Sunday, August 16, 2015

Why I Attend Conventions and You Should Too!

Living in Sweden while being published in the US often results in a sense of alienation and isolation. I don't quite fit into the Nordic scene since I write in English and publish in the States, and I definitely don't fit into the US scene because I've so far never made it to any of the many cons my publishers attend in North America.

After having extremely positive experiences last year at both FinnCon (when I still lived in Finland) and WorldCon in London, I decided to be pro-active this year and not let our rather unexpected move to Sweden deter me from getting more involved in the SF/F scene here. Thanks to my Finnish contacts, I was able to attend two conventions this summer, the first being Archipelacon held in the Åland Islands (a little archipelago between Sweden and Finland) and thanks to new contacts made at the first con, I was able to attend SweCon held in Linköping, Sweden.

The Music in SF/F panel at Archipelacon
I'm so glad I attended these cons despite being nervous of having to step into the spotlight. At both events I gave a lecture on Diversity in YA SF/F - which was extremely well received - and participated in several panels. At SweCon, I had the additional honour of moderating panels, which meant getting to know writers and readers in the Swedish scene in a way I might not have otherwise. Both these experiences were amazing and have done wonders not only for my books, but also for me as an author who now no longer feels so lost and lonely living in the Nordic countries.

Tough Chicks in SF/F panel at SweCon
Here are some of the reasons why I think every author needs to attend cons in whatever capacity they can:

1) Exposure. Gaining visibility as a small press published author isn't always easy and cons provide a more relaxed and casual way of letting people discover your books, whether it's by having a display in the book sales area or participating on panels.

2) Networking. I have met amazing people through recent cons and my network is branching out all over the world. Every new contact is a potential opportunity for forging new friendships and working relationships.

3) Reaching readers. A great number of con attendees are fans of the genre and the exposure you gain by presenting you and your books to the con audience can and will result in gaining new readers. This is also a fantastic opportunity to connect with readers on a personal level, to chat about your similar interests and of course, your shared love of literature.

4) Book sales. Points 1 and 3 above may result in book sales, but conventions are a great opportunity to market yourself and sell books whether your publisher provides the con bookshop with your titles or you take copies with you and sell them out of hand. And don't forget to provide free swag to help gain exposure for your book!

5) Fun! Local conventions are a great way to meet similarly minded people and feel connected to a community of readers and writers without having to fork out tons of cash.

6) Inspiration and continued learning. This is something I didn't expect to experience during the cons I've attended, but I've learned so much from fellow panelists and readers, about what people want to see in books and what they're tired of. Many of the discussions helped me gain fresh perspectives and made me consider possibilities I'd never imagined.

After a summer of conning, I feel totally refreshed and ready to jump back into writing, inspired and armed with new ideas to challenge my creative comfort zone and push my writing in new and better directions. No matter where you are in the world, if you're an author and can get to a local convention, I strongly urge you to do it!

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