Tag Archives: WFC

Never Pitch to an Editor in the Bathroom

A guest post by Gerald Brandt.

I have been going to World Fantasy Conventions since 2008, when it was held in Calgary, Alberta. I had been “seriously” writing for a couple of years before that, alone in my office, churning out mediocre short stories, gathering rejections.

That year, I happened to go to a local convention, and met some other science fiction and fantasy writers. As a group, we decided that since the World Fantasy Convention was in Canada, we had to go.

Once there, I attended every panel I could, took copious notes, and got to bed early so I could start the next day fresh. I did manage to meet a few people, and made a couple of friends. All in all, a great convention.

I have learned how to do conventions better since then.

Out of our group of five that attended that convention, only two of us are still writing, and published. Of the people I met in Calgary, one became part of our little convention group, and we ended up hanging together at every convention we attended. This story is about Adria, Sherry, and me.

The 2010 World Fantasy Convention was held in Columbus, Ohio. All three of us were able to attend. We flew in at different times and met in the heart of every convention—the bar.

Columbus was beautifully set up, with the bar situated in an open area, right between the room the panels were held in and the hotel rooms. Everyone, no matter where you were going, walked through the bar to get there. Columbus is where I learned how to do conventions.

On Saturday night, the second day of the convention, two parties were held. There were probably more, but these were the ones the three of us were interested in. One was held by a small press out of Calgary: Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing was doing a reading and a book launch.

Across the hall from Edge was the Tor party. Tor parties always start out as private affairs. After a couple of hours, they open their doors to the general riffraff. People like me.

Adria, Sherry, and I went to the Edge party after a late dinner and listened to some of the readings. A bit later, the Edge party got into full swing and we chatted with the people we knew, introduced ourselves to the ones we didn’t, and generally had a good time.

At one point, we ducked out to the hallway and walked into the Tor party. It was a zoo. There were so many people milling around the two-room suite, we could barely breathe. After about ten minutes, we gave up and went back to the Edge party.

Sometime around 1:30 in the morning, we decided we’d had enough. We were exhausted and ready for our beds. The hallway was relatively quiet by then, and we chatted as we waited for the elevator.

Someone in our group, I’d like to think it was me, but I doubt it, decided our night shouldn’t be over yet. One of the reasons we were here was to meet editors and agents, and from what we’d heard, the Tor party was the place.

We left the elevator and went back to Tor’s room. It was still full, but not nearly with the same amount of people as earlier. Even with all the people, there was no one we knew.

Throwing caution to the wind, we ventured in deeper, eavesdropping on a conversation here and there. Eventually, someone approached us, a smile on his face and a drink in his hand. He had noticed we didn’t have any drinks, and he knew where they were. Did we want one?

Hell, yeah!

The drinks, as it turned out, were stored in melted ice in the bathtub. Our generous host plopped down on the toilet and reached into the cold water, asking us what we wanted. As he pulled out our bottles and tried to get them open, he asked what we did.

Me, being the shyest of the group, didn’t answer. Sherry stepped forward and made the introductions. We were authors, she said, from Canada. The next words out of her mouth were “And what do you do? Do you write as well?”

The response was a quick no. “My name is Paul Stevens,” he said. “I’m an editor for Tor. Do you have anything to pitch?”

After a second of embarrassed silence, Adria took over, calmly pitching her latest novel while Paul sat on the toilet looking up at us. Sherry was next. By the time it was my turn, Paul had already stood up, and we moved outside the bathroom where I finished my pitch (with some help from Sherry. Thanks!).

They always say never pitch to an agent or an editor in the bathroom. It’s rude. It’s uncouth. But what are you going to do when the editor asks? That’s easy. Pitch your heart out as he sits on the toilet.

We each got a full request that night, meaning Paul was either very kind-hearted, or we pitched pretty damn well.

 * * *

As a follow up on where to spend your time at a World Fantasy Convention, it’s obviously the bar. You’re not there to get hammered and make a fool of yourself, you’re there to meet and talk to as many people as you can. Don’t try to sell yourself or your book. Just relax. The people you meet there—agents, editors, other authors—will all remember you, though it may take a couple of conventions. They say it’s not who you know in this business, and they are right. But if these people see you, year after year, and put a face, a personality, to the submission that crosses their desk, it helps put a human element into what can be a very difficult process.

I’ll see you at World Fantasy 2014, in Washington, DC.

Gerald BrandtGuest Writer Bio:
Gerald Brandt has spent most of his life dealing with computers, from programming to administration. At other times, he has flown airplanes, climbed sheer rock faces, been a famous mascot, waitered, flipped burgers, sold flowers, and learned kung fu. Born in Berlin, he grew up in Canada and gladly calls it home with his two kids, beautiful wife, and a shedding cat. Gerald is a long-time member of the Backspace Writer’s organization, and a founding member of Poverty of Writers, a local critique group. He can be found on Facebook and Twitter as geraldbrandt. http://geraldbrandt.com

The Right Thing

I’ve written before on this blog about my experience attending conventions and seminars, but today I want to revisit that subject and take a different perspective. My previous posts have been about professionalism, about making contacts, meeting editors, etc. Today I want to look at the convention experience from the perspective of a fan.

Everyone who writes genre fiction is also a genre fiction fan. This is perhaps obvious! Last spring, the Fictorians devoted a whole month to discussing various bloggers’ inspirations for being a writer, and not surprisingly a large number of those posts ended up being about genre books, movies, and television shows. People who are caught up in the genre milieu are often the same ones who later become the most prodigious content creators.

Certainly some conventions are more for fans than they are for writers and other content creators (as Randy McCharles discussed here just a few days ago). The most recent con I went to was World Fantasy, which going by McCharles’ metrics is probably 95–100% craft, with just a fringe of commercial around the edges. This is a convention for writers to mingle with other writers. The number of con-goers is capped, so it never felt crowded; in fact, as I wandered the hotel hallways and worked my way from one panel to another I found myself coming upon the same faces over and over again. This is kind of wonderful, because you start to make friends and contacts almost without trying.

And some of those faces? They be famous faces.

WFC is a convention for writers, not hordes of screaming fans in Chewbacca costumes (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but as I mentioned earlier, the writers are fans, too. And as someone who wasn’t accustomed to sharing a table with the people who wrote the books I grew up with? Well, this was heaven.

If someone told me I’d sit across a table listening to L.E. Modesitt Jr. wax eloquent about the time he and his friend constructed a makeshift bomb as children and blew a hole in their family’s shed, I’d have told them to bugger off. I chatted on several occasions with Guy Gavriel Kay (and one of my friends who shall remain nameless—never mind, it’s this one—may or may not have stolen his swag bag of books after the con was over). In a very brief exchange, I met Robert J. Sawyer, with whom I later had the pleasure of becoming much more closely acquainted when he visited my city. I also got to meet two of my favorite writers of all time, the husband-and-wife duo of Gar and Judith Reeves-Stevens. I had been sitting just one row behind them during one of the panels; I have no idea what the panel was about, because I spent the whole time staring at the back of their heads like a serial killer. Fortunately, I kept it together when I finally approached them. They were ever so gracious to speak with me for a few minutes, even though they were obviously on their way to somewhere more important. And the crème de la crème? Me and several other Fictorian contributors had the unique opportunity to pick Brandon Sanderson’s brain in a small and exclusive two-hour Q&A session.

If I haven’t convinced you yet that cons are awesome, you’re beyond hope. Over the years since, I’ve been to a few different cons, and this experience has been mirrored several times. I’m so accustomed to meeting well-known writers now that I’ve started to view them as colleagues—much more experienced and successful colleagues, sure, but colleagues nonetheless.

I’m sure there are some authors who don’t have the time of day for their fans. I’ve heard horror stories, but I’ve never met them, which tells me they must be in the minority. Or at least, you’re less likely to bump into this kind of author at cons, because they have other places they’d rather be.

The authors I met were all polite and approachable. I never felt awkward around them. When we chatted, it wasn’t all about them; they asked me questions about myself as well. They seemed to enjoy connecting with the masses. And you know what? Meeting these authors only made me want to run home and buy as many books of theirs as I could find. The moral of the story is that being a good and decent human being is not only the right thing to do, it probably has some economic benefits as well.

So it turns out the authors whose jacket cover headshots I lovingly gazed at with hero worship as a preteen, and then as a teenager, and then as a young adult, and then embarrassingly even as a nearer-to-middle-age adult, are just people, not much different than I am. That right there infuses me with hope and optimism.

One day, if a fan ever comes up to me and wants my autograph, or even just wants to say hi, no matter how busy I am or what I’m doing, I’m going to smile in the memory of all these wonderful genre fiction luminaries who came before me and pay it forward. It’s the right thing to do.

World Fantasy Convention 2013

World Fantasy LogoEarly this month the World Fantasy Convention finished their 39th convention. The convention was filled with hundreds of published authors, nearly a hundred artists, dozens of editors, and many fans and hopeful writers looking for their big break. While this is true for pretty much every convention, the World Fantasy Convention has one aspect that I find unique and enjoyable, the number of attending memberships are limited to 850 and typically sell out early. If you can plan ahead and get a membership, you become a member to a convention that has amazing authors and well known publishers, but retains the small personal feeling you get at the smaller cons.

This year we were treated to Neil Gaiman acting as toastmaster and were specially treated to a guest appearance by Sir Terry Pratchett. We had about 60 publishers in attendance from all over the world willing to answer questions and talk shop. It wasn’t uncommon to see Neil walking around the bar or encouraging spontaneous musical guests to perform for us. Authors were friendly and the talk and great camaraderie was felt throughout.

With all that said, I’m sure it’s not hard to figure out why such events are great for networking. The limited numbers means you have a greater chance to talk with the people that matter and get actual feedback and opportunities to pitch your work. This is definitely why I first started coming, but I found another element to this convention that I didn’t realize until after my third year of attending. There really is a community that is formed within these smaller conventions.

I started going to the World Fantasy Convention in 2009 when it came to San Jose, California. I’ve heard of the convention before, of course, and would follow the World Fantasy Awards to see what was popular and find new books to read. As a writer looking to get published, it seemed like a good environment to put myself into. I would walk around and introduce myself. I would meet many different people, with many different reasons to attend. All were friendly, and they all treated me as a fellow author, despite being unpublished.

I knew after the first one that I wanted to attend the next, and signed up right away. Each year I would meet new people, and each year I became closer friends with the other members who attend yearly. I began to form my own community of writers from all over the world. Writers who care about my works, as I care about theirs. We encourage each other and each year I come home with renewed vigor ready to get to work and finish my next manuscript.

I don’t do it so I can join their ranks. I’m already a member of their community, and they never make me feel like less of a person for not being published. I do it because they are the people I want to be like, and just by being around them I’m encouraged to work harder for my own dreams. The convention just has the added benefit of including many of the publishers and editors that I want to see my work. The network is there to help, and the opportunities are available to those who seek them out.

The World Fantasy 2014 will be held in Washington, D.C. on November 6-9, 2014. If you don’t currently go to any conventions, it’s not a bad one to start. They welcome newcomers with open arms and the community is open to everyone of all skill levels. There are other communities around as well, and they all have their benefits. This is just the one I’ve found and I enjoy. Keep writing, and get your novel out there!