Category Archives: Quincy Allen

Get Your Fanny Out There!

I used to have a friend—a good one—and that friendship ended recently. It’s a rather long, sordid tale about politics and methods and appearances and styles and plans and… well, a lot of things. And mostly, it has to do with how each of those applies to a burgeoning writing career. Put simply, he and I are on different paths. We’re both committed to those paths. And we came to verbal blows as a result of those paths. Truth be told, we’re no longer friends for a lot of reasons. I’m telling you about the loss of a friend because of how strongly I feel about networking. Our difference of opinion on the subject isn’t why we’re no longer friends, but it was at least one nail in the coffin.

Ultimately, as entertainers (and we absolutely are), the only way we’re going to be successful is for people with disposable incomes to know who we are. And the only way we’re going to stay successful is to ensure that they never forget us—in a positive light, I might add. So how do you do that? Well, I can give you an example of how I got invited to participate in this really fantastic group of writers called the Fictorians—a move that was frowned upon by some. It all started with the Superstars writing seminar. If you’re a writer, you should look that one up. While I was there, I made an effort to meet people and talk with them. I asked what they wrote and how their careers were coming along. They returned the query. Friendships were borne, and not long after they asked me to write a post for them. And one thing led to another… and another.

And now, here I am, a virtual unknown writer who is lucky enough to have you reading his words because of that seminar and the simple process of networking.

The same goes for conventions and conferences. Attend them. (Note the imperative.) And while you’re there, meet and greet as many people as you can. Get to know them. Make them more than acquaintances. TALK to them about who they are and what they’re working on. And be a good listener.

I need to caveat this.

We’re writers, which means that many (most?) of us are introverts who really do prefer spending time at home in a quiet room while we chain words together than we do going to cotillions. It’s the nature of the beast. I have three words for you: GET OVER IT. And do so in, like, the next 4 seconds.  I know that sounds flippant, but the biggest and best free (or nearly so) thing you can do to advance your career is to go out and introduce yourself to the writing community. Let them get to know you. And in that process, you’ll meet fans, you’ll develop contacts, and you’ll get invited to participate in things that help getting your name out there… or vice versa.

My girlfriend uses the phrase “creative sanga” where peoples of like-minded endeavors get together and are subsequently capable of creating things greater than the sum of their parts… or something like that.

It’s not B.S.

The writing community isn’t that large, and it’s full of really amazing people from all walks of life. Discover who they are. This is what business people call networking. I’ve come to refer to it as making friends, and when it comes right down to it, there’s little of the successes I continue to have in my career that aren’t as a direct result of this process.

And while you’re at it, introduce yourself to me. Friend me upon Facebook or Twitter. Look me up at the next convention I’m at. Give me the opportunity to get to know you. I can think of no better way for us to make our ways through this mortal coil as we pursue our writing careers.

It is a dream I have.

Conventions as Marketing, Part II, or Every Day is An Interview

I wanted to follow-up on Quincy Allen’s great post of October 15, 2013 about the value of active convention attendance on your marketing plan. The post is particularly timely as I’m packing my bag for World Fantasy which will be held in Brighton, England from October 31 – November 2. Quincy shared how his career had been enhanced by his decision to attend conferences. Like Quincy my successes in writing can be traced back to my decision to attend a conference. But that’s only a part of the story. Showing the is the easiest part. What Quincy did, and I recommend you do, is he was an active participant in the conferences.

Taking a convention from being a fun event to being a professional marketing tool is hard work. We attend writers’ conferences or seminars, to market our writing, and to meet other writers, agents, publishers and editors. For ease of reference, I’ll refer to agents, publishers and editors collectively as “agents.” You cannot sit in the seminars and only interact with the group of people you came if you are marketing.  Every day of a convention is an interview. Every moment of every day is an opportunity for you to help or hurt your career. So how do you ramp up your marketing potential at a Con?

Before the Con: do your homework.

One of the things I love about World Fantasy is it posts a list of attendees or “members” so I can see if my dream editor or agent is going to attend. This year WFC also has a separate list of attending publishers so if you don’t know that Jane Doe is with XY Literary you can see that XY Literary is attending and investigate further. Conventions are often crowded. Decide in advance who you’d like to make a connection with, why, and how.

I wanted to talk to Peter Beagle because I love his stories and since he was a Guest of Honor that year . How was I going to meet to him? Because he was scheduled for a reading, an interview session, and to attend the banquet I knew where and when I could find him, but I also asked my friends if anyone knew him. One of the founding Fictorians did and she introduced me. Ask your friends and colleagues if they know the person you want to meet. Chances are that one of them does. A personal introduction will usually take you a lot further than cold calling on someone. If the person you want to speak with is not giving a lecture or otherwise booked to be in a specific place be prepared to check the Con Bar – regularly.

If you are planning to pitch a story make sure it’s finished. “Finished” does not mean the first draft is complete. It means you have done everything you can to make the story as compelling and as free from typos as you can. Prepare your pitches. Ace Jordyn attended last year’s WFC with a list of the people she wanted to meet, and pitches prepared for each work and each person. Amazing, really.

At the Con:  Be professional and bold.

I’ve written about this before so I’m not going to delve too deeply here. Appearances matter. If you want to be taken as a professional be dressed as one. Does that mean you have to wear a suit? No – unless that’s your brand. Look at just about any New York Times best-selling author’s website and you’ll see what I mean. Lisa Scottoline, a retired lawyer and writer of legal thrillers, wears suits. She wore one when she was instructing at the Seak, Legal Fiction for Lawyers convention where I met her. Because of who she is and what she writes the suit is part of her brand. Neil Gaiman and Brandon Sanderson don’t wear suits.  In fact, I would guess that the bulk of professional writers don’t wear suits. Still, they all look professional. You should too.

Act professional. Don’t interrupt, don’t be rude. Enough said about that.

Go boldly.  Follow-up on your plans. Go to the places the people you are looking for are likely to be. Talk to them when you find them. If you can’t find them, ask other people if they might know where Jane Doe is. You must approach strangers at a convention. You must ask friends to introduce you to people you don’t know, but want to. At least one agent has said that she only signs people she’s met at a convention, and the agent doesn’t wear a name tag. She, like every other agent, wants to see you’ve done your research and that you’re passionate about your work. After all, if you’re not excited about and willing to sell your work, why should she be? Sitting in a corner watching the con go by will not result in publication.

Strike while the iron is hot. If you are engaged in a genuine conversation and someone asks what you are working on. Tell them.

After the Con: Follow-up.

Oh lucky day! You spent three hours talking to your dream editor at the Con Bar. So, now what? Follow-up with that person just like you would do at any other networking event. Send her an e-mail saying you enjoyed meeting her at the Con. Make the e-mail specific so that if you drinking a purple girly drink remind the editor so she, who met hundreds of people at the Con, has the opportunity to place you. If you were asked to submit to the editor do so now. It not, just thank her for her time. At minimum, follow the editor’s twitter feed or friend her on Facebook. Comment honestly on posts. If she posts something you find interesting you should comment on it. If not, you shouldn’t. You are trying to maintain and forge a genuine connection with her.

Don’t forget your friends. Remember all those people who helped you research and introduced you around? Thank them as well.

Conventions are one of our most powerful marketing tools if used correctly. Meeting someone at a convention may make the difference between a polite “no, thank you” and a sale. Treat every convention like an extended job interview because that’s what it is. Your primary goal is to form honest and lasting connections with the people you meet. Succeeding at that goal leads to success.


Working the Convention Circuit

This is one of those “you should” blogs that, if you know me, you know I generally hate. But I’m going to do it anyway because I’m willing to take the heat for being a hypocrite for a topic I believe is worth the sacrifice. So here goes, and it’s a bit of a daisy chain, so bear with me.

If you’re a new writer, with at least a handful of published short stories to your name or even a novel or two, then you should give serious consideration to working the convention circuit.

Back in July of 2009, I got laid off from an IT gig and decided to chase a writing career. The first thing I did was write some short stories and submit them. I also wrote a novel—the less-than-well-known Chemical Burn. Over the past four years, these efforts have borne fruit. However, if they were all I accomplished in that time, the odds are I wouldn’t be writing this blog right now for the simple reason that the folks at The Fictorians wouldn’t know who I am.

Let me explain.

In October of 2009, I attended MileHiCon, a local and well-established genre and writing convention with a strong author-track. As a result of my participation, a number of wheels were set in motion. MileHiCon is where I met Kronda Seibert and the “heart” of the local steampunk population. As a result of that meeting, I was able to write three episodes of a steampunk Internet radio show and laid the foundation for the Penny Dread Tales anthology series. I wouldn’t be writing steampunk if it weren’t for that convention.

At MileHiCon I also met Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency (which had benefits later) as well as David Boop who has introduced me to much of the Front Range writing community in one way or another. This also led to my involvement with the Broadway Book Mall.

At a convention in 2010 I met Peter J. Wacks, which opened the door to a contract for Steampelstiltskin with Fairy Punk Studios and laid the groundwork for a relationship with an international best-selling author (more on that later). I also started picking up a fan-base and found a home with the steampunk community. As a result of that, I established a recurring attendance invite with AnomalyCon and locked in “premiering” each new Penny Dread Tales (PDT) anthology at the convention. PDT has now become a staple at the con, with a growing list of “bigger-name” contributors as a result of its growing exposure. It was in this cycle of cons that I also met Guy De Marco for the first time, and that relationship opened up even more doors.

2011 was more of the same, and in 2012, I extended my reach a little and—thanks to Guy—hit OsFest in Omaha Nebraska. That’s where I met Travis Heermann. It was also in the 2012 con season that I met Angie Hodapp (also of the Nelson Literary Agency), and that opened doors to making a proposal to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Board of Directors  as well as teaching a seminar on writing action scenes (with Travis Heermann) at the Colorado Gold Conference this year.

2013 saw my reach deepen into the writing community. I’ve met writers, agents and publishers. I’ve got a growing list of contacts, fans, and even editors asking for my work. My relationship with Angie Hodapp and Sara Megibow over at the Nelson Agency opened the door for me to submit a query directly to Sara, and while she didn’t accept that manuscript, the door is open for me to submit directly to her when I finish my next manuscript.

On top of it all, at CoSine in Colorado Springs this year, I met for the first time Kevin J. Anderson. You may know that name. As a result, I now do book designs and eBook conversions for Word Fire Press, and as a result of that chain of events, I’ve been able to work on books by authors like Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson and, coming soon, Alan Drury. I even did a WordFire Press version of the eBook for Clockwork Angels. My work with Anderson also got me into Superstars, which led to me being invited to become a Fictorian.

The daisy chain goes on and on, so what’s the message here?

That if you’re planning a career in the writing biz, you should start meeting, greeting, and carousing with people in the writing biz. That’s how you make contacts. It’s how you open doors. That’s how you create opportunities for your writing projects.

Most people think the writing business is all about getting “picked up”… about writing  a manuscript in solitude, submitting a query, and finding out six months later that you’ve been offered a contract by an agent or even one of the “Big 5.” I won’t deny that this method works… but you’d have as much a chance trying to get struck by lightning in a thunderstorm.

The odds are against you, so how do you up the odds?

You hit the convention circuit, plain and simple.



Taking Back What Was Stolen

Today is an important day.

Politics and economies and foreign policies aside, September 11th is a day to remind us of standing up after something is destroyed. It’s a day to rise above adversity, to strive to rebuild and rework and hunker down and not let others take away what lies within ourselves, no matter what.

I’m old enough now that I don’t remember how old I was in the 5th grade. I actually had to think about it. That’s another epiphany regarding time in a growing list of them as I get gray at the temples.

I guess I was nine when I discovered a love of writing because of what it could evoke in readers. What started it all off was a story about an alien world and lava pools and molten spiders. The teacher loved it. My classmates loved it. It was the first time I ever heard someone read out loud what I had written. And in that moment a fire was kindled—a dream born.

So I kept writing—here and there—because it was a way to explore new places, even play god by creating them and setting lost souls adrift within them. But, while all this was going on, reality struck hard and took hold.

My father was born in 1929—in Brooklyn, New York. While you probably didn’t hear about the birth of my father till just now, you may have heard of something else that took place in the same city and the same year. It was called Black Tuesday, and in its wake lay the Great Depression. These were the formative years of the man who would eventually raise me. He had very specific ideas on career choices and artists and stability and retirement. Being an author wasn’t in that mix.

Like it says on the bio I have on my website, I was “…waylaid by bandits armed with the age-old adage, ‘So you wanna be a starving artist the rest of your life?’” Those words came from my father. More than once. And they killed the dream I had… or, it seems, pushed it into a deep coma. I don’t blame him for what he tried to do. There’s no doubt that my father cared deeply for all three of his children, and he did have the very best of intentions. He thought he was helping.

So, one day, after having spent seventeen years in IT and pursuing a career that wasn’t mine for reasons that belonged to someone else, I found myself staring down the barrel of a layoff. A few mornings after, I woke up wondering what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life. I was forty-three, a bit long in the tooth to start a new career, but totally disinterested in going back to IT.

And then the writer within me, the one that had slept soundly for over two decades, woke up. You know what he told me? He said that he’d rather die a starving artist than live another day as a slave to the corporate grind. And then he became me.

Don’t get me wrong. I still have a day-job, and it’s still somewhat in IT. I write technical documents for a software company. It’s enough to pay what few bills I have while I whole-heartedly pursue the dream. And that’s the lesson here.

I’m reminded of the Will Smith movie “The Pursuit of Happyness.” If there is one quote to take away from that film, it’s when he’s talking to his son. They’re living on the street and his boy talks about becoming a superstar basketball player. Will’s first response is to shoot down the dream because it’s risky and many don’t make it, and he’s raising his son on the street. Then he stops. And ponders. And then fixes what he broke with his words by saying, “Hey. Don’t ever let somebody tell you… You can’t do something. Not even me. All right? You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.”

I still get teary-eyed when I think of that. I was that little boy, but I never got the fix. My own father didn’t figure it out till after I started having successes in the writing game, and that was twenty-five years later… after I did it myself.

But I’m telling you now: if you have a dream, don’t let anyone take it away from you. Ever. You may fail over and over again, but that’s what dreams are for, to give us a moon to shoot for. And if there is a better definition of what this life is about, I don’t know it.

So go get it.