Going to your first convention can be nerve-wracking, especially if you aren’t sure what to expect. When I went to my first convention in Arizona, I wondered if I was supposed to cosplay in order to get in. I’ll save your pride by telling you no, you don’t need to dress up. But DO dress up if that sounds like fun to you, because you will not be made fun of. The community at conventions is unlike any other, and you’ll soon realize it. It’s a gathering of like-minded people, all of whom are excited to be there, except for that baby that had to come along and cries most of the time.
After you’ve been to a convention or two, you might be curious about what happens behind the scenes. You may wonder how much work it takes for the convention directors and all the participants. You may think, “Wow I can’t wait to do this some day when I have books to sell.”
**~** Magic Interlude **~**
Now’s the part when I read your mind:
- Are you an individual who is interested in writing? (Oh my gosh, I knew it.)
- Have you been to a convention before or have you not been to a convention before? (You can call Miss Cleo after this, guys.)
- Are you currently reading this month’s posts in order to learn more about conventions? (I know what you’re thinking… Oh, she’s good. Just you wait.)
- Are you a human being?
If you have answered yes to all of those questions (I already knew you would because I am a psychic), then I have an interesting way for you to gain some rare knowledge at conventions and to prepare you for participating in conventions as a writer yourself. Simply ask a professional writer if you can help them while they’re at the con.
But why? Because you’ll learn more than you could ever dream of just by watching that person do their thing. You’ll learn:
- How to sit on and contribute to a panel
- How to handle sales and commerce at a booth in an expo hall
- How to treat fans (this may teach you how to or how not to treat fans, depending on what you see)
- What it’s like interacting with the convention staff and volunteers
- See the the behind-the-scenes of the convention to appreciate all the time and effort involved
- How to manage time constraints as an author with a packed convention schedule
- How to meet other authors with dignity and respect
- Relearn how to eat while having a packed convention schedule (and also make time for peeing)
What are some ways you can volunteer to help an author you admire or are friends with?
- Volunteer at their booth. This will include greeting fans, telling anyone who asks about the books for sale, selling those books, and letting people know where the author will be and when.
- Manage an author. This mostly includes managing the author’s convention schedule, keeping one eye on the time to make sure the author gets to where they need to be. This also includes politely interrupting an author’s conversation with a fan to let them know when time is tight. You can do this by also volunteering at a convention and being paired with an author.
- Manage a book signing time slot. Again, you’ll go through the convention protocols to land this gig. Your job here is to make sure the signing line goes relatively quickly and smoothly. You will run any interference that may occur.
- Offer to bring the author meals and/or snacks. Many times, an author won’t have an opportunity to eat until the end of the day. It’s an incredibly thoughtful gesture to bring an author something to eat or drink during the convention. This will also build trust with an author you’d like to possibly volunteer for in the future.
- Introduce yourself and let an author know you’d like to help. Even the act of offering can mean a great deal.
I understand that taking the first step can be scary. But isn’t the first step to anything great and worth-while a bit scary? If you’re serious about becoming a writer and having all the responsibilities therein, volunteering to help a writer at a convention will give you knowledge and experience that you can carry with you for a lifetime.