It’s been a manic few days, what with publication day, Fantasy in the Court and Nineworlds Geekfest coming together in a rush.
It’s all been fantastic fun though, and I got to talk to people as Mark the Author for the first time, which was super cool and not a little weird at the same time. I did a guest blog for the perennially cool folk over at Jo Fletcher Books which touched on that theme.
Pros and Cons
by Mark de Jager
I attended my first proper con a few months after arriving in the UK – back then it was GenCon, way up in the mysterious North. I had no idea what to expect from it or Manchester, but I knew I had to go. There would be books, artists, writers, and people who liked the same stuff as I did. It was a fantastic weekend away; I ate too much junk food, stood in queues, and shook hands with writers, artists (Larry Elmore!) and even actors (Peter Woodward! Warwick Davis!). Usually after forgetting what I wanted to ask or tell them.
And there was so much stuff to look at and buy, and at such good prices! We’d recently arrived in the UK from South Africa with our savings having been savaged by the exchange rate, so this was our first real outing with the benefit of a half decent salary, and the buying power it represented after some very lean months was staggering. I learned the value of having decent luggage with wheels that weekend.
Since then, I’ve attended at least 1 or 2 a year. Some have been good, some entirely forgettable, and some have been utterly brilliant and seemingly over in a flash. I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of people in various fields whose work I admire, some of whom I’ve become good friends with (even if they don’t necessarily know it).
I used to stress about how to cram in as much as I could, which meant obsessing over schedules and racing from one panel to another, which sometimes meant arriving as a sweaty wreck. Trust me, you don’t want to be that guy, especially not at a signing in a cranky old venue that has only ever heard of aircon as a distant rumour; you want to be memorable for the right reasons. Signings can be stressful enough as it is, especially if it’s someone who’s work you really like. I used to be very nervous approaching people and wound up standing around like a mute, grinning mannequin on more than one occasion.
I had to work at it, but I got better at it over time by forcing myself to chill out and learn to enjoy just hanging around. I still spend far too much, and arrive embarrassingly early for panels I’m excited about, but now half the fun is just mooching around and joining in on random conversations. Writers and artists will always gravitate towards food and drink, and once one settles in, more tend to follow. I found it a great way to say hi to people who seemed intimidating on the other side of the table or microphone.
But just when I thought I had a handle on it, it’s all about to change. With Infernal coming out this month, I’ll be going to upcoming cons and sitting on the *other* side of the table. The other side.
It’s big thing, and now there is all this new stuff to worry about. Now I’ll be the one having to ask someone how to spell their four letter, single syllable name three times. And what if I get it wrong? What if I get my own name wrong? Do I keep smiling? What if no one turns up? And what the hell do I write if someone says ‘Oh, just write anything’, something I may or may not have inflicted on authors at various signings.
It’s a really strange feeling because, on the other hand, I’m so ludicrously excited about it that it’s just not funny. And that’s a feeling I wouldn’t trade for anything*.
*I might make an exception for lots of money