Tag Archives: convention

Ad Astra and Can Con

As a Canadian, travelling out of the country to attend cons involves a big trip with advance saving and planning, and most years it’s just not affordable for me to travel internationally.  Fortunately, there’s some great cons in Ontario that have offered me some opportunities closer to home.

adastraAd Astra is held in April each year in Toronto.  Can-Con is an autumn convention that’s taking place this year in Ottawa from October 30 – November 1.  It’s my pleasure to be a panelist at Can-Con 2016 and for anyone reading who’s going to be with us in Ottawa this fall, I look forward to seeing you then!

Ad Astra is Toronto’s sci fi and fantasy convention with a focus on authors and other creative professionals.  Can Con, the Conference for Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature, invites writers, editors, and academic professionals in fields that range from physics and astronomy to Renaissance Studies to speak in their areas of expertise.

Both of these conventions are different from the typical Comic-Con in that they put a special focus on writers and creators.  While these cons are still fandom-friendly, their focus isn’t on TV actors, cult film or licensed merchandise.  Both conventions offer a good variety of panels that include how-tos for hopeful authors, advice for new authors, discussion of issues of interest to or affecting the speculative fiction community, book launches, and more.

Since the focus of these conventions isn’t on commerce, I find the dealer’s rooms to be significantly smaller than at conventions such as Ottawa Comic-Con, GAnime, or HalCon.  However, the people who do go to those dealer’s rooms are going to be specifically interested in buying books (as opposed to licensed merchandise).  Getting a table is something I’ll be looking at doing in future when I have full-length novels to sell (right now, my stock consists of anthologies in which I am one of many contributors).


The last time I was at Ad Astra, I volunteered to sit at the Dragon Moon Press table with copies of When the Hero Comes Home 2, the anthology that published my first professionally-sold story.  Helping out was important to me for several reasons.  Because the publisher had paid for the table, there was no financial cost for me to meet people and help sell books.  I was able to watch and learn from my fellow contributors who’d worked at con tables before.  While I was sitting there, I got to form friendships with my fellow authors.  And as a matter of professionalism, in the future, I know the editors and publishers would rather work with someone who’s ready and willing to lend a hand, rather than someone who prefers to avoid work and responsibility.  It was easy to approach and talk to fans with a shared interest in speculative literature.

The down side of this arrangement was that since it was a specific publisher’s table, we couldn’t use the table to sell books or anthologies by other publishers.  Trying to sneak other books onto a table someone else had paid for would have been extremely disrespectful; we didn’t, and I don’t recommend it to anyone.  One of my fellow authors got around this restriction by volunteering to cover another author’s table while he was at lunch, panels, etc.; in exchange, the other author agreed to host her books at his table.  Another author held a book launch event at a restaurant off-site.  For my part, I talked about the different things I’d written and had a few interested buyers asking to purchase my other anthologies, which I was able to direct them to online.

Ad Astra was a valuable experience for me because I was able to meet my first publisher and editors face-to-face, and also network with my fellow authors.  The writing community is a relatively small one, which can be both to your advantage and your disadvantage.  Advantage, in that this little bit of networking has already opened up some excellent opportunities (more on those later, when I’m at liberty to discuss them!)  Disadvantage, in that news of poor manners and bad behaviour will circulate quickly.  Make sure the reputation that precedes you is a good one.

After only two years people are already beginning to recognize who I am and what I write.  How often do you get to build your professional career and have fun doing it?

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.