Excited to see old friends and see how the city has changed. I will also be hanging out with some very cool people, both at the WordFire Booth #1342, on panels and at the Con generally, including stars from Star Wars, The Flash, Star Trek TOS, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and more. Come join us. I will have early release copies of both my novel, The Worker Prince and my Baen hard SF anthology, Mission: Tomorrow. Here’s where to find me Friday through Sunday at the Los Angeles Convention Center:
Friday Panels 10/30/15:
4:00 – 4:50 pm Writing Existing Worlds
A panel of authors and editors discuss writing media tie-ins, comics and more in popular franchise from Star Wars to X-Files and more
Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Panelists: Kevin J. Anderson, David Farland, Jody Lynn Nye, Peter J. Wacks, Neo Edmund
Panel Moderator: Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Saturday Panels 10/31/15:
11:00am-11:50pm Worlds of WordFire
Publisher Kevin J. Anderson and several authors discuss existing and forthcoming titles from WordFire Press, a small up and coming small press publisher whose authors include New York Times Bestsellers like Frank Herbert, David Farland, Jody Lynn Nye, Todd McCaffrey, Alan Dean Foster, and More
Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Panelists: Kevin J. Anderson, Peter J. Wacks, David Farland, Jody
Lynn Nye, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Neo Edmund, Rebecca Moesta,
Panel Moderator: Kevin J. Anderson
4:00pm-4:50pm Publishing Unlimited: The Many Paths to Worldwide
Publication for Writers
E-Books. Digital Comics. Newsletters. Blogs. Print on demand. For those of us
with a passion for telling stories through the written word, there are now
limitless opportunities to publish, produce, and distribute our work. Of
course, with so many options, it can be a brain scrambler to know which path
is best suited for a particular project. Write it as a book? A Screenplay? A
comic? Is it better to go indie or seek out a traditional publisher? Join this
awesome panel of professional writers and story editors, and story editors as
they discuss the many paths they’ve taken to get their work published and
Genre: New Media
Panelists: Kevin J. Anderson, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Peter J. Wacks, Rebecca Moesta
Moderator: Neo Edmund
Sunday Panels 11/01/15:
12:00pm-12:50pm Iron Author:
Like Iron Chef except with writers. Each person Includes subject and a
“secret ingredient”. The audience judges the winner
Well, for the third year in a row I am a panelist and moderator at CONQUEST 45, the local Kansas City Con on Friday May 23rd through Sunday May 25th. Well attended, with, as usual, a great lineup of guests and panelists, CONQUEST is the largest local Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror convention. And it’s always a blast, but also always hectic for locals like me, especially those of us who are members of the local fan club KacSFFS.
This year’s Guests of Honor are Glen Cook (Author GOH), David Lee Pancake (Artist GOH), Bridget Landry (Science GOH), Ray and Barbara Van Tillburg (Fan GOH), and also Caroline Spector (Toastmistress). Also attending (besides myself) are local professionals like Robin Wayne Bailey, Kij Johnson, Rich Horton , K.D. McEntire, Mark W. Tiedemann, Rob Chilson, Selina Rosen, Claire Ashgrove, Bradley Denton, H.G. Stratmann and Chris McKitterick. A full list can be found here.
Returning to downtown this year, CONQUEST 45 takes place at the Downtown Marriott, just off the famed Power and Light District, pretty much the center of Kansas City’s nightlife.
Room assignments are not final, but here’s the panels, panel descriptions and list of panelists in which I’ll be participating. As you’ll see, it’ll be a really hectic weekend for me. I also hope to have books on sale at Glen Cook’s dealer table, and we are working on a possible Raygun Chronicles party. When details on room assignments and the party are final, I’ll do another post, closer to the Con.
Here’s the schedule as it stands now:
Friday – May 23, 2014
Reading (Big Joe Turner A) Friday 1400
Author/Editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt reads from his forthcoming epic fantasy series The Dawning Age.
SpecNoir (Count Basie Ballroom A) Friday 1700
Speculative fiction and noir mix particularly well in many subgenres and forms. What is noir and what are some examples of who’s writing what and good reads out there?
Moderator: Bryan Thomas Schmidt Panelists: Glen Cook, Mark W. Tiedemann
Raygun Chronicles Launch Party Friday 2130 (Room 619)
Authors Todd Hunter and Robin Wayne Bailey join me to celebrate our pulp-style space opera anthology, Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For A New Age. Party with snacks, drinks and giveaways.
Saturday – May 24th, 2014
Military Fantasy (Lester Young A) Saturday 1000
What is it? Who’s writing it? How does it differ from high fantasy? What are some examples?
Moderator: Bryan Thomas Schmidt Panelists: Glen Cook, Kij Johnson, Robin Wayne Bailey
What makes a hero/heroine? (Jay McShann A) Saturday 1200
A discussion of what defines heroism today and what qualities we want to see in our heroes and heroines that make them heroic. And how are definitions evolving in the modern age.
Moderator: Bryan Thomas Schmidt Panelists: Dennis Young, Gera Dean, Kij Johnson
Writing for younger audiences (Jay McShann B) Saturday 1300
Writing for adults and writing for YA, MG and Children differ. Authors and Editors discuss the differences, the approaches, and fine examples.
Moderator: Bryan Thomas Schmidt Panelists: Chris McKitterick, Deanna Sjolander, K. D. McEntire
KID’S READING: Bryan Thomas Schmidt (Big Joe Turner A)
Children’s author Bryan Thomas Schmidt reads from his chapter book series ABRAHAM LINCOLN DINOSAUR HUNTER, a humorous, action adventure, alternate history for all ages.
Self-Editing 101 For Writers With Finish The Story (Mary Lou Williams A/B) Saturday 1600
Editorial team Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Claire Ashgrove discuss tips for basic editing of manuscripts, how to get perspective, common issues, and more.
Moderators/Panelists: Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Claire Ashgrove
Sunday – May 25th, 2014
GOH Interview: Glen Cook (Count Basie Ballroom A)
Come here me do a live SFFWRTCHT-style interview with the amazing Glen Cook. And you can ask questions, too!
Moderator: Bryan Thomas Schmidt Panelist: Glen Cook
Editors are not the Enemy (Mary Lou Williams A/B) Sunday 1100
What editors do, why it matters to writers, and why writers should consider them an asset not an enemy. An exploration of author-editor relationships.
Self-Publishing — Taking the Leap! (Mary Lou Williams A/B) Sunday 1300
Considering self-publishing your novel? It isn’t as easy as publishing a book and reaping the royalties, nor is it for every author. Discover pros and cons of the Indie market, tips to launching a successful book, and whether you’re prepared for the business demands.
Moderator: Claire Ashgrove Panelists: Karin Gastreich, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Brett Williams
Hope to see some of you there. Be sure to come by and say hello!
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut science fiction novel, The Worker Prince, received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases of 2011, and was followed by two sequels The Returning and The Exodus (forthcoming).His children’s books include 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter–Land Of Legends. Schmidt has edited edited anthologies Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6, Beyond The Sun, Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age and, with Jennifer Brozek, coedited military high fantasy original anthology, Shattered Shields. Several more anthologies are under contract and forthcoming. Schmidt hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter.
I am privileged to be an Author Guest at the Campbell Awards Conference at University of Kansas this weekend, sponsored by Center For The Study Of Science Fiction. Here’s the agenda items I’ll be involved with. You can find a full agenda here.
Friday, June 14
9:00am – 4:45pm: The Spencer Research Library will display a selection of rare SF materials from the special SF collections in the Johnson room. Stop by any time. If you ask about the SF display at the front desk, Special Collections Librarian Elspeth Healey will come out and personally tour you around the items, so don’t miss this great opportunity!
2:00pm – 2:45pm: Best-selling author Kevin J. Anderson talks about dreaming big and making unrealistic expectations pay off. Location: Krehbiel Scholarship Hall 1st Floor lobby (1323 Ohio St – information here) near the KU campus.
3:00pm – 4:30pm: “Secrets of Successful Speculative Fiction” discussion with our attending guest authors during the Workshop. Though this is of special interest to our Workshop attendees, all Campbell Conference registrants with writing aspirations are welcome to join. Location: Krehbiel Scholarship Hall 1st Floor lobby (1323 Ohio St – information here) near the KU campus.
6:00pm – 9:00pm: Awards Ceremony and Banquet for the John Campbell Award for best SF novel of the year, the Theodore Sturgeon Award for best short SF of the year, and the newLifeboat to the Stars Award. The Banquet costs extra, but all Conference attendees are invited to attend the Awards Ceremony (starts at about 7:00pm) that follows the meal. Even if you do not intend to eat dinner, you must contact Lydia Ash ([email protected]) in advance so we can arrange for seating. Location: Griffith Room in The Oread hotel. Valet parking in The Oread‘s garage; parking is free on the hill as marked.
Evening: Reception immediately following Awards Ceremony. Location: Griffith Room in The Oread hotel.
Saturday, June 15
9:00am – noon: Round-table discussion. Location: Gathering Room 1 in The Oread hotel near the KU campus.
This year’s topic: “To the Stars.” Valet parking in The Oread‘s garage; parking is free on the hill as marked.
12:45pm – 1:30pm: Autograph session with attending authors and editors. Location: All Season’s Den in The Oread; you can purchase books in the adjacent bookstore. This event is free and open to the public.
1:45pm – 4:30pm: Readings from new work by by Kevin J. Anderson, Andy Duncan, and James Gunn. Location: Gathering Room 1 in The Oread hotel.
Sunday, June 16
9:00am – 11:00am: “Meet the authors and editors” informal talk with our attending guests and authors. Some pastries and beverages provided. Location: All Season’s Den in The Oread hotel.
Noon – late afternoon: Informal afternoon gathering at the home of Ruth Lichtwardt. Munchies, wine, and craft beers will be served. Location: (information in your membership packet). Sponsored by Kansas City in 2016, a bid for the 74th Worldcon.
I know, I’ve made two Recap posts already on ChiCon, but I couldn’t resist sharing a few special moments I’ll always remember from the experience. Both touching and humorous, they combined to enrich the experience and the memories I carry forward from it. I think you’ll see why. I present them chronologically.
1) Surviving A New Cabbie’s First Fare. Somehow, upon arriving 90 minutes late on Amtrak, 90 minutes before my reading I might add, I wound up in the taxi of a man whose driving was an adventure. Not only did make some odd lane changes but then entered the Hyatt the wrong way and had to turn around, driving across the sidewalk and scattering the bellboys in the process. “It’s my first time,” he said, “I’m new.” I didn’t argue, just handed him the money and hurried to escape the cab.
2) Black Gate Crew Attends My First World Con Reading. I am not a big fan of doing readings. It’s just something I’ve always felt nervous and awkward about. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending how you look at it) my crowds have always been small. But this time not only did my crowd size increase but it was packed with fellow writers, many of whom were Black Gate staff. Seeing fellow successful authors like Howard Andrew Jones, James Enge and Chris Kastensmidt and a successful editor like John O’Neill not only make time to attend but express encouragement at my performance really started the Con on a great note and leant the feeling that I was on the right track as a writer. I’m grateful,
3) Recognized By Robert J. Sawyer at Thursday Dinner. My first dinner, my first night at the Con, and I run into Robert J. Sawyer at the restaurant. He recognizes me, double checks my name badge to be sure, and then introduces me to his wife and companions, inviting me to stop by the bar later and chat more. I had never met Rob and only interviewed him via Twitter, but we have interacted on Facebook a bit. Still, it was a good feeling to be recognized by someone of that caliber and it was an event that repeated itself throughout the Con as several others recognized me as well and said “I know your name, sure” as they shook my hand. For a small fish, it was a big splash.
4) David Brin Thanking SFWA Volunteers. On Friday morning, I spent two hours with SFWA Secretary Ann Leckie and Edge Editor Victoria Strauss volunteering at the SFWA table. While several people dropped by, David Brin made a point to shake our hands and kindly thank us for volunteering. It was a classy move and greatly appreciated since I have always found Brin’s snarky outspoken comments on Facebook a bit offputting and since he is “David Brin” (intimidating in itself). That graciousness won me over. What a class act.
5) Meeting and Being Teased by Robert Silverberg.In many ways, Silverberg is my Tolkien. I’ve told him so. He insists that I call him ‘Bob,” to which I replied: “I don’t know if I can.” But our first face-to-face was at his signing after I’d waited around 40 minutes in line. My quota of 3 books were the original Majipoor trilogy, and a couple were used hardbacks I’d tracked down, since I prefer getting hardbacks signed for longevity. Glancing inside one, Silverberg notes the ‘Property Of Margene’ stamp. “So, what happened to Margene? And how did you get her book?” he teases. I fumbled a bit then said I’d bought it at a library sale. He smiles, shooting me a cockeyed look. “Please give Margene my best if she survived the exchange.” I couldn’t help but laugh, he smiled, we chatted a bit more, and I left hoping he really was just teasing. I swear, I don’t know Margene.
6) A fan arrives at my signing with my book. Okay, yes, my books have been out a while. But this is really the first time someone already had one when they came to a signing to get it signed. Before they’ve bought them from me, then had me sign. So it was memorable and special to know my babies are making their way out in the world and that booksellers are being supported in the process. I only wound up signing 5 books that day, while watching Seanan McGuire’s never-ending line next to me and George R.R. Martin’s before her, but it was a nice feeling to be known before hand.
7) Moderating My First World Con Panel Ever. Not only was it my first World Con panel, but the room was packed t0 standing room only, with people waiting outside wanting to get in. On top of that, my fellow panelists included Nancy Kress, Jay Lake and Charles Stross. The lofty topic: Moral Ambiguity In Science Fiction. Having Nancy Kress, whose writing books have taught me so much, look at me for permission to talk almost made me laugh with embarrassment. Of course, that was just her showing respect to the moderator and it wound up being a delightful panel and one I’ve heard good things about from many since. In fact, we recorded it for an upcoming podcast, so you’ll get the chance to hear it soon enough.
8 ) Mitch Bentley’s Art Show Award. Despite my friend and frequent cover artist Mitch Bentley being the first to greet me upon my arrival at the hotel, I didn’t make it to the art show until Sunday, my first free day of the Con. Imagine my delight when I found Mitch’s booth and discovered a cover I had commissioned for my ebook release of the Davi Rhii prequel story “Rivalry On A Sky Course” had won him a Judge’s Choice Award. Mitch’s art has always moved me. I knew I wanted him to do my book cover from the minute I first saw it at ConQuest 41 in Kansas City, May 2010. Since then we’ve collaborated on two novels and this ebook with more in the works. More over, the covers are inspired by the stories and scenes within them, so I am thrilled to see Mitch recognized for his work, especially stuff my own work inspired.
9) Resnick’s Recognition. I had seen Resnick in passing several times and even-handed him some Brazilian coffee grounds I’d brought for him, but apparently he was so exhausted he didn’t recognize me (many had this issue due to my new Sellect ‘stache I learned) until I handed him a signed copy of the novel he blurbed. Then he did an “of course, I hadn’t realized that was you” thing and we spent a delightful 45 minutes hanging out. Resnick has been a good friend and mentor to me and I had not expected to get much time with him at a Con where he was GOH, let alone “alone” time, so it was a delight. But the priceless look on his face when my identity connected was a highlight for sure.
10) Listening In As Silverberg and Dave Kyle Reminisce. Spotting Silverberg in the Dealer’s Room Sunday, I brought over a few more books I had not gotten him to sign and overheard a comparing notes of two long time SFF community members discussing Cons, books, life, genre and much more. It was the kind of moment that one loves being a fly on the wall. Then Silverberg saw the Ace Double I was carrying and commented: “Look Dave, this book is almost as old as you are.” Kyle quipped: “It’s in far better condition.” We all laughed and then Silverberg signed it. Their discussion though could have been a panel in and of itself.
11) An Accidental Anthology Pitch. One friend I managed to run into a lot was Jamie Todd Rubin, who gathered a bunch of us Sunday afternoon in the bar to hang out. Patrick Swenson was there, along with Kay Kenyon, Louise Marley, Jennifer Brozek, Jay Werkheiser, and later Tod McCoy. It was a fun group and we found all kinds of stuff to talk about. But somewhere along the way we happened to discuss sports, and I–off the cuff–mentioned I hoped to do a Space Sports themed anthology one day. Next thing I knew I had three very excited writers pitching their stories. Two of them would be reprints. And they were talking it up. I hadn’t intended to make it a project immediately, as I already have three in the development hopper, but Champions: Spec Sports is now in the works and I found myself gathering ideas and writers the rest of the evening. A memorable way to start an anthology project for sure.
12) Watching Friends Accept Hugos. John DeNardo won for SFSignal to which I contribute, and Kij Johnson and Ursula Vernon won for Novella and Graphic Novel. Cat Valente and Seanan McGuire were amongst Podcast winners for SF Squeecast. Of the five, I know John the best but it was still a delight to see people I have chatted with multiple times and respect get such recognition. The fact that I helped contribute with my votes was a bonus.
As I stated in my Recaps, it felt a lot like I’d come of age and transitioned from fan/wannabe on the sidelines to full fledged community member and that an encouraging feeling only aided by moments like these ten. If you went to World Con, what were your most memorable moments? I’d love to hear about them.
For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, both forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Well, my first WorldCon is looking good. I’d hoped to make Reno last year but then life fell apart and I had to sell my memberships to Patrick Hester and Jeremy Tolbert. I’m glad they could use them, but this year, I’m going, and here’s my agenda. The boxed items are ones I will be a panelist for. The rest, events I am planning to attend, for those wanting to find me. I look forward to it very much. It’s an honor be included in Programming.
Thursday, August 30th, 2012
3:00 -6:00 p.m. Arrival/Checkin
Thu Aug 30 7:00:pm
Thu Aug 30 7:30:pm
Reading: Bryan Thomas Schmidt reading from The Worker Prince and The Returning
Bryan Thomas Schmidt
8-10:30 p.m. First Night at Adler Planetarium
Friday, August 31st, 2012
9-10:00 a.m. Dealer’s Room (Book Universe will be carrying my books throughout the Con & I’ll be at the SFWA table 10-12)
12:30 p.m. Howard Andrew Jones Reading (Dusable)
1 p.m. Lunch with Maurice Broaddus
2:00ish-3:00 p.m. Autograph Sessions (Crystal B/Autograph Table) featuring Mike Resnick, Brad Torgersen, Catherine Asaro, Connie Willis, David Brin, Eric Flint, Gardner Dozois, Harry Turtledove, Jack McDevitt, James Patrick Kelly, Kay Kenyon, Kij Johnson, Laura Resnick, Nancy Kress, Nick DiChario, Robert J. Sawyer, Robert Silverberg, Sheila Williams, Steven H. Silver (I’ll be bringing books for several of these people to sign)
4:30-6:00 PM – I may attend Mike Resnick’s Interview. I’d like to but it depends how tired I am from everything else and if I need to just sit at the bar. I will be doing one or the other here and stop by Dealer’s Room (Book Universe) to sign if needed
5:30 p.m. – Saladin Ahmed Reading (Dusable)
6:00 p.m. – Dinner with Howard Andrew Jones and James Enge
7:00 p.m.-ish -NightShade Night Bazaar Party
9:00-10:30 p.m. – Guest of Honor speech: Mike Resnick (Columbus KL)
Saturday, September 1st, 2012
9 a.m. – SFWA Business Meeting/light breakfast (Comiskey)
10-11:00 a.m. Dealer’s Room (Book Universe) or hanging to network
11-1:00 p.m. Lunch With Jay Lake (i.e. Hanging Out)
Sat Sep 1 1:30:pm
Sat Sep 1 3:00:pm
Moral Ambiguity in SF (I am Moderator)
Is there still room for moral structure in SF societies and worldbuilding? How does moral ambiguity represent or fail to capture the real world? What are its pitfalls
Bryan Thomas SchmidtCharles StrossJay LakeLissa PriceNancy Kress
Sat Sep 1 3:00:pm
Sat Sep 1 4:30:pm
Vivid Character Building (I am Moderator)
How do you create vivid characters who pop off the page? How do you avoid archetypes/stereotypes and predictability? Join a panel of writers discussing their techniques and tricks and ask questions of your own.
Bryan Thomas SchmidtCarol BergKay KenyonRandy HendersonTeresa Frohock
4:30-6:00 p.m. Dealer’s Room (Book Universe)
7-? p.m. Bar Con/Parties/Dinner
8 p.m. Cat Rambo/Stina Leicht Party
Sunday, September 2nd, 2012
I will hang out in public areas a lot, may go to a panel but mostly just network
7:00 p.m. Find seat at Hugos
8:00 p.m. Hugo Awards Ceremony
Monday, September 3rd, 2012
Mon Sep 3 9:00:am
Mon Sep 3 10:30:am
Faith in Science Fiction & Fantasy
Faith can take many forms besides organized worship of a Higher Being, and yet, not a single Earth culture known to us exists absent a faith system in some form. What is the importance of faith in motivating human beings and in creating realistic worlds? What are the things people put their faith in? Magic? Science? Laws? Government? Wealth? Fame? Not a debate of the validity of ideas but a discussion of their value and use as motivators for all of us.
Bryan Thomas SchmidtDennis Y. GinozaIsabel SchechterRandy Smith
10:30-12:00 p.m. Dealer’s Room (Book Universe) and hanging out
12-1:00 p.m. Pack/Checkout
1:30 p.m. to Amtrak for home (3:00 train)
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. A freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction and also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Love it or hate it, for the modern author Conventions and Appearances come with the job. These can be a great deal of fun or a great deal of stress or both. I’ve done 9 Cons since 2010, 5 since March 2012. (You can check out my appearances here.) I’ve enjoyed them all for different reasons and yet some were better than others. Still, overall, the contact with fellow creatives and the public is a stimulant to creativity even if it drains time away from writing while I’m there. The biggest strain, of course, is budget. Cons are not cheap. But still, if you take the time to learn how to maximize them, there can be great benefits. Here are Ten Lessons I’ve learned from Cons and Appearances so far:
1) Selling Books Is Hard. A good signing/appearance tends to be around 12-13 books for me so far. As a new, relatively unknown author, it’s really hard to get people to try out your stuff. You do readings at which 4 attendees is a good turnout. You do bookstore appearances/signings and are happy if three people an hour actually stop to talk. At Cons, you do tons of panels and hand out info cards and are happy if people take them with any enthusiasm. In dealer’s rooms, if 5% of those who stop to look buy your book, you’ve done well. If you are a writer thinking selling the book is the easy part, think again. It’s hard. I don’t know how this compares with those whose publishers have thousands to spend promoting their books, but for micropress writers like me with promotion coming from my own time and money, selling books is hard.
2) Face-To-Face Matters. I realize many authors are socially awkward. We spend so much time alone by ourselves writing that social skills are not being developed. And many of us started out socially awkward in the first place. Thus, public appearances can be nerve-wracking and stressful. Still, nothing gets people’s interest like a face-to-face encounter. If you’re nice, funny, interesting, etc., people take notice. They realize you might be someone whose voice they’d like to spend time with listening. And this leads to sales and word of mouth. It’s a slow process, in my experience, but I’ve definitely seen it enough to know it’s true.
3) Most of Your Sales Come After Cons Online Or In Stores. No matter how few or many books sell at a Con or appearance, I always know more a week or two later by looking at online sales and Author Central. Almost always we see numbers increase from people who met me or saw me at a distance and went to buy my books. I don’t know if this is because they don’t trust buying from you, worry about pressure sales if they approach or what. PayPal is secure, people. Whatever the reasons, I do see most sales coming from online or stores, even when I offer discounts through my website store, which I still can’t figure out.
4) Partnering With Dealers Has Advantages And Disadvantages. If you’re going to a Con, it’s always good to check out the dealers and see if you can find someone to either order copies of your book to sell or accept them from you on consignment. You will be expected to offer 25-40% of the price to the vendor, but I have still been able to sell books at a slight discount off retail when doing this. The bigger issues come from expectations. One, you should expect the vendor to display your books in a way that customers will see them, but not necessarily center stage and upstaging the vendor’s own wares. Two, pairing with a bookseller for books is better than pairing with another type of vendor. Vendors selling gadgets and toys will get customers who are easily distracted from books by their other wares. Clothing vendors have customers who aren’t looking for books. And so on. Booksellers are the best bet, but regardless of the vendor’s product, all of them expect you to get people to the table and come by to help sell your book. Working with booksellers makes this easier because they know how books sell, even those by unknown authors. Their expectations will therefore be appropriate. A toy vendor I worked with complained that I didn’t jump up and run out to pitch every customer who touched my book. My experience is that having a table between you is less intimidating than standing next to them on the sales side of the table and that being pushy is less effective than being casual and nice. Offer to answer questions, tell them a little about it, and even offer to sign it, yes, but being pushy is something to do at your own risk. Vendors don’t always understand because you are taking table space from their wares and sometimes the stuff they sell is sold well with a bit of push.
5) Plan Time To Be In The Dealer Room. If you have product for sale, it’s a really good idea to plan time to be at the dealer table greeting customers, signing, etc. Not just because of what I said in item 4 but because not everyone will see you at panels, readings, etc., and sometimes knowing the author is there makes buying a book more enticing. So check out the dealer room hours, compare it to your schedule for panels, etc., and plan some time. Remember: dealer rooms keep daytime hours. They will close at night, even when panels are still ongoing, so if you can, use the gaps during dealer room hours to be present and save your alone time, etc. at night for the much needed breaks. One good way to do this is to plan to bring carryout food to eat in the Dealer’s Room and eat behind the table so you can jump up and greet, etc. when customers stop by. Also, be sure and help sell the vendor’s other items, too. It shows a commitment to team and partnership that vendors will really appreciate.
6) Learn To Set Limits. Cons and appearances are tiring. You can only do so much. Overcommit at your own peril.I’d say 2-3 panels a day is a pretty good chunk, especially if you have readings and signings on top of that. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you wind up doing two morning panels and then two late a night, you will realize your day has gotten really long quick. Also, being on panels requires a lot of focus. You have to be cheerful and nice and smiling, and you also have to try and give intelligent output, which also requires energy. Plus, banter with fellow panelists is also important. I did 4 programming items a day at the last Con and after the first day felt like I’d done the whole Con already. I was so tired. And I still had another day and a half to go. Some have more energy than others. But this applies especially if you are staying at a cheaper off-site hotel and you don’t have a room to run back to for a nap or recharge. Big Cons, especially, have no quiet corners for that much needed Introvert recharge either. So you can find yourself stuck in crowded, noisy areas for whole days with no real breaks and it wears you out. Also, if you actually plan to attend panels, parties, etc., the more tired and overcommitted you are, the less able you will be to not only participate in those activities but enjoy them.
7) Preparation Saves Stress. Think up questions which you might ask on a panel or might be asked and practice answers. They won’t come out exactly the same way at the time, but at least you’ll have some coordinated, coherent thoughts already floating in your head to pull out and use. If you do get asked to moderate, you’ll have some idea how to approach it. With readings, you need to practice reading slow, at a good pace. If you can read with some character voice changes, it makes it far more interesting than reading with the Ben Stein-drone. At least know which passages you plan to read and how long it takes to read them. And have an idea what you’ll say to introduce the scenes and your book as well as yourself for panels and readings. Keep it short but don’t be afraid to highlight your credentials. And if you’re new, holding up a copy of a book or two is perfectly fine. It creates a visual memory for panel attendees who might later see it in the dealer room and consider buying it.
8 ) Spread Them Out. Doing a Con every weekend may sound fun in theory if you like Cons, but in practical fact, besides being expensive, it’s quite tiring and stressful. Sometimes it will be unavoidable. But most of the time, you can alternate Cons with local signings, readings, etc. in such a way to give yourself time to rest and recover in between. I also think you benefit from geographically spreading out appearances. I blocked out a number of driving distance cons this year and prioritized based on location, cost, guest list, expected attendance, etc. to determine which I should aim for and which I could skip or leave for “if I have time.” If you have books to promote, you can’t really show up last minute and expect to do signings, readings or panels. But if you’re well known or just going to network and participate as a fan, you can definitely just make last minute choices. I like to vary Cons in size a bit but generally Cons of large attendance numbers are easier to get lost and forgotten in than smaller Cons. You also have better chances to do panels at smaller cons, although there are exceptions.
9) Take Pictures.If you have publicists you work with, they will constantly nag you about this. My publicist friend does. If you don’t have that, you should remember and find people to take pictures for you. In every panel, if you get there before hand, you can find a fan who’d be willing to take a few pics. Remember, you get what you get. If you’re anal about pictures and how they’re framed, etc., it’s better to bring your personal photographer along. Otherwise, ask them to shoot several and hope you get something you can use. But pictures are helpful for blogs, PR, websites, and more, so having them is really helpful and if you’re by yourself, you want to be in them, so you’ll need help.
10) Take Handouts. Have business cards, info postcards, book sell sheets, etc. and make use of the free literature tables scattered throughout Cons. Some have one, most have several. Put your stuff out and stop by from time to time to see if anyone’s taking them or to replenish the stack. Be sure and pick up extras before you leave, although I always leave a few behind for last minute people to take in case. Business cards will be helpful for fellow authors, editors, artists, etc. Postcards with book cover info, your website, a few blurbs, a small bio, etc. are good to hand to fans at panels, signings, etc. I use sell sheets at my book tables for people to take even if they don’t buy the book on the spot. Many people come back Sunday to make their purchases, browsing first to decide where they want their limited funds to go. So don’t miss the chance to give them something which might bump your book up on the list.
I’m sure I’ll do plenty more Cons and appearances this year and beyond, as my career is only just beginning (I hope). So there’ll be more lessons learned by this time next year, but for now, I hope these are helpful. Love to hear your thoughts and lessons learned in comments, too. For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.