Un-Convention-al.

The two-year gap on public events was a big hurdle for me to get over. Much as I proudly announce my status as a ‘Hermit Author’ I take a lot more away from events than just sales. The convention scene helps me recharge my enthusiasm, it’s great to talk about my books and talk to other people about theirs. Before the break I was diligently trying to build a calendar of reliable events to attend through the year, partly in the respects of Profit/Loss, partly in respect of good exposure/networking and partly just seeing which events where good for creativity and meeting people, which ones encouraged me to write.

The break for Covid, and the rising costs of living that we’re currently experiencing, have essentially rendered me back to square one. So, here I am, trying to build a new list of Literary and Trade conventions to attend over this and the coming year and it’s that experience that I’m going to share with you today.

Trade Cons

One of the first events I attended as lockdown was easing up was Reading Comic Con by Creed Conventions (they also run events in St Albans and previously Bath). Reading is a good location and the venue was just outside the city centre, accessible by road and public transport. 2021 suffered a little from the general uncertainty and the weather. I’ll certainly be giving it another run but the venue’s being renovated for 2022 so 2023 it is!

Portsmouth Comic Con, run by the ever-fabulous team at GoGeek Events. This was the event this year that fully restored my confidence in the UK convention scene. GoGeek are an anti-bullying and inclusion group who run Portsmouth CC, the Retro, Modern and Board Guildhall Games Fest and Portsmouth Pride. It’s fair to say that, with an ethos like that? I’ll never *not* support their events.

Showmasters Events are possibly the only events team in the UK that rival MCM for size and draw. I’ve been attending Showmaster events since Sheffield Film and Comic Con back in 2018 if I remember rightly. Since then I’ve been a regular at London FCC (Spring) and, this year, I have a table across the hall in the Young Adult Literature Convention or YALC. Now, the outlay (especially for YALC) was significant but, having turned over healthy sales at Worldcon Dublin, I’m assured the YALC is bigger, the footfall is greater and it is primarily a sales event so, fingers crossed, I’ll have something good to report after the event.

Now, I mentioned Bath above and, this year I’ll be there at an event run by the UK Comic Con and Gaming Festivals or UKCGF. This group run events from Bath, to Brighton, to Truro, I won’t speculate on what other locations they might be adding to their roster but they seem to be ‘on the up’ to me. Bath in August will be my first event with UKCGF and I’ve got my fingers crossed for it.

Dragonmeet is an event I’ve attended consistently the last four trading years. I’ve had to postpone booking for 2022 so I’ll see if there’s space left when I have a little money spare. I know the con organiser is pushing for more literature rep (being primarily a board game convention) and now is a good time to hop onboard.

I’ve certainly dipped my toes in other smaller events, Norfolk’s Comic Con (Norcon), Sci-Fi Weekender and Worthing Wormhole (now Wyntercon under Worthing Events CIC) and had mixed experiences. Far be it from me to shoot down people’s events but, as someone paying for a sales pitch, none of these small events paid for themselves (even before Covid). But you take a chance sometimes. Worthing teaming up with Wyntercon certainly makes it worth reconsidering.

Going ahead I’ll be looking at whether YALC outperforms LFCC Spring, though I’m not ruling out doing both. I’m already penciled in for Portsmouth 2023, but in the meantime, we’ll see how Bath goes.

Litcons

In all, brutal, honesty, litcons are going to be subject to quite close scrutiny over the coming year. High prices and bad venues have hit the circuit recently, claims that there are only a select few places to host conventions ring quite hollow in many ears and events have suffered proportionally. While previously the costs of litcons have been moderated by sales, several events have suffered, I’m sad to say, by the traders being given a lower consideration than other aspects of the con.

Eastercon (2023 billed as Conversation) is an event I’ve attended since I released Black Knight back in 2018, however it is one that has suffered from rising costs, bad location and a distinct lack of consideration for the traders attending. While it is one of the larger events for the UK Sci-fi and Fantasy literature community, the costs of attending in the near future, at this point, certainly outweigh the benefits for a small hybrid concern like me.

Fantasycon is another markedly prestigious event on the UK Sci-Fi and Fantasy lit scene. While I have always had a table for Eastercon and attended annually for some years, I’m new to Fantasycon, only having attended/traded there once in 2021. I’ll admit I had a really good time and met some great people. While I was signed up for 2022, alas the membership hasn’t been there and the con has announced it won’t be running as expected. I’ll keep an eye on what form it does take, but it was booked in the same Heathrow Radisson that Eastercon has been suffering at, so we’ll have to see.

It’s not all bad news though, Bristolcon continues to be a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow authors from all tiers of success (I met Jasper Ffjorde at the last one). Regrettably I have an unrelated event conflict for 2022 so, I’ll see you there 2023.

Likewise Satellite in Glasgow (soon to be Satellite 8) introduced me to faces old and new and showed me a different way to approach the same old programme items and panels.

And that’s not all. In the pipe we have Novacon running in Buxton. Again, much as I *want* to attend it comes down to how well things go at YALC, but I hope to be booking that soon. I’ll be getting onboard for Glasgow Worldcon 2024 in the next few weeks regardless and crossing my fingers for the Dublin’s Worldcon 2029 bid. Missing Chicon is going to be a big regret for a while but hey, I’m sure the chance to get there will come again. Maybe by then I’ll be Special Guest material.

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