We are, this very week, kicking Convention Season into high gear. WonderCon Anaheim, then San Diego Comic-Con in July, with dozens more, big and small, from here until the end of the year. You will be attending at least a few of these, either for fun or profit.
It’s worth talking a little about how one should behave, as a writer, when hitting these shows—whether you are an established pro or a rookie looking to break in.
And it’s not enough to just say, “act professional,” because there are plenty of professionals who wouldn’t know what that meant if it rapped them on the hands with a ruler. We’re gonna break this down according to location:
You’ll likely be swinging through these booths looking to either meet editors for the first time, reinforce contacts or—yes, pros can be fans, too—get something signed. Follow the signs, obey the traffic patterns—i.e., the crazy lines that snake all over for various signings—and treat everyone like you’re a guest in their house. Because you never know who is in one of the company’s color-coordinated T-shirts. Could be an intern, could be the VP of sales. The last thing the aspiring writer wants is to make enemies at any level. And, as tempting as it might be to loiter here because companies like DC, Marvel, and Dark Horse spring for the good carpet that soothes the savage feet, try not to. Don’t be the guy everyone notices because you spend hours in the booth every day. Move along. Find the person you’re looking for or find out when they’ll be back.
Understand that those manning these tables are there to make money. They’ve spent money on those tables and have to earn to make a con worthwhile. If you’re admiring their work/wares, feel free to do so. Those can be long days and a smile from someone who appreciates your work can make all the difference. If you’re looking for potential collaborators, buy something—don’t ask for a freebie. Show the artist that you take their work seriously and understand that they are worth it. But whatever you do, if you’re not actively making a purchase, make way for people who want to—don’t clog the artist’s access to a paying customer just because you want to make small talk.
Not a place for small talk. With anyone. Seriously, the horror stories I’ve been told about people asking for autographs in the loo … Don’t be that guy. (And it’s almost always a guy. Don’t be him.)
Everyone is there to get something different out of a con. Do your best to let them, within reason, of course. Some people want to shop, some are hawking their wares, others are trying to secure work, while others still want to show off in costumes they spent weeks on. Don’t harsh anyone’s mellow, if you can avoid it. But be respectful. If you want to take someone’s picture, ask. If you want to pose with them, ask. The minute you want to share someone’s personal space, ask. If they say no, move along.
Simple rule of thumb: Don’t be the most drunk person in whatever group you’re with. If you’re an aspiring writer, you don’t want to be the sloppiest person there—no one gives out assignments because you can drink the most. If you’re an established pro, no need to give anyone else fresh gossip. And you want to be sober enough to remember what you did or didn’t do. Don’t buy anyone a drink who doesn’t want it—though we are a hardy lot who tends to like the grog. Respect boundaries and, if necessary, help others do the same. You’ll all feel better in the morning. Not good … but better.
Much has been made—perhaps not enough—of the difficulties women have when going to cons, either as professionals or as attendees, both in and out of costume. Here is another very simple rule to follow: No one is entitled to anything. If you, for a second, think you are … you’re not. We are, all of us, fans of one thing or another. We come to these conventions because we love that thing, or those things, or everything. And everyone should be allowed to love that thing without being afraid.
Okay, that’s the one thing you’re entitled to: Safety.
Have fun and don’t be a tool.
Marc Bernardin’s Devourer of Words appears the third Tuesday of each month here on Toucan!