authors, Cindy Pon, Comic Con, Elizabeth Briggs, Emerge, Future Shock, Maryelizabeth Yturralde, published, Romina Russell, San Diego Comic Con, SCBWI members, SDCC, Serpentine, Tobie Easton, writing tips, YA, YA Fantasy, young adult, Zodiac series
As a debut author, I have spent this year—and the time leading up to it—learning as much as I could about the publishing industry and about all the different ways to build a successful career as an author. One lesson that has stood above all the rest so far is that publishing is about finding your people. That team of people who really gets your writing—and who falls in love with it. It starts out with just you, then your critique partners, then (if you pursue traditional publishing) your agent, editor, and other members of the team at your publisher, then booksellers, and finally readers. No matter what stage of your writing career you’re at right now, here’s why conventions are so beneficial: They help you find your people.
Conventions are dedicated to celebrating fandoms and fan culture, so they’re a wonderful place to connect with potential fans of your writing—whether that’s a new C.P. or a reader waiting in line for you to sign a copy of your book. Since the release of my debut Emerge (a YA contemporary fantasy about mermaids who live secretly on land), I have been fortunate enough to do panels and signings at WonderCon, the LA Times Festival of Books, Leviosa Con (where I got to put my Marauder’s Map dress to good use), and most recently, Comic-Con.
Moderating the panel “A World After Harry: The Changing Genre of YA Fantasy” at Comic-Con (in a room packed to capacity with over 200 YA Fantasy fans) and signing my book afterwards was one of the best opportunities I have had as an author so far to connect with readers. It was a truly rewarding experience for me, and I’ve reached out to other authors and industry professionals who attended San Diego Comic-Con this year and asked them to share their experiences.
Fellow debut author Elizabeth Briggs, whose YA Sci-Fi novel Future Shock (Albert Whitman & Co.) came out this spring, notes, “When I was first starting out as a writer, I met most of my critique partners and other writing friends at conferences such as SCBWI LA. Now that I’m published, I find conventions and conferences to be useful for connecting with other authors I have only talked to online, plus I get to meet lots of new people as well.” As for Comic-Con specifically, she says, “I’ve been going to Comic-Con for nine years, and it gets better every year! This was my second year on a panel and my first time signing books, and I think it’s a great way to reach a new audience of sci-fi and fantasy readers.”
This sentiment is seconded by Romina Russell, author of the Zodiac series (Penguin Random House), who says, “This was my second year at SDCC, and just like last time, my experience was unreal and unforgettable. We ran out of Zodiacs at my Penguin in-booth signing, and during that hour, I finally got to meet a number of readers with whom I’ve been chatting on social media for a long time, which is such a great feeling—like reconnecting with a long-lost friend.”
Cindy Pon, author of Serpentine and its upcoming sequel Sacrifice (Month9Books), adds that large conferences like Comic-Con offer a platform for important discussion (plus a lot of fun): “I had such a fantastic time moderating the fantasy world-building panel at San Diego Comic-Con International this year! I really appreciated what every author brought to the table in our discussions on world-building, but especially their responses to my query about diversity, and the need to be more inclusive in speculative fiction. Highlights also include getting my personalized Power Puff Girls tote bags, and buying more whimsical art from Martin Hsu!!”
Perhaps the most valuable insights come from bookseller Maryelizabeth Yturralde of Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego. She has been attending Comic-Con for 30 of its 46 years and says, “prose books, especially speculative fiction, have always been a part of that.”
Yturralde remarks, “The first few years I attended as a reader. For the past 23 years plus, I’ve attended as a bookseller, with Mysterious Galaxy, supporting attending authors. I’ve been privileged to coordinate prose programming with the Comic-Con programming staff for about 15 years. While Comic-Con has experienced tremendous growth during that time, and its popular culture umbrella has expanded to include much more media than just comics, the organization remains committed to promoting prose publishing, and there is still a devoted core readership who look forward to the literary track.” She adds that on-site sales may not always “reflect the long tail response” that an appearance at Comic-Con can have for an author, and that, “Comic-Con offers a great opportunity for authors seeking to signal boost their work to an interested fan base.”
Tobie Easton was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, where she’s grown from a little girl who dreamed about magic to a twenty-something who writes about it. She and her very kissable husband enjoy traveling the globe and fostering packs of rescue puppies. Tobie’s debut novel, Emerge, is the first book in the anticipated Mer Chronicles series, in which mermaids aren’t just real but live secretly among us. Learn more about Tobie and her upcoming books on www.TobieEaston.com. Come say hi on Twitter and Instagram!
Comic-Con photos provided by: Tobie Easton