Once More, GenCon

I wrote last year about the GenCon Writer’s Symposium — the enjoyment of reconnecting with a couple folks, the exasperation over the comments and panels on self-publishing. It looks as if the latter problem will be solved by reducing any direct mention of self-publishing to two single-presenter hours.

Here’s the schedule.

One presentation is called, “Self or Traditional: Pros and Cons of Each.” The other is, “Self-Publishing: Why It Works, Why It” (I’m assuming the cut-off word on the schedule is “Doesn’t).

Yes, in the year that SFWA — derided as so out-of-touch — at last opened its membership to income-earning self-published writers, the Writer’s Symposium believes the most pressing questions writers have about self-publishing is whether it’s good or bad.

There are no “Business of Self-Publishing” panels. Nothing on what tasks are involved in producing print and ebooks. Nothing on connecting with editing, art, and design professionals. Nothing at all on avoiding the numerous businesses out there intending to fleece writers. Yes, there are a couple general panels that could be of use to self-publishers. However, last year’s seemingly cross-applicable panels — such as the panel on seeking professional reviews — included direct “don’t bother if you’re self-published” references, so… yeah. Not hopeful about that.

My experience last year wasn’t unique. Deborah Jay talks here about the Loncon panel on indie-publishing that didn’t include a single person currently self-publishing.

I'm sure the reasons are out there somewhere...
I’m sure the reasons are out there somewhere…

I’ll still be going to GenCon for at least one full day. There are folks I want to meet — Cat Rambo! Lauren Roy! In person! — and people I want to see again. A few of the craft panels look interesting. And my son might give the cosplay competition a try again this year. But as someone who knows so many writers seeking information on self-publishing, I’m disappointed at the lost opportunity to include them.

So… Here’s the thing. If you’re planning to attend GenCon and want to talk about self-publishing rather than debate its worth, let me know. I’m no huge smashing figure of great renown, but I can share resources, talk about scams and pitfalls, and discuss the business side of things.

I don’t care if it’s one person or a group of people. We’ll have a roundtable discussion, an exchange of information and experience, and it will be a good thing.


4 thoughts on “Once More, GenCon”

  1. Hi, Blair! Thanks for voicing your concerns. In fact we don’t really have much in the way of “Traditional Publishing” panels either this year. Each year we try different things, and the question of who publishes the book really isn’t a big one for 2015.

    As for the panels, I certainly hope you’ll check out the panel descriptions as well as the names. You’ll find that one is by an extremely successful self-published author, Maxwell Alexander Drake, in which he helps to explain that self-publishing works but he includes a healthy dose of “but it’s not magic” as well.

    The other panel is being put on by Michael J. Sullivan, another author who had success in self-publishing. The description for that panel is forthcoming, but again, it’s not a “one or the other” thing—it’s looking at all avenues.

    In addition, many of the authors speaking on the panels have self-published or are active self-publishers. In addition to the two authors mentioned above, Matt Forbeck, Richard Lee Byers, Dylan Birtolo, Bradley Beaulieu, and more have all been involved in multiple self-publishing projects.

    Most of our focus this year are on topics that apply to every author. It doesn’t really matter where or how the book gets published. We just want to help the authors make it the best book that they can!

    I’m sorry that it felt like this was a plan to avoid the topic! In fact it just wasn’t part of the schedule for normal reasons BUT a couple of authors had excellent solo panels on the topic, so I thought, “Sure! Let’s do those!”

    I do hope that in the future if you have questions, comments, or concerns, that you’ll contact us. We’re happy to talk, and with 145 panels this year, there’s always a big picture!


    Marc Tassin
    Director of the Writer’s Symposium

    P.S. I’m running a Kickstarter right now to self-publish an anthology of short stories. 🙂

    1. Hi, Marc! Thanks for dropping by. We did chat a couple times last year, but it’s been awhile. 🙂

      There are business topics on the schedule that could be applicable to folks self-publishing but—as with last year’s panel on seeking reviews (link in the post above)—the helpfulness will depend on the presentation. That more of the participating writers are choosing hybrid careers extending beyond one or two special projects will, no doubt, shift the tenor over time.

      There is indeed a place for panels on the basics of self-publishing, like the two specific ones currently on the schedule, just as there is a place for “What is an agent?” panels. But the conversation among many writers is ready for a tad more. It’s the difference between writers asking, “What is a query letter?” and asking, “What methods will produce a sharp query letter and synopsis?” From a self-publishing perspective, it’s the difference between asking, “Does self-publishing work?” and asking, “How do I avoid scams, find professionals, and stay within my budget?”

      The questions panels are looking to answer are a fair indication of the assumed knowledge of the writers who are expected to attend them.

      Sure, there are folks who believe self-publishing is the magic ticket. In my experience, it’s about the same percentage of folks who count on a six-figure contract and movie deal for their first trade-published novel. Most know both pathways entail a learning curve, hard work, and a high probability of rejection.

      On the craft side? Even that journey might have divergent waymarkers. Had I known two years ago what I know now, I would have done things differently myself, but I believed my craft decisions were independent of my business considerations. I’ll by applying my knowledge to future projects, though!

      So… we’re looking at the same landscape, but viewing it through different windows, at different hours, and wondering why the other person doesn’t see what we do. 🙂

      But I’ll indeed be at Symposium! It’s about the only chance I ever have to catch up with Brad, I’ll be volunteering with SFWA (hopefully to help answer questions about our new membership guidelines for self-publishing writers!), and I’m looking forward to meeting in person folks I’ve only chatted with online. There are some interesting craft panels, and I’m quite interested in hearing from Michael Sullivan.

      Best of luck with the anthology! It’s on my list of projects to back in the next couple weeks, actually, so I look forward to seeing it funded! (For those interested, here’s the link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1486366537/champions-of-aetaltis-a-heroic-fantasy-anthology?ref=nav_search )

    2. Just wanted to add one more comment:

      It doesn’t matter, from the reader’s perspective, how a book gets published. But it should be one of two primary concerns of any writer looking to build a career. Not knowing one’s business options is a quick way to lose access to the best of them.

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