Last weekend I was a panelist at SoonerCon 24, listed as a “writer guest” by the website. SoonerCon 24 is a local science fiction/fantasy convention that is celebrating its 24th year in operation. It hosts guests from many different media industries, mainly writers, but also featured actor Robert Picardo of Star Trek, Gremlins and Inner Space fame.
I was invited to be a writing guest because I co-host a pretty popular little podcast called Fanboys on Fiction, and I’ve written a few novels. The convention was yet another way for me to boost my writing platform, and if you are a writer (especially a fantasy or science-fiction writer) a local convention is something you need to do your best to attend as a guest.
- Rubbing Elbows – While at the convention I was placed on several panels where other guests would sit at a table before an audience and share their knowledge about a range of topics from “Slavery in Star Wars” to “Podcasting 101”. I sat next to some amazing people, namely some other writers who were already established. One of whom, Lou Antonelli, has published over 95 short stories and one of these offerings “On a Spiritual Plain” has been nominated for a Hugo Award, which is like getting a Pulitzer for science-fiction writers. I also met Mel Odom, author of over 180 novels from Buffy the Vampire Slayer expanded universe fiction to novels set in the Shadowrun universe. I was able to get to know these authors on a professional level and they have both agreed to read and review my newest novel The Terminarch Plot. If you can get on as a guest, you have more clout than a regular convention-goer and will have more time to “talk shop” with other writers, writers who are much more accomplished than you who can hopefully boost your career and raise your platform.
- Book Promotion – At each of the panels in which I participated I was able to share bits and blurbs about my own work as a writer to potential readers sitting in the audience. I gave each audience member a small business card with a QR tag leading them to my author page on Amazon. i talked about my book. I tried to do so in such a way that wasn’t spammy or shameless, working the plot of my book into the subject at hand. For example, on the “Slavery in Star Wars” panel, I discussed how the evils of slavery in the pre-history of my own novel caused many of the peril and political intrigue to sprout in the story.
- Reaching Cross-Media Platforms – At this convention were comic book artists, indie film-makers, and other artists who were easier to access because I had the all important “guest badge”. I talked to the owners/operators of Equinox Comics and listened to them talk about their movie idea based on one of their comic book titles. They already had actors and actresses to play the various roles and they were working on funding to get it off the ground. This gave me an opportunity to think about the possibility of producing my novel as a movie pitch.
- Learning Experience – By attending the convention as a guest I was able to spend more time discussing writing with many other writers and artists who are much more established than I am. I was able to ask advice, listen to them talk about what they did to get into the business of multiple book deals, and also find out how to market myself to my niche audience.
- Contacts – Throughout the weekend I traded business cards with countless artists and writers. I did not collect these cards in vain, however, because I will genuinely keep in contact with all of them and network with them to further build my platform. All of them have lessons to teach to me about platform-building, as many of them have been doing this for much longer. Through keeping in contact with these artists and writers I can further network my professional portfolio for further success in the future.
So how do you become a guest?
Easy. All you have to do is promote yourself as a writer (you should probably have a few books published) and then maybe you produce a podcast or some kind of other media. Perhaps you have a YouTube channel with regularly uploaded content? Do a google search for conventions in your area and find a smaller one (they always need panelists to cover content areas). E-mail the promoter or organizer of the convention and let them know your credentials, and perhaps you will get invited to a convention. It’s fun, you sometimes get free coffee and danishes, and above all you will have an opportunity to expand your writing platform better than you could ever do by having an online presence.
Sometimes using the old shoe-leather is best.