Ad-Astra AAR

When the only thing I didn’t like about Ad Astra was the printing snafu that messed up the locations on the mini-schedule attached to my badge, then it’s probably safe to say it was a successful con.

I was on 4 panels, went to a meet and greet, and had a reading. All of these were firsts for me, and generally went very well.

The first panel discussed the relationship between a self-publisher and their editor. This was probably the panel I contributed the most, because Kellie Hultgren has trained me well. We have worked out a good system, generally speaking, and I was able to discuss the things that have worked well for us. Beverly Bambury moderated the panel well, and I was joined by Charlotte Ashley, Jennifer Jaquith, and Ness Ricci-Thode. Jack Whyte, yes that Jack Whyte, complimented me afterwards, which was quite a thrill for me.

My second panel was not quite as smooth, and that panel talked about food and cuisine in speculative fiction. Why did it not go as smooth? I think it’s because all three of us hit our main talking points so well and quickly that, for the last 20 minutes or so, we floundered a bit looking for things to talk about. Mostly we repeated some of the things we had already said. Still, it went pretty well, just I think our panel of me, Costi Gorgu, and Erik Buchanon might have gotten boring and repetitive at the end.

My third panel covered books signings, festivals, and conventions. Basically the nuts and bolts of getting involved with these as a self-published author. I actually felt a little out of my depth here, as I don’t have a ton of experience. However, I do have experience as a moderator from academic conferences, so I claimed that role since the con did not assign that to any one person. My two co-presenters, Mark Lefebvre and Sarah WaterRaven, did a really good job and I definitely learned a number of things I’m looking forward to implementing.  I did a pretty good job of moderating. Were I to have been assigned the task ahead of time, I would have done a little better, nevertheless, we covered the topic well, filled the time, and flowed well. I’m pleased.

My fourth panel was on Sunday at 1pm, and it talked about marketing and publicity. I again felt a little out of my depth at first, but Beverly, who had moderated my first panel, did a real good job of steering things in my direction and I definitely contributed. I probably took things off the rails a bit as I talked about my wiki at www.robhowell.org/shijuren and my plans for it, but otherwise it went great. Especially since it was Sunday at 1pm and I was tired. Also on the panel were Sarah WaterRaven and MJ Moores who both gave me some nice ideas.

On Saturday, Sarah WaterRaven hosted a meet and greet of self-published authors. While the authors outnumbered the readers, I was still pleased with this event. I got to talk to a few people, sold a couple of books, and released a couple more in the drawing.

Finally, my last official involvement was on Sunday at 3pm for a reading. Four people showed up. More than I expected actually. Three other authors were there, Brandon Draga, Catherine Fitzsimmons, and Cameron Currie.

I’m not surprised that I can do a reading well, given my theater background, but I definitely need to get a better plan of attack. The part I chose to read was the part where Edward enters the Gropa Mansion in the end of A Lake Most Deep and the start of the final Agatha Christie-style get all the possible suspects together and reveal the villain scene. I like my choice in many ways, but it was a little long for me to get the most impact. However, I have a much better idea of how long it takes me to read a chunk. I’ll do better next time.

I did some other socializing in the Green Room, and a little in the Con Suite, but not much. I came down with a cold on Thursday, and I dinged my foot at Ard Chreag fighter practice on Monday, so I was pushing hard to bring the energy to my panels. I need to work on my stamina in general, but also to get full value out of my convention appearances, especially if I’m not at my best.

I need to also do a better job of planning how to sell my books at conventions. Basically, I just need to get my ducks in a row and know the plan. What are the con rules? The laws of the location? That sort of thing. Then, I need to make sure I actually mention my books are on sale when it is appropriate. I’m not good at that. I would have sold many more had I had a better plan.

I also need to make bookmarks with www.amazon.ca QR codes for Canadian conventions.

Still, it was a productive con for me. I handed out a bunch of business cards and met a lot of people. Also, I’m learning that my approach to this profession is correct, even if I haven’t sold a ton yet. I’ll be an overnight success after some years of working at this.

Thanks to Pasi Paltanen for suggesting I come up. I hope I can afford to do so next year. Also, thanks to Gary Russell and Brad Hruboska for being my extra-special cheering section on Saturday.

My next con appearance is Kansas City Planet ComicCon. I’m really excited to see how this goes, but I’ll forever get to say I’m a guest at the same con as Stan Lee, George Takei, Alan Tudyk, and Kevin Smith. And a whole bunch of others.

If you’re in the KC area, it’ll be worth your while to come. I’ll be in the Creative Alley area with books for sale. Come join me.

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