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Writing Tips for Fiction Writers!


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  The Pros at the Cons: An Author's Guide to Surviving a Convention
by Tee Morris

Conventions, provided you know what you're getting into, are a lot of fun and a great to get the word out on the streets and your work into readers' hands.  I've been hitting the pavement HARD and for many reasons.

1.  I'm a no present.
(Editorial note: given Tee's level of talent and determination, and his commitment to his writing, I fully expect this to change. Soon.)

Dragon Moon Press is a small press, competing with Tor, Baen, and other heavy hitters.

3.  Let's face it...there's a lot of competition out there.

Promotion plays a large part in the early successes you have and when you go to these cons, a wrong word or bad attitude can leave a bad taste in the fan's mouth.

Here are just some ideas for promotions and approaches to the cons.


Okay, yes, some of them are terrifying...but you know what -- they're just enthusiastic people who are sharing their passion for the genre you write.  Okay, they will be holding you to their own standard because you -- yes, YOU -- are coming to a con and promoting your work against some of their favorite authors.

The fans, aggressive or appreciative, are going to want to know why they should buy your book. Just remember, fans are people, too. Some are smart and supporting, some are tacky and tasteless. Be appreciative and polite, regardless.


Some authors HATE doing panels.  Many times, cons will say "You need to do at least three..." because there is a scam that authors will say "I want to participate..." sign up for one panel, and then get in for free to have fun, crash other panels, and promote their work.  So when you get the list of panels, really look through the topics.  Throw your name in the hat for as many panels as you like, but make sure you KNOW the topic you're signing up for.  Another reason you should sign up for panels -- FACE TIME.  People associate your face with a book, and this is what sells it.  That, and how you carry yourself on a panel. 

If you are honest, sincere, and a little witty (a little wit can go MILES...) you will sell books.  If you're half on wit, make up for it with energy and enthusiasm.  If you are not excited about your work, no one will be excited about purchasing it for themselves.


You're on a panel, in front of people, talking about what you know, before uttering a sound. Think about what you are going to say. Is it positive? Is it educated? Are you slamming any particular author, movie, or show? Think about it. What you say is how you come across to the audience. This was a HUGE mistake I made on my first panel. I made a dig towards another author, one who is enjoying a GREAT DEAL of success.

Now I don't think I made enemies on this panel, but I got a hint of what I must've looked like when at another convention my fellow panelists started busting on author Terry Brooks. (I'm a fan of Terry Brooks.) Slamming other authors really doesn't make you look good. If you want to pick on someone, you can always insinuate towards the work of others. Let your audience fill in the blanks. If they get you in a one-on-one setting, then it's your call...but tread gently. Sometimes comments made "in private" can come back to haunt you. Just keep your thoughts positive, encouraging, and educated. Don't ever try and "BS" your way through a topic either.

Fans can sometimes be dumb...but they're not stupid, know what I mean?

I got into a fan's face at one con because she made some nasty comments towards a friend of mine, behind his back.  While I was calling her on this cheap shot, it was a stupid thing to do.  Fans range from all walks of life.  They can be housewives, Wall Street professionals, and scientists.  They can also be webmasters for book review sites, wives of critics, or publishers' boyfriends.  You NEVER know whom you're talking to unless you spend some quality time in getting to know them...and even then, you're not sure. 

If a fan starts to get argumentative or just says something completely stupid (and they will), then just nod and smile.  You can even say "And that is an opinion you're entitled to."  If they harp on it, then let them.  You move on to the next issue or discussion at hand.  Don't get "trapped" or "baited" by fans.  Some fans live for that.  Just make certain when you leave a situation, you look good.


Now what exactly do I mean by this?  Okay...let me tell you what not to wear.  Suit. Tie.  Formal wear.  That makes you appear a little less approachable and appear as somewhat of an elitist.  I've seen authors do that...and that was exactly how they came across.  Then there is the other side of the spectrum.  I saw one of the exalted, one of the special guest STAR TREK authors (and no, that's not a slam on ST/media tie-in this particular con, small press guests were treated like cattle while the staff bent over backwards for the ST authors.  A perk, I guess...) come in to give his readings.  He was dressed in faded jeans, flip-flops, and a Star Trek Tee-shirt.  He looked like a fan. 

While it's okay to be a fan, it's hard to be taken seriously if you're dressed like one.  I'm not exaggerating...he looked like he had just rolled out of bed.  Find a happy medium.  Dress smart and carry yourself with just a touch of pride at your accomplishments.  You can still have fun, buy souvenirs, and network, but you don't want to look like a fan and you don't want to look like a snob.  Take care of yourself and make sure your breath doesn't stink.  Bad breath is always BAD.  (I never go anywhere without the Listerine strips.)


You will hear authors describe their readings as death.  Well, get this...a lot of times people won't attend readings because they won't know when or where they are.  Some authors will pack them in.  Some will be lucky if more than two show up.  Don't expect to have SRO (standing room only) at your readings, and if you have two show up then give it your all.  As if you had a SRO crowd. 

Here's a little trick I've been implementing at my readings and maybe attracting a few more folks.  I print up flyers, leaving a stack at the Freebie Table (a table with flyers announcing other cons, books, etc.) and then hanging up flyers at various high traffic areas of the con.  I also say on the flyer that I'm giving away a book in a drawing.  A lot of times, people will show up for a chance to win a free book.  Just make sure you give the book away at the END of the reading.

Along with a drawing for a free copy of a book, you can also give away promos for your work.  If you can make flyers at work, copy off 100 at your local Kinko's or copy place.  Copies are cheap.  If you want to really impress folks and you have the means (either with yourself or a friend), burn a CD with samples of your work. 

I have a sampler CD that has a short story of Lisa's, the first chapter of my WIP, and the first two chapters of
MOREVI.  I have them in three formats: PDF, HTML, and PDB (Palm Reader).  I will (try to) burn 100 CD's.  (Yeah, this takes time and some money...but it's a deduction and well worth it.)  They will be gone by the end of the weekend, provided I set out only a few at a time.  DO NOT GIVE AWAY THE PROMO CD AT THE READING!  The reading is your "hard sell".


When you're at a con or a book signing, take a second to talk to people who are investing in your work.  If you're having a bad day, check the nasties at the door.  You need to treat everyone there with courtesy, respect, and a smile.  The nicer you are to people buying your book, the more memorable you are and the more positive feedback you'll receive.  Offer up at your signing something fun like cookies, brownies, or candies.  (I've got this little mini-treasure chest that is filled with Hershey's gold and silver nuggets.)  DO NOT OFFER UP THE PROMO CD, but also look into bookmarks.  People love the free stuff.


Reread previous paragraph. Apply it to the staff at bookstores, and tell yourself "Things can go wrong."  You can also gage at cons how cool booksellers will be with you versus those who are just pulling your chain.  If they remember your name, that is usually a good sign.  Be polite and professional, and if they cop an attitude with you then just roll with the punches, smile, and stay positive.  That is the best defense against the negative attitudes.

And if you sell 4 - 6 books in a three hour signing period, pat yourself on the back.  New-names rarely do that well.  And never judge signing and cons the same way.  At cons, it's about the Guest of Honor or media guests and you are along for the ride.  As far as a signing at a bookstore is concerned, it is all about you then so have a good time.  Wave to people.  If someone stops, considers the works, and then decides not to buy it (even if you get someone like the lady I got who read the book for ten minutes and then decided "No."), you still smile and say "Thanks for looking." and MEAN IT. 

If you want a REALLY terrific resource for knowing what to do and what not to do, take a listen on Quiet Storm Radio.The BookCrazy Radio Newtork (an Internet radio show) for Quiet Storm Radio. Clint Gaige and Darla Shoemaker go into the marketing and promotional side of things.  It's a great little show (one of a couple of gems in the network's lineup) and worth your time.

 And now I'm gearing up for a speaking event next week.  Time to practice what I preach and take notes.

Enjoy the Ride.

Copyright 2003 Tee Morris. All rights reserved

Tee is the co-author of
MOREVI and a contributing author of The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy. You can read Tina Morgan's review of Morevi here

Learn more about Tee by visiting his website at:
M O R E V I:  The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana, a book written by Lisa Lee and Tee Morris and available from Dragon Moon Press



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