There was a time Dan and I went to World Fantasy Con every year. I’d go armed with a list: people to meet. People to do business with.
For those of you from other genres/traditions, WFC is THE business con in the scifi side. Oh, other cons are better for connecting with the public: Dragoncon, or even Worldcon. As for connecting with publishers, Comicon probably holds the top now. However, WFC is relatively relaxed, relatively cheap, and it gives you face time with the people you’ve only seen on the other side of guidelines or rejection slips.
I used to go to WFC with an agenda the length of my arm, and come back – usually – having achieved my goals, plus some. In almost every case, the real money, which would trickle in after WFC would come from things I hadn’t planned, anyway: a dinner with a new publisher; a casual talk in the bar; an introduction late at night in a party suite.
About three (two?) years ago, we realized that WFC hadn’t paid for itself for two years, and we backburnered it. We thought “Well, maybe it’s time to let it go.” And frankly, WFC has always come at an inconvenient time. It’s the very last of the winter cons, when I’m getting ready to buckle down and get deadlines done before the New Year; it’s usually a vector for con crud; and, oh, yeah, it interferes with Halloween.
This year, for various reasons, we decided to go again. And perhaps because of our hiatus, I am keenly aware of how both the con and our interaction with it have changed.
First the con – for the last few years we attended, WFC has been looking... well, run down. Out of energy. Fewer parties and a lot of them thrown by tiny outfits who couldn’t throw either a party or make much of an impression. Fewer editors attending. Heck, fewer free books.
I’m glad to report WFC is back to if not its glory days, pretty close to it. The parties were good, (Tor had all the booze!) and the bags of free books overflowed to the point we had to get creative to bring them back and – oh, yeah – editors of various descriptions roamed the Earth, uttering their cries over the meteor-bright... Oh, wait, that’s T-rexes, not editors. But there were plenty of editors there too, and most of them not micro-press. (I do regret the lack of massive multi tier chocolate cake at the Tor party. No, I can’t eat it, but it lent such an air of elegance to our proceedings. Tom Doherty, can you hear me? How much can a chocolate cake cost? Even if it’s the size of a small planet and has its own gravity? :) )
Now to talk about me. Sorry, I mean, my expectations for the con: Because our reasons for going were a mix of personal and professional, my professional goals were simple: I’ve missed seeing my agent all year (as opposed to last year, when we kept meeting at various cons) and I wanted to talk to her about a couple of things best not consigned to email. (No disagreements, just some things are easier to explain in person.) That was pretty much it.
Personally, as far as the con went, I wanted to see old friends I hadn’t seen in years and listen to field gossip.
I met all the professional goals and personal goals for the con easily enough. In addition, I met a couple of people who might or might not mean business in the future, talked to people I only knew from online and whom I liked immensely in person.
So, how did things change? Well, I no longer stay up for the late parties. Most of the people hanging out after say eleven or so are either people I already know or – bluntly – people who are of no help to me. Also this must have been the first con where I found people coming to me, instead of my going to them. An odd feeling, but much more relaxed.
I was neither a newby nor desperate, and my whole attitude had shifted, allowing me to enjoy the con as a social occasion as well as a business opportunity.
So, will we be back next year? Who knows? Depends on which of those contacts come true and whether the con pays for itself this year or not.
How do you measure cons? What do you want, or would want out of them? Have you noticed your goals shifting in cons?
Gauntlet update: Despite con (eh) and insane cat tricks (Miranda-cat swallowed a whole spool of thread and had attendant fun with vets) about 3k words on novel (Not good enough d*mn it! Should be a DAY’s output) and a short story that should be finished by the time you read this.
Spurs for those who need them: three word short story spark– Realm; cap; breach. Phrase spark – to put the kibosh on. character, setting, problem – cat; rainy day; hunger.