Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Other Half

Sorry to be late this morning, but I came back yesterday night, late, from the first North American Discworld Convention. Well, technically, I came away from the convention on Monday, but we had business in Denver yesterday, so we delayed on the way.
Though I’ve been going to conventions since 98, I only started going after I sold my first novel. So I’ve never been to a con as a fan. Not, mind you, that I have anything against fandom. The whole idea of organized fandom was just so alien to me, though – because it didn’t exist in Portugal – that it never occurred to me to look for fan groups/conventions until I was told I should go to World Fantasy to meet agents.
So this is the first time I’ve gone to a convention as a fan. It was lots of fun. Far more relaxing than going as a pro. Oh, I was still on some panels and I signed some autographs, but overall I was there to hear Pterry speak and to hang out with people who understood when I said "That’s so Sam Vimes" or "Please don’t let me detain you" and that was enough.
But of course I’m a writer, and being a writer is not something I can turn off so... Things I learned at the Discworld con about how to treat your fans – not that I ever expect to have as many as Pterry, but who knows? One of you might! --
1 - They’re there to see you, make yourself available. Pterry talked a lot and also mingled and talked to people. Mind you, he didn’t need to do anything else to make us love him, but if he’d been the "I’m too important to talk to fans" type of author, I doubt he’d have got where he is.
2- Let them in just enough into your private life. No one likes their privacy more than I do. I’ve been known to say if I could have fortune without fame, I’d take it. But the truth is fans feel they own a little part of you and they want to know some stuff. Stuff such as... how your health is doing. And perhaps some fun project you’re involved in just now. Pterry, for ex, is doing better than expected, and he’s building a bridge, back home.
3 - If possible, genuinely enjoy your fans and your worlds, so you can play in your worlds with your fans, without its being a put on.
Presumably the rest of you have gone to cons at fans. At least some of you. What lessons do you take from it for when you’re on the other side of the table?


Anonymous said...

I've noticed the authors looking pretty darn tired by the end of the Con. So I've tired to rein in my enthusiasm and not bring armloads of books to be signed, not bother them if i spot them in a restaurant, and get my jollies from telling them I love their work, listening to their readings and attending their panels.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Sarah, I went to my first convention aged 18, as a fan. I used to sit in the Huckster room with at able of books, because I had a book shop that specialised in spec fic, and it was like that spot in Hitchhikers Guide, eventually everyone would pass by. So I got to talk to them.

It's been interesting watching how fandom and conventions have changed. There's a whole Doctorate in this as a microcosm of how society has changed.

Perhaps I should do a blog on it.

Anonymous said...

I think most authors are uncomfortable with the gushers and kiss-ass types. I try to act like a normal person talking to another normal person who happens to write for a living. There's certainly nothing wrong with telling them how much you enjoy their work and talking to them about their books. Just do it like a normal person would do it. Of course, everyone's definition of "normal" is different, so I guess you just have to approach authors in a way comfortable to you, and it will probably be comfortable to them.

And on a side note, keep in mind there are "jerk" authors out there. Don't waste time wondering why one doesn't like you. Chances are it's not your problem. Most authors realize it's a business event and they are there to hobnob.

Steve and I met a major author with a 'tude a couple of years ago. Steve is a big fan of his work and continues to read his books. I however had never read anything by him, and was definitely not enticed to do so. Not that he needs my money, but I do know many excellent authors who actually appreciate having fans. They will be getting my money.

Linda Davis

Kate said...

Authors are human too. Well, mostly human. Some of them.

Random chats are often a much better way to talk to someone than on a panel, which is as much performance art as anything else.

Beware the author who arrives at the panel with a large pile of promotional material. Generally the size of the promo pile is inversely proportional to the quality of the author and the authorial ego.

Sit quietly somewhere and just listen. It's truly amazing what you'll hear. And see. A lot of the material in the ConVent books (alas, unpublished) is, if anything, understated.

And from the author side of the fence (at which I'm still kind of new), it definitely helps to remember to be polite. I'm not talking about being a total wuss, but about simple common courtesy. There is at least one author who has behaved so badly I refuse to buy that person's books.

Chris McMahon said...

The only convention I have been to as a fan was a Highlander convention - Highlander Down Under - here in Brisbane about five years ago. My wife and I were mad keen Highlander fans at the time (as far as fans are concerned there really on was only one screen film - the first. The convention was mostly focussed on the TV series).

What really impressed me was the way the actors who had come out for the convention related to the crowd. They were down-to-earth and quite open, particularly Peter Wingfield, who played Methos in the series. One of the famous bad guys from the series (who was generally regarded as being killed off too quick - everyone loves a good villan) did a caberet act.

That really showed me how a professional works a crowd.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

well, Matapam, one of the nicest things ever was at the end of the last worldcon, one of my fans -- you know who you are! -- bringing me some nice chocolate, when I was on my last morcel of energy!

But I actually love my fans, in general, and in general they're nice, polite people.

I tried not to haunt Pterry. Just stay close enough to hear him...

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Wow, Rowena. see, in Portugal it was rare enough to find another sf/f fan. Portugal as a society is really very "conventional" or perhaps "conformist." Not as much as Japan, but my Japanese friends and I had a lot in common. The tall tree or just the eccentric one will be cut down. Ruthlessly. So, the entire wonderful weirdness of fandom just wasn't there, or only underground.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...


Yes, and no, on the gushing. It sort of depends. My fans could frankly do a little more gushing. Instead, they tend to find me between panels and whisper something like "I'm sorry, I'm a raving fan, but I'm trying not to be obnoxious about it." I seem to specialize in understated, polite fans, which for sf/f might limit my audience, rather.

Most of the time, this is fine, mine you. I have trouble answering praise as is. But there are those days I could use gushing and grovelling. Or even gravelling. Heck, an entire paving system.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...


I too have stopped reading at least one author because of the way he behaved at cons, where he acted like he could give pointers to Shakespeare. Or G-d. Or... you get my meaning.

I suspect it's the mark of insecurity, but you know... I'm not that secure myself and I don't feel the need to tell people I invented the historical mystery. I kind of figure they'd know better.

If I'm going to tell a lie of that magnitude, I want to be paid for it! :)

Sarah A. Hoyt said...


I very much got the impression that Terry works very hard at working the crowd. Not that it came across like that. It came across natural and effortless. I've just been in the field long enough to know only the very well rehearsed (or plotted. Or editted.) comes across effortless.

Amanda Green said...

The first con I ever attended was a Star Trek con in Houston back in the 70's. It didn't warp me -- too much. ;-p

I think you hit the main "rules" on the head, Sarah. I'm much more likely to read an author who took time to nod, smile and even say "hi" than I am one who acts as if they are barely tolerating being there. That said, most authors I've encountered at cons have been gracious and fun and more than willing to talk as long as the fan doesn't become too clingy, demanding or scary.

I, for one, am thrilled when an author is willing to take a few moments to sign a book or talk to me. So, to all of you -- and you know who you are -- thanks! To those who think con appearances are a necessary evil to be survived, relax and try to enjoy yourselves. You'll have a better time and so will those coming to your panels and, who knows, you might just win over some new fans. And to the fans, get grip and remember the authors are there for everyone, not just for your own private entertainment. And for goodness sakes, don't be afraid to gush a little. It's a good ego stroke for the authors.