Monday, April 2, 2012

Conbust 2012

My college's annual con, Conbust, took place this past weekend. I didn't do a yuri panel this year. Instead, I'm planning a Yuri and Pizza Night! event later this month. I'll post more about it after its details are set in stone.

Day 1 of Conbust, Friday:

I went to the room hosting the 7:00 panel on queer content in sci-fi, fantasy and anime and caught the end of the fanfic panel. Its attendees discussed whether one could re-publish a fanfic as a successful novel. Fifty Shades of Gray, anyone? Or the scads of professionally published "sequels" and alternative takes on Jane Austen's works? (I know the latter type of fanfic- fanfic derived from literary fiction- isn't what the attendees had in mind.)

The queer panel attendees mostly discussed how to incorporate queer characters into speculative fiction- like, how do you reference a character's queerness without being "gratuitous"? The person asking the "gratuitous" question was totally well-meaning, but the question (as it was phrased) was a little jarring...and the ensuing discussion made me a little the person who said that "If the characters are openly gay, the show's going to be all about them being gay." It reminded me a little of how, before I came out to certain friends, I was less afraid of outright rejection than changing from "Katherine" to "My Lesbian Friend Katherine" in their eyes. Thankfully, the less enlightened members of the panel were countered by the ones who got it.

Later in the evening came the panel on publishing. Two authors, Stephanie Dray and Annette Klause, and one editor, Sharyn November, hosted it. It was the fullest of all of the panels I attended this past weekend, and it was interesting. Here are my notes from it.

  • November: “We live for wonderful writing. We live for finding that new author who’s fantastic. Everyone’s looking for wonderful writing. That’s the important thing to know. *cosplayer enters* Oh my god.”
  • Sci-fi = hard sell, but coming back into vogue. Dystopian = growing in popularity.
  • Publishing landscape has changed drastically over the years and is changing every day. People ten years younger than you will be mostly reading e-books. Books are becoming almost a fetish object for some people.
  • Melanie Kroupa = “A wonderful, wonderful children’s and YA editor.”
  • Every author-editor relationship is different, because it’s like a business relationship that’s intensely personal. It’s a very tricky relationship to find balance with.
  • As an author, you’ve got to know what to ask for and when to say no. (When interacting with an editor.)
  • November: “I always say to authors, ‘I don’t trust you if you always agree with me.’”
  • Different grammatical editing requirements for children’s fiction than fiction for an older demographic. (e.g. “goin’” = no, “going” = yes)
  • “The way you get published is to have a little talent, a lot of luck, and a lot of perserverance.”
  • “I think in traditional publishing it helps to have an agent, especially one who will be a lioness for you.”
  • Agents = “You want that person you gets you. You want that person who will fight for you. There’s a chemistry involved.”
  •  Get involved with author’s organizations, read books on it, learn what to do. Be professional in your letters to publishers. Keep cover letters short and professional. “If you don’t take yourself seriously, I’m not going to.”
  • Target your submissions. Know what kind of work the publishers you’re submitting to publish.
  • You need to belong to writers’ groups. You need to share your writing with other people.
  • For romance writers = Romance Writers of America. Members of romance community = bigger on self-promotion than most writing communities.
  • While trying to sell your first book, don’t stop writing.
  • “Romance will take a lot of risks, I think. At least Harlequin does.”
  • How do you find an agent? There’s Agent Query and Publisher’s Lunch (where you can see what people sold which books, and what kinds of books different people typically represent). 
  • Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America <- Only open to people who have already been published.
  • Never go with an agent or publisher who wants you to pay them up front to read your work.
  •   If you quote, say, song lyrics or a work of literature not in the public domain, you have to pay for it. This can be expensive. The publisher won’t pay for it for you.
  •  If you can summarize your book in one sentence in a catchy way, that saves your editor a lot of trouble.

The last panel of the day was an 18+ panel called Tits or GTFO (Internet survival). It wasn't what I expected, but it was funny. The panelist went through different geek genres and media (sci-fi, fantasy, games, anime), making fun of how they objectify women. She mentioned a Japanese website that generates what someone's boobs would look like based on their name. She tried to find it, but wasn't able to. I had the dubious honor of being the person who found it via my own laptop, and we had way too much fun coming up with random names to type in, like "Clark Kent," "Bruce Wayne," "Olive Oyl," "Picard," "Spock," "Kirk," "Spongebob," and "your mom." Here it is. ^_^;

Day 2:

In the afternoon, I stopped by one of the dealer rooms and met a super-nice person who reads this blog, Kori Michele Handwerker. We chatted for a bit, and I spotted a piece of art at her table that I bought for reasons'll understand if you see it.

Heehee. ^__^

I also learned about her ongoing webcomic, a gay romance with a light dash of fantasy called Prince of Cats. I got a copy of the first issue of its print version. Only one issue has been released so far.

It's about Lee and Frank, two best friends who attend a high school in a small town. They have feelings for each other, but have yet to admit it to...well, anyone. (One student notices that Lee likes Frank and drops little hints about it when he sees Lee.) Assuming that Frank is straight, Lee gives Frank's number to Adi, the girl who likes Frank. Adi asks Frank to homecoming and he accepts because he doesn't want to hurt her feelings. Naturally, Lee gets jealous. Another plot point is that even though Frank wants to go to college, his family can't afford it, while Lee's can. A cat Lee saved has offered to grant him any wish he has (which Frank knows about), and Lee wants to use it so Frank can go to college. Frank refuses it, telling Lee that if there's anything they've learned from fairytales, it's that magically fulfilled wishes backfire. (Frank can also now understand what cats are saying, although that aspect only briefly comes up.) In short...the story is in its early stages, but it's cute so far. ^_^ I like both of the leads, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they get together. The end of this volume promises that the homecoming situation will be resolved in the next issue's worth of story.

After meeting Kori, I wandered up to the where the Anime 101 panel was held. A librarian who promotes anime at the library where she works ran it. She presented a PowerPoint illustrating what anime is, its history in Japan and the U.S., and what some of its genres are. Disappointingly, yuri and yaoi weren't included. The nicest part was seeing the attendees gush over the titles they really like out of the examples shown.

A few hours later, I went to the Geeks in Love panel, since I've seen panels like it advertised at a lot of cons but never attended any of them. It was interesting. Some of the topics discussed included: how not to be creepy when role-playing with someone else as a fictional couple online (which I haven't done); how to deal with people in certain geek forums on the internet being like, "Show us yer boobz!" to posters who identify themselves as women; and stereotypes about geek girls and guys...and how some geek guys are so excited about meeting geek girls that they can be creepy and objectifying when interacting with them. One woman irritated me when she said that all lesbian movies and lesbian storylines on TV suck- and no, she didn't seem to be using hyperbole. There aren't enough lesbian movies and lesbian TV storylines, let alone enough good ones out there. But if you think that there aren't any good ones, you aren't really looking. Another woman and I gave her some recommendations, like Imagine Me & You and Lost Girl. (Lost Girl is awesome. Watch it.) Poor Buffy. Even though its lesbian storyline definitely has some problems- like Tara's death and Willow being labeled a lesbian without bisexuality ever being brought up- the panel host and attendees flayed it more than I thought it deserved. Granted, I'm biased because Buffy was one of my obsessions in middle school and I have sugar-coated memories of it.

Day 3:

I attended the 2:00 E-Publishing, Self-Publishing, and E-Books panel that was hosted by Kathryn Scannell, an author who has published her work in print and in e-book format, and Lisa Janice Cohen, an author who has exclusively published in e-book format. This panel was really interesting also. Here are my notes:

  • E-book publishers want a lot more self-promotion. They won’t hold your hand for you.
  • Before sending your story to a small publisher, research their reputation and look at sites like Preditors and Editors. (“Preditors” = not a typo)
  • Authors often mistaken copy-editing with developmental editing, or proofreading with developmental editing. If you don’t understand what developmental editing is/the value of developmental editing, you shouldn’t self-publish.
  • At every stage, if you’re using someone’s professional services, you should use a contract. Read the fine print. Read everything in their terms of service. Be sure you aren’t giving away any rights that you don’t want to give away. In contract with e-book publishers, include condition like, “If you don’t agree to publish this within [for example] three months, I can take this book elsewhere.” Otherwise, a publisher can sit on your book indefinitely.
  • There are businesses out there that specialize in choosing your e-book’s formats.
  • Re: formatting, before you put anything up for sale, have you friends download it on their e-readers to be sure that it looks good.
  • One can (politely) email with request for free e-book w/ advice on electronic publishing.
  • Blog by Kristine Rusch = recommended for advice.
  • To anyone contemplating the indie route: Don’t be in a rush. There’s so much crap being put out there that if you rush it instead of polishing it to a high sheen, doing the right promotion, GETTING REVIEWS, before publishing it, it’ll get buried underneath all of the crap.
  • A lot of e-books publishers want to know what your online presence is—a website, blogging, social media, etc. Make sure your online presence supports the talent you’re trying to convince publishers you have. If, say, you’re selling a humor book, your tweets shouldn’t be boring. But don’t get too caught up in social networking/promoting, because you won’t get writing done. Set up an opt-in newsletter on your website. Publish it at least once a quarter.

And that was it!

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