Conferences and Conventions, part 2 - by Debbie Bennett

(c) Peter Coleborn
Last month, I posted that I was going to be at this year's FantasyCon in Nottingham. I'm figuring that I haven't been to a FantasyCon in six years - I seem to remember taking Clare when she was thirteen, which made a change from taking her aged two (when she had great fun stuffing goody-bags). But they don't stuff goody-bags anymore. These days you get your nice cotton bag with an event programme and a souvenir book, and you select your goodies from the mountains of free paperbacks, plus flyers, leaflets, postcards, badges etc on the tables. It's actually a far more sensible system as you only get the books you want!

So. East Midlands Conference Centre. Fantastic venue, although a bit far away from civilisation, making guests far more reliant on the shockingly overpriced and sub-standard food served in conference centre and the attached De Vere hotel. Breakfast was excellent, however, and the hotel itself was new, shiny and comfortable. And the conference centre was possibly the best layout for a convention I've ever been to, with lots of rooms, a proper theatre with tiered seating, a bar and plenty of space for sitting, talking and generally hanging about. And free water. Free tea and coffee too in the Green Room.

Ten out of ten to the Redcloaks - the super-efficient team of volunteers who ran everything with military precision and a smile - something we never quite mastered in my day! Nothing was too much trouble for these guys. They even dealt with the fire alarms going off and an emergency evacuation (a food incident in the kitchens, apparently, which says it all, really).

That's me - on the right!
(c) Pat Barber

It's also the first con I've been to in six years as a purely paying guest. This meant I got to see some panels and talks. I was even invited to participate in one, for which I was ridiculously chuffed! It was a panel about cross-genre writing, blending crime with SFF or vice versa. Given that I write pure crime these days, I wasn't too sure how much I'd actually be able to contribute, but I didn't make a complete idiot of myself, thank goodness. But I spent a lot of the weekend helping out in the dealer room, where the Alchemy Press kindly let me display and sell some of my books on their table. Jan and Peter are good friends and it was great to be able to spend some time with them and Jen and Pat Barber too.

Jan Edwards & I at The Alchemy Press table
(c) Peter Coleborn

Highlights: attending a small panel on audiobooks, in which I liked the sound of one of the audiobook-narrator panellists, so I approached him afterwards and introduced myself. Fingers crossed he might be interested in narrating my books and I might just be able to get my audiobook project back up and running from where it's been lying in the gutter with its legs cut out from underneath it since my last narrator did a vanishing act on me.

Lowlights: a panel on marketing, I think it it was, where a couple of industry professionals made some comment about the four self-publishers who've made more than twenty quid from their ebooks. Or something like that. Really? Unnecessary, I thought and with more than a whiff of Crimefest about it (see last month's post). By and large, though, I have to say that FantasyCon is very inclusive of self-publishers, and that was the only time where I saw any distinction being made at all between the routes different authors choose to take to publication.

Next year FantasyCon goes north to Scarborough - it's billed as FantasyCon-by-the-sea. I think I'll be signing up soon.


Mari Biella said…
Sounds like great fun, Debbie. It's also gratifying that such events are beginning to open up to self-publishers - long may it continue!
Lydia Bennet said…
Interesting, I've only been to crime 'cons' (and litfests of course). Snarkiness about self-publishing has so many motives, it will go on happening methinks! But more and more people will ignore it. :)
Looks like you had fun Debbie! It's good to know the Fantasycons are still going strong, and I agree they always felt inclusive and open-minded even before ebooks came along, with the small presses etc. Perhaps that's a genre trait?

As for the marketing panel comment... haven't they ever done the maths? I do think some industry people miss the point that (most) self-publishers are not competing with professional publishers, they are simply trying to make a living from their own work.

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