A few weeks ago, I was telling my coworkers about our plans to attend Salt Lake Comic Con. While most of them are nerdy about movies, music, books, and TV shows, some didn’t seem that enthralled with the idea of paying to attend a comic con. It mainly boiled down to “Whatever you do or see at comic con can be done on the internet.” Sure sure, you can buy whatever you like online, but there’s nothing like the experience of being in a convention center bursting at the seams with geeky people.
I think we got so much more out of comic con because we’re both writers. If you’re thinking about going to a local comic con, here are some major perks you can glean as a writer-attendee.
Whitney: Opportunity to Meet Local Writers
One of my favorite parts about comic con was meeting local writers and creators. Comic cons will often have booths where local publishing companies can sell their recent published works, and authors will often come (dressed up even!) to represent their books. You can ask them to sign their books, or take pictures with said author.
Another great opportunity is book signings. I went to a few signings and got to meet Margaret Stohl and E. K. Johnston. Look them up if you haven’t already! Both were very gracious and every inch the fangirl I thought they’d be.
So what’s the takeaway for writers? You get two big benefits: geek out over your favorite authors and their latest works, and you get to observe what authors in your genre are doing to promote themselves.
If you’ve ever considered traditionally or self-publishing, it seems like a glimpse into the future. Depending on how close you are to publishing, you can interview these writers to learn what it takes to reserve booths, get people to stop and check out their books, and so on. It’s like getting a free marketing class.
If you get the chance to meet local authors, take the time to chat with them and buy their books if you’re truly interested. The good you do for local writers could translate into good karma for when it’s your turn to shine.
Travis: Valuable Writing Panels
I talked to a number of people at and about comic con during the week it took place who were surprised to learn that there was more to do there than get costumed up and hang out with other nerds. In fact, one of the most valuable parts of comic con is all the other stuff that goes on, which often includes panels for writers! Whether you write comic books, screenplays, short stories or novels, chances are high that there’s a panel devoted to it. Some are run by fans, and many are filled by authors. Some panels even have editors and agents on them!
Writing panels offer immensely valuable advice for writers in just about any stage of their careers. Most panels will be targeted at a specific group of writers, such as those who write in certain genres, or those interested in a certain type of publishing. It’s just a matter of choosing which ones appeal to you—though you may have to prioritize, as it’s common for panels to overlap.
Very often, the moderator will open the floor to questions from the audience, meaning if there’s some particular issue you’re having with your writing, you can bring that question to a few panels and get personal feedback from a wide variety of professionals. On top of that, many of the authors who sit on panels make themselves available to a few one-on-one questions after panels end.
Even if you don’t have specific issue, writing panels can be fantastic wells of inspiration for your work, not only from the people sitting on the panel, but the audience as well. Sometimes they’re even formatted to allow time for writing, right there in the panel! If you do nothing else at Con, this is what I recommend.
Whitney: Exposure to More Novels
As I mentioned earlier, there are booths on booths for books—of the novel variety, not just comics! Throughout comic con, you can hear a lot about new and upcoming books or changes in the industry. If you come with open ears, you can learn a lot about new genres, new authors, and recently released novels that might be outside of your usual scope.
At comic con, there will generally be a focus on fantasy and fiction novels, so you might not find what you’re looking for in the way of nonfiction. As I attended panels and weaved through the aisles, I came into contact with a lot of interesting titles and book ideas that were interesting and a bit out of my normal TBR list.
For example, as much as I’m a Star Wars fan, I had no idea there were so many recent Star Wars canon novels out there—and a lot of them written by women! Since I usually don’t delve into science fiction, this was like a revelation, and you can bet that Travis and I filled our arms with as many books as we could afford.
Travis: New Writer Friends
An important thing to understand about comic con before going, is that it’s a social scene. From beginning to end, its endless hustle and bustle (the fun kind), and there are people everywhere. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people, and other writers in particular. It’s easy if you go to the panels; you can get whole bunches in one room!
Take that opportunity. Get to know some new people in genres you write in or are interested. Network with the other writers and panelists. Take the chance to geek out with the people cosplaying from your favorite fandom. Exercise some of the social muscles you didn’t know you had. Getting out and meeting some new people is part of having a full comic con experience!
So that’s just a bit of our shared experiences we had as writers and comic con participants. Have you been to a comic con before, and what was it like? We definitely want to hear about your cosplay, too!