After a few years out, I'm back on the conference/convention scene again - starting with the British Fantasy Society's FantasyCon later this month. I haven't been to a FantasyCon for a long time - I used to run them back in the day, which was a huge amount of fun, but also a huge amount of work co-ordinating a weekend for 300+ people. But since I went to the dark side and started writing crime, I've been out of the fantasy loop - that and a lack of funds - but I thought I'd venture back to sunny Nottingham this time. At least it's cheaper than London!
Back in the day - way, way back - I'd do conventions on about three hours sleep. Over the entire weekend. I have fond memories of a London Con, still drinking while the cleaners were hoovering around us; an hour's sleep and then we'd be down to breakfast at eight ... The Cons I was involved in running - I'd meet with the conference manager and the conversation would go something like this:
Them: "So there will be about 300 people? And you want the hotel bar open until the last man falls over?"
Me: "Yes. That will be about 5am. Maybe."
Them: "And the drink?"
Me: "What would you normally have for an event? Treble it. Add some more. And that will do you for the first half of Friday evening..."
And they never believed me. And we invariably ran out of alcohol.
But this time, I'm going to FantasyCon as a writer. A published writer. (Hold onto that thought - this becomes important in a minute ...) And I've been invited to be on a panel about cross-genre writing, so clearly the programme-manager looked me up online. I'm hugely chuffed that I get to chat with authors like John Connolly on a stage! And it will be good to catch up with people I've not seen for a while.
I've also signed up for CrimeFest 2016 as well. But despite the fact that I have five crimes novels out there, selling, and a sixth due out this year, I can't sign up for CrimeFest as a writer. Because I'm not commercially published. The form is very specific - you have to be commercially published to be a writer (the definition apparently being that you were paid an advance). Otherwise you are an attendee.
So why does that matter? Well, if there's going to be a distinction between writers and non-writers in the first place - and I'm not sure why there even is one - then what does it matter how we got there? What about writers like Rachel Abbott, who in 2015 was named Amazon's number one ebook seller in crime and thriller writing and Amazon's most popular independent author. The extreme end of the scale, granted, but there's still a principle here. Why does an advance make you an author, but sales don't? An advance by it's very name is money in advance of sales!
I really did think the stigma of independent publishing was on the way out in 2015, but apparently not just yet ...