After Action Report: Legendary ConFusion

Saladine Ahmed and Howard A. Jones together

I have not yet left Detroit, but it is important to get some of this information down quickly to avoid the danger of losing these lessons. Over all Legendary ConFusion was a very good experience for me. It has been both illustrative, outlining a number of concepts I need to grasp before I can expect to grow my reader base or improve my work, and entertaining, providing me a bevy of new friends and peers.

Brian McCellen and Sam Sykes Horn Brothers


I attended a kaffeeklatsch with the convention’s Honored Fan, Mark Bernstein on Saturday. The topics of conversation went all over the place, and I sold a couple of paperbacks, but Mark said something that I felt was really important near the end of the conversation.

He was talking about the lack of diversity he has seen in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy community. And he insisted that the only way to increase diversity, of any type, was to “recognize privileged where it is taken for granted.”

That, right there, my friends is a very powerful idea. Those few words are pushing my envelope and I’m reaching for ways to integrate.

John Scalzi got a visit from the Jam Fairy

“Secret Human Systems”

Tess and I talked this morning before I headed down for coffee at the hotel restaurant. I am predisposed; think somewhat outgoing, interested, and potentially overly-enthusiastic. I really enjoy making new friends. And I know my laugh can be tad bit overbearing.

That’s my social molecular structure, and as I tumble around in this convention suspension searching for others to exchange electrons with I am reminded that my particular molecular structure is not always going to be compatible with everyone else’s.

The realization that I fit in, but not everywhere or with everyone, even at my age still sometimes takes a little time to digest. Understanding that every time a group of people get together there will be chemistry is a concept I’m going to take away from this convention.

That said, I’ve made some really good connections this weekend. They are connections I hope  reinforce with additional mixing and perhaps some distillation. And perhaps the happiest news in this chemical metaphor is that knowledge that the asshole molecules tend to precipitate out over time.

Wesley Chu and Your’s Truly


Something I did not know. Turns out most conventions actually need panelists. They take volunteers. Happily.

For an Indie, here is an excellent tool to improve your exposure. Beyond the reddit AMA question session, I did not sit on any panels this time around, but my eyes are opened and I know that for future conventions that I plan to attend I will put my name out there.

I will also bring along paper copies of my book so that attendees can associate the visage with the cover. So watch out future conventions, I’m going to volunteer.

Free Books

I had a great conversation this afternoon with a group of authors. We were talking about technique, awards, and a fair number of “job” related topics, when the topic of freebies came up. In case you are unaware of what this means it is, often but not always, Indie authors who write and then give away free copies of their work in order to generate sales later. The idea is that the author will gain attention, move up the sales lists, get more eyes-on for future releases, and, if lucky, leverage some small quantity of words to sell many more.

I don’t recall who pointed this out, but it was an astute observation. One that I feel needs some repeating. The idea was the discovery that many GroupOn merchants have made. That customers follow the discounts, not the vendor.

“Free” books aren’t actually free. There are imprint costs, editing, covers, and many more requirements that must be addressed before the work can even be entered into the market. And this does not consider the labor of the author involved. For an author recuperate these costs the accounting must include the origination and distribution costs of the original against the revenue generated by the second and subsequent books. Payback in this case takes time and many, many more unit sales.

I don’t disagree, sometimes this ploy works. The author gives away book X, gains some readers, and then publishes book Y with much better sales numbers. But this description is a very narrow view of what is a much larger problem. It does not consider the implications to the market of all the authors who copy-cat this marketing ploy and are ultimately unsuccessful. It does not consider how the market might be influenced by the cultivation of a particular subset of readers/consumers that now expect only-free reads. It fails to consider the implications impacting the quality of the works involved, the often poor impression those works leave with their readers, and the pressures this kind of market puts on all authors regardless of their participation in this ploy.

The ramifications to this Indie are pretty clear. Offering free books, even for a limited period of time, cheapens every one’s work. Authors should see this as a social signal. By offering free books (not ARCs or demo reads, but free or perma-free books after publication) you are saying to your peers that you don’t give two shits about their work. When you make the decision to give your work away you’re also telling them that you’re willing to break their business, and ultimately the market we all coexist within, to gain some small advantage.

Amy Sundberg and Some Guy at ConFusion

Holy Poo Sticks!

Oh Poop!

So the last time I attended a scifi convention was in the early 90’s. I went with a bunch of friends, coming down from the little mountain town where I attended college, and we carpooled in a VW bus that blew a spark plug out of the block somewhere on the backside of Kenosha Pass (IIRC).  Ostensibly I went there to play games, and I had a great time.

But I just signed up for my first Convention in more than twenty years. I’m going to attend Legendary ConFusion in Detroit. There are a couple of authors going that I’d really like to meet face-to-face and I’m also hoping that to get some learn’in.

Last night, laying in bed with a strained back, I realized how little I actually know about this business. I feel like a blind sword fighter, constantly stabbing in the dark. You know you have struck meat when you feel that squishy, yielding flesh under your blade, but most of the time you just end up sending your cutlass uselessly zipping through the air.

There are a number of symposium that I want to attend, but in particular, Tobias Buckell is sitting on this panel.

Becoming a working writer with Tobias Buckell

12pm Sunday – Rotunda
In this intimate Q&A Tobias talks openly about strategies, tips, and what it took to make it out of hobby and into career, as well as answers questions readers might have about his work)

So not only has it been a long time since I’ve been to a Con, but it was under much different circumstances. I feel that the stakes are higher this go around and the intent is certainly to learn the ropes of this business a little better (or to stick with my earlier metaphor, lift the veil).

In the mean time, I’ve got the pre-trip-with-a-purpose jitters. It helps that my first good review came in on Amazon yesterday. But the pucker-factor needle is still hitting “oh poop” tick way over on the far side of the gauge.

The Big Red Buckle, for those with an interest in Colonial-Mars-genre science fiction, or paragliding, or just about anyone else with a pulse and an imagination, is a compelling page -turner. Well beyond short story length, more of a lean and taut novella, it’s a great late-evening read that still won’t take all night. Thyer’s characters, even those whose physical characteristics differ from birth in Mars’ low gravity, are ultimately human at heart. I look forward to more from this author!

I guess now I need an appearance page. I’m going to bring a couple of print copies of The Big Red Buckle along with me. If you’re going to be there, let me know, I’d love to meet some new faces and other writers.