Go to cons. That’s a pretty common piece advice given to writers, and it’s a good one. If only because cons are fun, and it’s great to hang out with people who are interested in the same books and movies and music and memes that you are. Even if you aren’t a writer, you should probably go to cons. They were invented by the fans, for the fans, y’know.
Going as a writer, though, there is a definite subtext to cons. They are where you’re suppose to mix and mingle, to network and make connections. To schmooze. Go find those editors and agents and dazzle them with charm so bright they barely notice the six manuscripts you’ve just slipped into their briefcase. Make a personal connection, make your pitch and make your sale!
God, I hated that advice.
It almost killed my first few cons. I spent a lot of time wandering around, wondering who I was suppose to be talking to, what I was suppose to be saying. I was meeting people, sure, but they were other writers like me, or fans. They were great to talk to, wonderful to hang out with, but they weren’t BIG IMPORTANT PEOPLE WHO WOULD MAKE MY CAREER SPARKLE LIKE A DIAMOND. I left those first few cons with a pile of new friends, but a vague feeling that I hadn’t done enough, because I hadn’t whisked an agent away with my subtle charm.
Luckily, I realized fairly quickly that I was being an idiot.
Those friends I was making? That was the important thing about cons. I was meeting fans, who were telling me about the great things that they were reading. I was meeting writers like me, who were struggling along with some of the same things I was– and coming up with solutions. Most importantly, I was MAKING FRIENDS. And what are friends? Your social network. See, it turns out that some of my new friends had agents. Some of them knew editors. Some of them, even, were editors or agents. As I met more people, I started making those connections that I had been told I had to get. Not through schmoozing though, or by tackling these poor people in the hall as they hurried to their next panel. But by talking with them about the cool things that we all liked.
That’s what I think cons do for you. They don’t give you contacts. They don’t give you connections. They give you friends, and friends lead to those other things.
Things that, in the end, are useful, but no where near as important as friends.