Sunday, January 13, 2013
Got there late, of course. The first panel I managed to attend was "Humanizing Villains," which started at 2. I came in at 2:15, and missed a lot of the discussion, but enjoyed what I was able to see. The panelists were Misty Massey, John Kessel, John Hartness, Natania Barron, Ada Milenkovic Brown, and Garth Graham.
When I came in, Kessel was talking at length about "righteousness"--how a lot of really compelling villains are convinced that their aims are totally righteous. I think this is pretty standard, now: except for sociopaths (Voldemort, for example), villains who want to win 'in the name of Evil' pretty much died in the 90s. (Didn't they? If they didn't, don't tell me--it will make me sad.)
Hartness and Kessel did most of the talking. Barron made a few comments, but no one else spoke more than once or twice. Massey referred to a book called Creating a Villain, wherein a "plucky band of villains" must restore balance to a fantasy world where all the evil has been defeated. I'm not sure that's actually the title, though, because I'm looking for it now and can't find it.
As I listened, I noticed that no fewer than a third of the audience members were members of my writing group. I think the con as a whole has a pretty strong writers' bent, actually. Most of the panels related either to writing or gaming, though there were a few about comics and podcasts and Dr. Who. I wonder if they'll expand to cover other "tracks"--science, costumes, etc.--as the con gets bigger?
The second panel I went to was "Self Promoting Without Going Broke." My writer friends all went to an editors' panel called "Sitting in the Hot Seat," which was at the same time. I chose self-promo because I've self-published a little ebook, because I plan to do more self-publishing in the future, and because even traditionally published authors are expected to do a lot of their own promotion now. Nonetheless, Jason Peters took the time to remind me, just before we parted ways, that "the Dark Side [self-publishing] is the quick and easy path."
The panelists were John Hartness, Betty Cross, and photographer Jennifer Westmoreland. Again, as expected (I'd seen several of his panels), Hartness did most of the talking. Cross didn't have much to say--she said she'd "come to learn as much as talk." Westmoreland clearly knew what she was talking about, but is obviously a quiet person, and didn't say much unless questioned directly.
I actually got a lot of good suggestions. Some of what was said:
1. Own your domain name. YourName.com, at the very least; YourName.net and .org, if possible. I should probably do this, before some other Katherine Traylor decides to start building a web presence.After the panel, I had a great conversation with J. L. Hilton, Margaret McGraw, and a gentleman whose name I'm afraid I can't remember. Topics varied, but I know we talked a lot about fair compensation: Hilton is a jewelry designer, and has found it hard to get a fair price for her work now that steampunk jewelry has become so popular. Afterwards, I went to my last panel for the con--"How long will our books still be on paper?" where Ms. Hilton was a panelist.
2. Make sure that your friends and family know, specifically, what they do. Presumably they love you, and will talk you up even if they don't particularly like your stuff. (But you guys like my stuff, right? :D)
3. Get reviewed--preferably by people who are fans of your comp titles. Hartness: "Book bloggers are your friends."
4. Westmoreland: "Build fans before your work is done." (Which is what I'm trying to do here.)
5. Hartness: "Everything with your name on it is a piece of your platform. A Facebook page costs nothing but time." It was this suggestion, combined with the one above, that prompted me to start my author page a couple of days ago. Not only will I now be spamming only those people who are interested in being spammed, but a page--unlike a profile--can be Liked. (Hint, hint.) (I won't really spam you.)
6. Hartness suggested YouTube videos as good supplementary content. I'm not great on camera, but I have thought of doing more "influences" posts like the ones I did on "Kubla Khan"and The Perilous Gard--only specifically related to THE WOODS AND THE CASTLE--and they might be more interesting with sound and pictures.
7. Someone brought up the point that the more product you have, the more seriously you will be taken--as long as you finish. Completed series give you the advantage of instant gratification: readers may be more likely to pick up a new series if they know they can read all of it immediately.
The other panel going at that time was "Time Travel is the Simplest Thing," with Guest of Honor Tim Powers and I don't know who else. Apparently everybody had been waiting for that one, because the audience in the "books on paper" panel was smaller than the panel itself (besides Hilton, there was Davey Beauchamp, James Maxey, and Tony Daniel). The panelists were good sports about it, though, and it was a great discussion. Daniel, of Baen Books, thinks that ebooks will soon take the place of mass markets: they're the books people will buy if they want an immediate reading copy. Book collectors are apparently just as happy to pay more and get a trade, or even a hardback.
Hilton pointed out that the immediacy of the ebook is part of its appeal: you can finish a book at three in the morning, go online, and have the sequel in your hands within a minute. I definitely appreciated this while I was living in Korea. Physical books do have a lot of emotional appeal for me, but the advent of the "cloud" seems to be shifting the game: it's wonderful to be able to open my Kindle app wherever I happen to be and immediately have access to every ebook I've ever purchased.
Maxey believes that in the future, very few books will come out in print at all. He thinks print runs will be based on ebook demand: top sellers will come out in physical form, while the midlist and below will stay electronic. Beauchamp, a librarian, said that actually older readers are some of the most likely people to have ereading devices. The stereotype is that older people are most likely to have a sentimental attachment to physical books, but apparently a) retired people read a lot, and b) older people are most likely to appreciate the ability to adjust text size. Either Beauchamp or Maxey said that it's actually the 30-50 crowd who are most likely to be Luddites about ereaders.
Beauchamp mentioned eformat as useful for gaming--he's recently designed a game himself--because tabletop manuals are traditionally of poor quality and fall apart quickly. Hilton said that in her cyberpunk series, the environmental cost of creating and transporting paper books has made them basically disappear. This prediction might actually come true: a lot of products come with electronic manuals now, don't they?
That was pretty much it for the con. There was a brief closing ceremony after the panel, which consisted mostly of the organizers commending each other and thanking their friends and sponsors. After that, Tim Powers had a lightsaber duel with someone, there was a brief conversation about religion in the SF community, and everyone went home. Or to the afterparty.
I had a really good time at IllogiCon this year, and I think that the convention has really grown. The next one is already scheduled--next January (I forget the dates) in the same hotel--and unless something comes up I'll definitely be going. Thanks to the organizers for a terrific con!