The Year of Living Authorly: Post 6 Conventions–Cost to Attend

As we continue our post on conventions, we would be remiss if we didn’t include a budgeting post. And by we, I mean me. Sorry. I’ve been watching The Crown. But yes, unfortunately, it’s not free lots of times when we invest in our writing. The good news is this: If you are a writer, these expenses are tax deductible against your business.

Occasionally, and especially if you become someone who is invited as a guest to a convention, or a speaker, you can get fees eliminated, if not have the whole con paid for. That said, most of the time as a beginning author, you will be paying the bill. It never hurts to ask if you can get assistance. The worst that can happen is someone will say no, and yes, you’re used to that!!!

I always think it’s worth it to check out the cons near you. You might be able to attend a local con for just the cost of the con. For example, I could attend Icon and commute back and forth from my home. That would mean that the cost of the con and the cost of food would make the con very cheap. I would do that if I weren’t hosting a writing workshop, by the way.

So, let me break down a few costs, so you can take a look.

A Nearby Con that you can drive to: I drive to conventions in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Minneapolis, and Chicago, and potentially the range of cons I could drive to include Omaha, Kansas City, and St. Louis. It’s vaguely about 50 cents or so for mile traveled in your car for reimbursement. Hotel, food, and the convention membership are the biggest expenses. Depending on the convention and the cost of the hotel, I might pay $500 for a 2-night/3-day inexpensive, nearby convention. I might pay $800 for a 3-night/4-day convention. Usually, this kind of con is a good investment. You can make this kind of con less expensive by staying at a friend’s house, or sharing with a roommate, because hotel is usually the biggest expense.

Flying to a convention: The above convention price is pretty much the same, plus an air ticket. I live in Cedar Rapids, so some tickets might be more expensive for me than you, if you were catching a Southwest connection. In general, I pay around $400-$800 a ticket, depending on distance, access, and connections.

Ergo, the average convention will cost me

Transportation: Car or Airfare
Convention Membership
Hotel
Food

and run me about $500 for a very local affair when I stay at home all the up to about $1800 for a convention I fly to for a few days.

Are conventions worth it? Lots of opinions there. I would say yes, because you can introduce yourself in fandom and present yourself well. If you can pair the convention with some book signings, all the better. A little more bang for your buck and stretching of your travel dollar.

Next week: I will talk about conventions and promoting your book! Like I know so much about this…but I’m going to tell you what I’ve seen and what seems to work for other authors I know. Hint: having a unique give away seems to be key…

The Year of Living Authorly: Post 4 Conventions–Panels

Welcome to the 4th post of the Year of Living Authorly. This is the second post regarding conventions. Previous posts can be found here, and over at Unreliable Narrators. Eventually, I’ll get all of these put on a page somewhere, and hopefully they can be of some use.

Last Friday, I burbled on about how much I liked conventions. Conventions are great for authors for a variety of reasons. You can connect with authors, agents, and editors. You can meet like-minded fans. You can create a good impression on people so they might buy your book (alas, the opposite is also true, so be careful out there. One of the ways authors can get involved in conventions is by being on panels.

How hard or easy is it to get on a panel at a convention? You have nothing to lose by visiting the website of a convention you are planning to visit and contacting the programming chair asking you how you can be of service. Usually, being on panels is a volunteer affair, which means you will pay. Occasionally, some cons have invited participants and are willing to waive your fee if you qualify. Those cons generally have instructions on their website and forms you might need to fill out. Remember that cons are often run by volunteers. Some cons will want to include you on programming, and some will be eerily silent. Take it all in stride.

If you’ve managed to contact programming, and have been assigned to a panel, here are some ideas that might help you.

Usually you’re not alone. Usually there’s a group of a few people who will speak to the topic with you. If you’re very lucky, one of these people will be the moderator, who will control the flow of conversation between and among the panelists and the audience. Sometimes, cons are less formal, and panelists will moderate themselves.

If you can, prepare for the panel in advance. Many cons will give attendees each others email addresses, so people can discuss what individuals might cover. I’ve been on panels where I’ve gone in cold, and the panels have worked, but often preparation in advance means you can have handouts, or power points, or thought out conversation. Don’t be afraid to be the first person to initiate contact if you need to be.

Many authors on panels will display their books around them like a little fortress. While it might be great to have some of your books for sale, many people feel that’s a bit much. I feel that’s more appropriate for a signing than a panel. Your mileage may vary. However, don’t forget that the panel topic is not your books, even if your books exemplify what’s being discussed. You can mention your books, but remember not to be a commercial for your books.

Try to think about speaking up. Don’t dominate the panel. Don’t be eclipsed. I always try to think that if I am one of a five person panel, I should probably say something about 20 percent of the time. Do your best to be clear while speaking. Always use a mike if you got one. This isn’t about how loud you can speak. This is about helping people hear you. And yes, they really can’t hear you in the back of the room. Treat your fellow panelists and your audience with respect.

Readings and signings aren’t exactly panels, but they too are ways in which you can become more involved in a convention. A reading is exactly the place to generate interest in your work. I’ll try to do a post on readings at some point this year. And signings? Well, there’s some conventions around that too. But again, see if your con has such events, and ask if you can be involved.

Next up: Image. It isn’t everything, but it is important.

Unreliable Links Through 2-17-17

While the rest of the Narrators paint the town red at Boskone this weekend, I’m at home finishing my book, checking papers and prepping a script for a training project. Even my husband is getting out of Dodge and going to visit his mother. I feel like a professor or something.

Anyway, for your enjoyment, what we’ve been up to at Unreliable Narrators the last couple of weeks.

Author Spotlight: Yoon Ha Lee

Author Spotlight: Stephen Blackmoore

Hitchcock

Unreliable Alumni on the 2016 Locus Recommended Reading List

Productivity at Any Cost?

Mission Accomplished

It’s Always Something

I should know about the after intense grief part too, but it often takes me by surprise. So, I will not be writing about going to cons today, although I hope to write about it soon.

After the emotional collapse of grief comes the physical collapse. Bryon had a truly intense cold during the week Mom was dying, which is rare for him. It’s not rare for me though, so I was hoping that I would not get it during all the crazy hospital/funeral stuff. And I didn’t, because I was running on pure adrenaline or something. On cue though, Thursday, the day after the funeral, bam! So I spent about a week with a really nasty head cold.

Strangely enough it went away quickly, in a matter of a few intense days. Bryon’s is still lingering, and we thought that was when fate had cut me a break. We had an excellent weekend and I was beginning to feel better.

Then on Monday…vertigo! I recognized what it was. I’ve never had it, but Bryon has with an ear infection. Unfortunately, vertigo is also associated with stroke. So, I got an ambulance ride to the local emergency room, where we ruled out heart disease and stroke. I suspect strongly it’s an ear infection. Also possibly it could be stress (ya think?) or it could be because I’m in my 50s, and this is one of the things that can happen in your 50s. πŸ™‚

Anyway, two days with instances of vertigo. One day vertigo free. Lots of dizzy time and nausea time, but now I have meds! Yes! Science! And I will see my doctor on Monday to talk about my ears (which kind of hurt, so yes, I think ear infection). I need another vertigo free day before I am willing to drive myself anywhere, so we’ve been spending a lot of time at the day jobbe.

Good news. I’ve cleared out a few backlogged projects. Bad news. I haven’t been getting writing done. I just haven’t had it.

Right now I’m still being gentle with myself. If my body says rest, it will ultimately make sure I listen by pulling a stunt like this. But we’re gonna come back, and we’re gonna come back big!

Until then, well, we just keep treading water.

When Your Mother Dies Unexpectedly

I think most of you know this, but just in case the only way you connect with me is through this blog, I am letting you know that my mother, Sylvia Schaff, died of multiple myeloma, a vicious blood cancer, on January 18. She was 76. This event was totally unexpected. She went into the hospital with pneumonia, her white blood cell count was low, and a diagnosis of cancer was made. At this point, the cancer was so far along that the doctors just made her comfortable. She went from lucid to gone in four days. In some ways, I was the lucky child. I was there with her when she breathed her last in the early hours of Wednesday, and while that was excrutiating, I can take some comfort from being there to help her pass a little.

My mother and I were estranged. If you have been following my misadventures over the years, you know that my relationship with my family was strained. I’ve made no secret of all the abuse that happened. A very unflattering picture of my family life is published in Cookies from the Mosaic 2 anthology, which is fiction, but which is strongly based in fact. In that story, I compare my mother to a spider. It took the woman about 15 years to put my wedding picture on her wall. I think she might have hoped that if she didn’t think about Bryon, he would secretly go away, and I would come back to her web.

What to say, then? I have spent a lot of time grieving my mother and my family. David, my counselor, suggested that I chose the lesser of two evils. To be clear, I don’t feel guilty. I feel a keen sense of lost opportunity. If I had thought our relationship could have changed, I would have worked on it. But her decision to embrace the very dysfunction that was so damaging to her children, yet again, well, there was a finality to that. Still, I loved my mother. And she is gone. And when there is life, there is always hope. Now, all possibility is over.

Sylvia was a complicated woman. On Saturday, I did a little work cleaning out her apartment. Her closet was a weird mixture of beauty and decay. She had articles of clothing that would never fit her, garments of great beauty, which I stared at, just because they were beautiful. She had soiled and stained clothes that she would wear, holes in the garments, beyond their prime. Books warped by water. A pristine tartan dictionary. Matted clots of cheap jewelry chains. Perfect, never worn, amethyst earrings. Broken jewelry boxes. Sticky, dirty ceramic nicnacs. A Mikasa bowl, never removed from the box. On and on and on. My younger brother working in the kitchen found the same mix.

I found some happy memories of my mother, buried under all the sadness. Mostly when we were both younger, before poverty and madness and god only knows what else. When she saved Mrs. Beasley from abandonment in the airport in Hawaii after I’d forgotten her, a last minute dash off the plane. Her praising a poem I wrote when I was 10, setting me on the path to writing, Modeling her closet of clothes for me when I asked her to. No one is entirely good or bad, not even the most questionable of parents.

And so it goes. I begin to return to life, a little bit at a time. This year, our next battle is Bryon’s mother’s confirmed bladder cancer. She is 90 and has a very healthy attitude about it, but I suspect it will be the year we lose both our mothers, one more unexpectedly than the other. It’s going to hurt.

I cannot shine up my mother’s halo because she is gone. Her daughter has always been Cassandra, pointing out inconvenient truths to a family that preferred to live in illusion. I can earnestly say that I have good memories of her, I loved her, and I miss her.

The Year of Living Authorly

Maybe you remember that I have a book coming out September 12, 2017.

My God. That’s this year.

So, how’s that going? Well, I just turned back in the proofs over Christmas Break, so next up I’ll get a cover and another glance at the final version, and then there will be ARCs and reviews and touring.

Wow.

***

It goes without saying that I have a lot to learn about how to navigate a new phase of my writing career successfully. I will be posting links to excellent things I find out, writing both here and at Unreliable Narrators about what I am learning, and creating a resource page to share with you, so when you get to this point, you can start here.

So, first of all, I’ve uncovered what many people probably know about: Mary Robinette Kowal’s Debut Author Posts There’s a lot of really good information here that Kowal has collected as she has gone/goes through it. I found the entry on planning a debut party particularly useful.