Just wrapped up New York Comic Con. It was an incredible experience and a busy one: 3 panels, 2 signings and 1 dismal showing on a geek show that saw me failing to display knowledge of geek trivia so miserably that they gave me a plushy squid just to keep me from publicly bursting into tears.
Now, you know me, I don’t really do con roundups, but I did have a thought I wanted to ruminate over:
Weddings can be tough. You have nearly everyone you love in the world in the same room, and they’re only going to be there for a few hours. You want to spend time with *all* of them, and you want it to be quality time. But there are only 60 minutes in each hour, and you don’t want to blow anyone off, so you race around the room trying to be everywhere and talk to everyone at once.
The result? More often than not, you get about 30 seconds — 1 minute of talking, followed by a hurried apology and rushing off to talk to the next person.
When you’re a professional writer, cons are like that.
You’re there, first and foremost to WORK. You need to promote your writing. You need to network with publishers, artists, agents and other contacts in the field. You need to pass out business cards and swag. You have panels to moderate and speak on. You may have readings or signings. There are other writers you want to gush over, learn from, trade tips with. It doesn’t help that many of these other pros are awesome people who are also your friends and you want to hang out and chat with them.
But it’s a CON, so it’s also packed with scores of your personal friends. You want to catch up with those people too. Some of them are there from out of town. At each con, there’s always at least one friend who you only get to see once or twice a year.
If you’re lucky enough to have fans, they want to meet you. They want more than just a quick handshake and nod. They want to talk to you about your work, they want to get to know you a little bit. You are so grateful that someone even read your book at all, let alone actually wants to meet you/talk to you about it. You desperately want to talk to them too. You write to communicate, and these are the people you are communicating with. Many of these fans are also your friends. Some of them are other pros.
So, what happens? Just as with the wedding, you wind up trying to talk to everyone, and not really talking to anyone. You try so hard to make sure that you meet and schmooze and build/maintain relationships that you spend the weekend racing around a hotel or convention center, mostly saying, “excuse me for a moment,” or, “I’m really sorry, I wish I had more time to talk.” The WORST? When you catch yourself talking to someone you genuinely like/care about and you’re not making eye contact. Your eyes are over their shoulder, because you just spotted an out-of-town friend, or an industry rep that you MUST talk to and don’t know if you’ll get another chance.
Cons are amazing fun, but they’re also stressful and overwhelming. We want desperately to be likable and gracious. We want to really interact (truly, not just surface pleasantries), with every fan, friend and pro. I bet I’m not the only writer who worries that my efforts to accomplish this may sometimes present precisely the opposite impression.
Be patient with us.