I have been doing conventions for a long time. A long, long time. Both comic and horror with some art and book festivals thrown in for good measure. This past weekend I went to what was easily the biggest horror con I have ever done – Days of the Dead, Indy. I was so fired up for the show I even booked a room in the host hotel. I know, CRAZY!
It was an interesting weekend. I don’t really have a huge interest in writing a ‘review’ of the con per se because it was a good show, a big show, and there was a ton to do. If you were a fan and wanted to go to a show that gave you the best bang for you buck I am betting this is one of the ones you’d want to hit. I never want to go to shows as a fan just because I figure I’d get bored but man, there were events going late into the night on Friday and Saturday and you’d be hard pressed to be bored if you were looking for some fun. As far as I could tell it was very professionally run, the traffic flow was as good as you could have expected, and people were having a good time. Any issues were the kind of things you have with every show – it’s too cold, I didn’t sell enough, this happened, or that happened, or whatever. That’s the sort of stuff that falls under the ‘annoyances’ category but which I can’t really slam the con for – it wouldn’t be fair. No show is perfect. None.
That was one of the big takeaways for me this weekend was that, as big as this show is and as small as our Flint show was our little show got a heck of a lot ‘right’ in regards to how we ran things. Our experience came from doing community and arts events, not large scale conventions, so we did pretty darn well. We had our hiccups like every show, and limitations, but with what we had…we did pretty darn well. I was always disappointed we didn’t get more folks out to the show but I forget that we were a one day show, which limits attendance. And let’s face it, whatever it is, people will always tell you they are going and not show up. It’s not you, it’s them. It’s life. It makes me happy though to know that we did things right. We always felt like we did but it’s nice to see that, compared to big shows, we were right in thinking that.
I love, love, love the atmosphere of these shows. The ‘freak show’ nature where everyone is doing their thing and flying their particular flag. It was great to see the sheer enthusiasm people have for horror, for the guests, and for everything in between. It’s great. It really is what pure fandom is about, the fun of it all. Fans get painted in a negative light pretty often, especially horror fans, but when you see the fun these folks are having, and talk to them and see how passionate they are you see them not as a stereotype or idea but as PEOPLE. Fans. It’s silly that horror fans are seen as freaks and weirdos because we love things on the dark side, as if watching two people beat the crap out of one another in the name of money and sport is an innocent way to pass the time. Sheesh. And I tell you what, you rarely find more welcoming, friendly, and generous celebrities than you do with the genre films. Not everyone is great but man, most of these folks understand that without the fans they might not be working and they appreciate that. It’s nice to be appreciated!
It does make me sad, I have to say, when it comes to celebrities because I wonder who the next generation will be that will do these shows. There just aren’t the personalities or career horror people that we used to have. Many actors look down on genre work and would never ‘stoop’ to do a convention. It makes me wonder who the next generation will be then to populate these shows. They will find folks but I am not sure if they’ll be as compelling and fun as the generation we have now though.
I had one of those weird things happen to me that happens from time to time that I just…I just don’t get. Once in a while at shows you get the Know It All, the person that feels compelled to tell you what you’re doing wrong, that they don’t like your stuff, that you’re a hack, any number of things that are just nasty and childish to say. Giving unsolicited opinions is something a child does, not an adult with any common sense. Ah, but these people don’t have common sense. There was a woman at the show, a fellow author selling vampire books, who kept wandering around the show being three shades of obnoxious. She came up to me as I was just standing behind my table and proceeded to tell me how well she was doing, incredibly well. Great, I told her, genuinely happy for her because to me, I am not in competition with other writers. I do what I do, they do what they do, whatever. People read what they want. Well she had said this, literally, in passing, and turned to start a conversation with me. She spoke in the most condescending tone I think I have heard in many years and started quizzing me – so you’re the author, so you’re self-pub, oh… She looked my table over, then picked up one of my novels, flipped through it, got a very upset look on her face then said ‘ooooooh, do you have many copies of this?’. I was freaked out because I thought that there was some obvious typo that she’d found. I told her ‘yeah’, because I had a few copies for the show but it’s not like a keep a vast stock on hand. ‘Well, black words on white paper burn reader’s eyes. That’s why they print on off white’ she said matter-of-factly. I was at a loss for words. I had been growing angrier and angrier with her but that was the topper but I kept my cool because I am too old for games and I didn’t really wanna get into some silly vendor war at a convention. I thanked her for that ‘sizzling hot tip’ – something an ex-manager would say, which always made me laugh – and she spun around again, satisfied she had imparted her wisdom on me and heading off, and she gave me a crap eating grin and told me something like ‘any time’ and wandered off. I assume she was drunk. Both times I ran across her she seemed terribly drunk. If not, she’s got issues to deal with. I was not the only author she did this to. She made sure to go by another author I know to pull the same sort of nonsense with him, telling him all about how great she was doing and taking down to him about his work.
She doesn’t know us.
She doesn’t know what we do.
She can be the world’s bestselling author of books about vampire knights but baby, if you got no class, you got no class. She has no class. I do this because I love it. I wish, wish, WISH I could make a living with my writing but I don’t. It is what it is. I get that some people look down there nose at me for being self-published and I deal with it. I wish I had other options. I don’t. Unless someone wants to read all of my work and prove to me that my work is lesser than much of the garbage dropped into the mainstream market then they can eff off all day and night. It’s funny to me that musicians, poets, and artists are ‘allowed’ to self-publish and produce things themselves but authors can’t. We’re trash if we do. That’s ridiculous. Don’t tell me it’s about ‘saturating the market’ and ‘watering down the talented writing with bad writing’. That doesn’t wash. People choose what they want to read. If I read something I don’t like I don’t punish the world of writing by not reading anymore. I doubt anyone does that. It’s the old guard being afraid of the new wave. Sure, a lot of crap is getting published, but BIG SURPRISE! Look at the bookshelves and you’ll see a lot of crap, but someone reads it so it is what it is.
Back to our friend.
I just don’t get the mentality of talking crap to people, especially people doing something they love. It’s petty, childish, and pathetic.
We ran into her later that night and she said ‘hello author’ as if she had told me to screw myself with a wrench.
The thing too is that her ‘tip’ doesn’t hold a ton of weight. Sure, black on white CAN hurt the eyes, but that tends to fall on the lighting more than anything else. You know why paperbacks were printed on ‘off white’/news print style paper? Because it was inexpensive. There may not be a lot of books printed on white paper but, really? Magazines? White paper. Computer screens? White. Many books? WHITE! If I fail as a writer because of the color of the paper in my books then I am in bad shape.
I wish her well in her writing, I hope she’s successful, but more than anything I hope she wakes up one day and gains a little humility and some better people skills.
It was definitely not a show where I did well though with the books. I don’t feel terribly bad because a lot of the vendors and my author friend didn’t do well either. A lot of the fans were either spending their money elsewhere or not at all. It is what it is. It sucks for me, but fans know what they wanna buy and buy it. I had some sales. I had some nibbles. I got a couple people who were unimpressed I was self-published and some that were surprised at my book output – to which I answer that for ten years all I had to do was write with no publishing outlet so work piles up, as well as ideas. I get the impression that, for whatever reason, my books just won’t do well at shows, at least not horror cons. Again, maybe it’s me. Maybe the books stink. All I can do is promote and sell what I have. It is what it is.
I did realize on this trip that yeah, I am too old for the loud, late-night drunken shenanigans. I sorta always knew this but the trip definitely pressed the issue.
If there was one thing that upset me about the show it was that vendors, our writer friend among the very first, started shutting down at 3PM on Sunday. That really bothers me, as a vendor, as a fan, and as someone who put shows on. It’s unprofessional and it cheats the show and the fans. Things die around then at a three day con, I get it. You start to get antsy, you get bored, and you wanna go home. I even packed up and left at 4:30 because EVERYONE was packing up save two or three vendors by then. There were no fans. It was so bad that the hotel had a scissor lift out removing things that were hung up. If we didn’t have a four and a half hour drive we would have stayed ‘til five, but I still feel bad. I feel worse though for the fans that came for that one day and come to find vendors and guets coming in very late, some hungover. Then to have the vendors shut down early too. Why get a weekend pass? Why bother?
This is why I wish, wish, wish conventions would just move to two days shows. When you take how mediocre Fridays are, and how mediocre Sundays are and put them together you have another solid day, making two solid days. I get that venues, and guests have better prices if you book three days. I get it. But it just makes way more sense. It makes a weekend pass more exciting because you won’t get bored as easily. For vendors and guests it means you don’t have to waste Thursday to get to the show or get ready for it, you can just head out on Friday. Have two, solid days where people may miss stuff but miss it because they were so busy with awesome stuff. I’d rather that than run out of things I wanted to do.
It will never happen, but it’s my dream.
The way vendors treat Sundays it’s basically a non-day anyway right now.
Overall though I had a great time. We saw a lot of friends, bought a lot of awesome stuff, got some photos with celebs, and I don’t regret the trip at all. I am sad that it feels as if another market for my books is gone but it is what it is. I don’t blame a show for that, and I don’t blame the fans, and I don’t blame me. It just is what it is.
If there was a lesson to be learned it’s to have fun, no matter what have fun, then the rest doesn’t sting as much. I also learned that I miss doing our show, but that’s another story.