Okay, I'm going to try to post about my experiences at World Fantasy Con. It seems that everyone is doing something like this, and so I'm going to give it a shot. Mind you, this will undoubtably be the least coherent, most random WFC report you will read.
Let me start with a little background, because I know that most of my readers haven't actually been to one of these things. WFC is an industry con. It's specifically geared towards the fantasy market, but most of the people who work in fantasy also do time in science fiction. Just the way things are. Even the panels would stray into science fictional material pretty consistently.
Going in, I understood that it was an industry con, but I really didn't understand what that meant. Cognitively I expected to see more pros. I went to WorldCon in Toronto, and saw a lot of pros and a lot of fans, so I simply expected to see the pros at WFC more frequently. That is exactly not what happened.
I follow the industry fairly closely. Not obsessively, but it is in my professional best interest to recognize names and faces. I subscribe to Locus, I read the Nightshade boards and Mumpsimus. The point is, I knew everyone. I'd walk into a party stuffed wall to wall with people, and every name tag in the joint was familiar. Not a matter of seeing more pros. Completely a matter of seeing nothing *but* pros. It's intimidating. Which brings us to all the drinking, right?
And business cards! That floored me. The first time it happened I was standing next to the "bar" (a table with two plastic bins filled with ice, beer and wine.) having just talked to one of my favorite writers currently, Paolo Bacigalupi. If you haven't read his stuff, seriously, just read it. It's painful how good this guy is. And he's a nice guy, too! Anyway. I was trying to get over having just talked to Paolo when I found myself standing next to Joshua Bilmes. Agent. Very good agent, very well connected and, again, a very nice guy. I spoke with him briefly at Worldcon three years ago, but was too nervous to say anything smart. Anyway. He turns to me and starts talking about the Borders in Wheaton (he read my tag, saw where I was from, and now we're talking. Ta da.) where it happens that I used to work. From there we transition into what I'm doing now, and I say something about "first sale to Interzone" and he nods and hands me a business card. Two minutes later he agrees to read the first 25 pages of my novel. And that's how shit gets done.
I didn't get that many cards, but it always happens the same way. Talking to someone you don't know about the industry, and eventually they say "So, what are you working on." And then you say "Oh, I'm pretty new in the field. But I just made my first sale to Interzone, so I'm pretty psyched about that." And as soon as you say the words "first sale to Interzone" they nod, slip their hand in the pocket of their blazer or wallet or whatever, and out comes the card. "Interzone's a good market. Let me know when you get to the novel stage." It's a *fucking* trip.
So, yes. Networking. There are panels to attend and dinners to eat, but mostly it's about networking. By the end of the weekend I had a posse of folks I could nod to in hallways, stop and shake their hands, "How's the con treating you." and then you get introduced to whoever they're talking to, and that's one more person you can smile and nod and handshake. Next year I'm going with business cards. Business cards and another dozen sales. People aren't going to ask what I do. People are going to know.
There I go, talking like an ass again. Really, I'm not an ass. I just live with the intent to succeed. Whatever the fuck that means.
Anyway. Before I forget, I managed to make the first of my dozen targetted sales. While I was at WFC, Interzone contacted me to let me know that they'll be buying The Song. It wasn't as easy of a sale, apparently, but they specifically requested more stories in that setting. Which was my plan all along. So much writing to do!