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Guest Post: A Writer’s Convention Survival Guide, by Christopher Huang

Continuing our series on marketing yourself and your books at conventions, we have a special guest post from author Christopher Huang. In this article Huang summarizes his experiences with mystery and crime conventions, which, as he tells us, can be very different to a popular culture convention. It’s all about knowing the event you are attending and your reasons for being there. I’ll let Chris take it from here…

The big mystery/crime fiction convention appears to be BoucherCon, which changes location from year to year. I was also convinced to attend CrimeFest, which takes place annually in Bristol, UK. Aside from these, there appear to be several others: Iceland Noir, Harrogate, ThrillerFest, Bloody Scotland, to name the ones that crossed my radar. I’m speaking from experience with BoucherCon and CrimeFest, and I don’t pretend that a single attendance at two genre conventions makes me an expert: what I am about to say is based on my first impressions as a newbie, any mistakes made along the way, and second-hand advice.

A lot of my idea of what a convention was came from what I’d heard from people about fantasy and sci-fi fan conventions: booths, merchandise, photo-ops with guests, and the opportunity to Sell Your Stuff. Do NOT anticipate any of this at a mystery/crime fiction convention. One does not attend either BoucherCon or CrimeFest with the idea of selling books directly–unless one is a professional bookdealer, in which case this article is Not For One. The point of these conventions is to establish contacts and to integrate oneself into the writing community. You are more likely to run into another author or an industry professional than you are to run into a fan looking to purchase new reading material.

Oh yes, industry professionals. Book critics, reviewers, and journalists. You want to know who to send your ARCs to, and you hope that you’ll have made a good enough impression that they’re predisposed to look kindly on your work … or even look at your work at all.

The crime fiction community is much like a village where everyone knows everyone else. It’s very friendly, as more than one old hand has remarked to me. I’ve heard it explained that every mystery writer knows that mystery readers read far, far more books than a writer can hope to produce: if a reader is a fan of your friend’s work, chances are pretty good that they will come around to reading your stuff too. For this reason, there is little point in competition. One is more likely to get ahead through cooperation. You are here to make friends.

This can be a bit intimidating: everyone seems to know everyone else, and you, as a newbie, do not. I would suggest, if you can do both, to do CrimeFest before doing BoucherCon. CrimeFest is smaller and more intimate, and you are more likely to make connections there that will see you through the whole event. Having that under your belt can be helpful–if only for the self-confidence–when you tackle BoucherCon.

At CrimeFest 2018, the first panel each day was dedicated to first-time authors, and I believe this is a regular thing at all CrimeFests. As a first-time author yourself, rubbing elbows with other first-time authors is a great way to start. You’re all in the same boat, after all, and having a common panel/event is a great icebreaker. You are only a first-time author once, so avail yourself of a panel spot before your second book scuttles your eligibility.

BoucherCon 2017 had a similar event where first-time authors got about five minutes to introduce themselves.

If you’re on a panel, you’ll also get maybe half an hour after it to sign books. This was true at both BoucherCon and CrimeFest.

The real business of these conventions takes place in the bars in the evening. Hopefully, the panels will have given you something to talk about, and a few faces to recognise. These parties can go quite late, so anticipate getting very little sleep over the course of the convention. By the time CrimeFest wrapped up, I was half an inch away from deprivation-induced hallucinations.

Also anticipate being in the same pair of shoes for eighteen hours straight, from early-morning panel to late-night bar party. And if you can’t get a room at the same hotel as the convention–convention hotels tend to be expensive–try to get one within a few minutes’ walk away. It is probably inadvisable to drive between the convention site and your hotel.

Because you’ll be meeting a lot of people, make sure you have a stack of business cards to hand out, and be prepared to come home with a stack of cards from other people. Advertising your book is great, but after BoucherCon, I found that the only cards I wanted to keep were the ones that were about the author rather than about a book, especially if the author made an impression on me. That is, one keeps a card for the contact information, not for the advertising. Remember: you’re here at the convention to establish contacts, not to sell your book.

BoucherCon had a table expressly for people to leave their cards and pick up other people’s cards. CrimeFest had a table that people used for the same purpose, but I got the impression that this was not the organisers’ intention. This is where you might want to have a card that’s about your book rather than about you: people seem more likely to pick up cards that are about attention-catching stories. But, as noted above, it’s the author contact that makes people hold on to these cards afterwards.

Travel light. Both BoucherCon and CrimeFest gave me swag in the form of free books. I was lucky at BoucherCon that they also gave me a backpack to carry stuff in. Anticipating something similar at CrimeFest, I made sure I left half my carry-on suitcase empty, in anticipation of books. It was a good thing I did. I think CrimeFest had a delivery service for books; I’m not sure about BoucherCon. But in either case, a delivery service might not always be practical.

And finally, allow yourself time after the convention to sleep. You’re going to need it.

Christopher Huang

Author Christopher HuangChristopher Huang was born in Singapore. He migrated to Canada at the age of seventeen, but returned the following year to complete his two years of military service in the Singapore Army. He studied Architecture at McGill University, and now lives in Montreal, Quebec.

You can connect with Chris through

His website: www.peterkin-investigates.com, or

Twitter: @misericordius.

A Gentleman’s Murder

Book Cover: A Gentleman's MurderChristopher’s debut novel, A Gentleman’s Murder, comes out in July and is published by Inkshares. It’s a great classic murder mystery set in the 1920s.

The year is 1924, and Lieutenant Eric Peterkin, formerly of the Royal Fusiliers, is a new member of the Britannia―London’s most prestigious club. It’s a family tradition, but an honor he’s not sure he quite deserves. So, when a gentleman’s wager ends with one man dead in the vault under the club, Eric is only too ready to tackle the mystery head on.

Eric’s quest to resolve the murder quickly becomes an investigation of a mysterious wartime disappearance. It draws him far from the marbled halls of the Brittania, to the shadowy remains of a dilapidated war hospital to the heroin dens of Limehouse. Eric faces a Matryoshka doll of murder, vice, and secrets pointing not only to the officers of his own club but the very investigator assigned by Scotland Yard.

Threatened with expulsion and dogged by the racist shadows of the Great War, Eric presses on nonetheless. But can he snare the killer before his own membership becomes a thing of yesterday?

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By Robert Batten

Robert is the author of Blood Capital, a dystopian sci-fi novel of espionage and rebellion set in the ruins of Sydney. It is due for release by Inkshares in January 2019 after winning two major prizes in the 2016 Launch Pad competition: the Inkshares Publishing Prize and Ridley Scott / Scott Free Guaranteed Option Prize.

Ever since acquiring his latest glasses, people have been telling Robert he looks like Clark Kent. He’s since sworn to never buy another pair of glasses again. When not imagining himself as the man of steel, Robert reads and writes science-fiction and fantasy novels. He loves reading David Eddings, Jim Butcher, Ilona Andrews, Sarah J. Maas, V.E. Schwab, Laini Taylor, Garth Nix, among many others.

Until he achieves the success of his literary role models, Robert earns a living as an IT consultant.