On March 31st, only sixteen days from today, I jet down the coast from Seattle to San Francisco to attend WonderCon. WonderCon is sort of a little-sister convention to the mega-event San Diego Comic-Con, and this’ll be my first time at this annual event. Organized by the same crew that took the geek culture convention to stratospheric new heights, how bad can WonderCon be? I expect it to be awesome, and will try to blog and tweet my way through it to share my experiences.

Part of the reason for me to spend the (not insignificant) money to get down there, stay in a hotel, feed myself, and so on is to walk the talk. I’ve told y’all a number of times, in one variation or another: Get thee to conventions. I meant that, and I’m going to WonderCon to prove it.

Conventions like this are great fun if all you do is show up and soak it in. If you have a book to sell, they’re still great fun but with some hard but essential work mixed in. Let’s take a look inside my convention plans, which ramp up today—perfect timing, no?

First off, why WonderCon? Well, for three main reasons: it’s geographically reasonably close to me, it’s put on by people who know what their doing, and it looks to be a pretty big event that draws in a large number of people from all over the place.

If you have a book to promote, go to whatever convention you can, starting with the ones within driving distance. I broke this rule by not going to Emerald City Comicon a couple weeks ago, but okay, when you live in a city that has lots of conventions you kinda can’t go to all of them.

That was a lame excuse. I should have gone.

Do not let me blow off PAX again.

Jabba the Hut and me (I’m the overweight bald guy ... who’s ... standing up...) at San Diego Comic-Con 2007

Anyway, if you can get to and/or stay in a city that’s farther away—if you have family there, or its one of those cities it’s relatively cheap to fly to (big hub airports like Chicago or Atlanta, or big tourist towns like Vegas) get to that one. By that logic I should go to Chicago Comic Con as well. Crap. Chicago in August?

The next tier would be where WonderCon fits in for me. Not too far away, but a big event.

Not all conventions are created equal. In some cases you can be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, as when I hit the fun but modestly attended Steamcon, or a tiny fish in a massive ocean—I’ll be at San Diego and E3 this summer, too. There are pros and cons to both, so try to get to as many as you can.

But just showing up isn’t good enough, is it? It’s not always possible to engineer it, but you should do your level best to get on the program in some capacity. I’ve written before about convention etiquette, but before you can use those skills you have to actually get to the table.

I started early, emailing the programming people at WonderCon until I worked this onto their schedule for Saturday, April 2:

6:00-7:00 The Guide to Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction: Philip Athans (Annihilation, The Watercourse Trilogy) Join former Wizards of the Coast managing editor and New York Times best-selling author Philip Athans for a spirited Q&A session for aspiring writers, with advice from his latest book, The Guide to Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction (Adams Media). Room 200/224

I can’t wait! I’ve done a version of this at Steamcon, and I thought it went very well. This time I’m dialing it up a notch and will have a little PowerPoint thing happening in the background.

At Steamcon, Seattle’s University Bookstore had a booth and brought some of my books to sell, and even asked me to sign their stock when I was done with my seminar. I was more than happy to do that. No one at WonderCon has contacted me about selling books, and I can’t support my own booth, so that means I have some work to do. Already this morning I’ve gone through the exhibitor list looking for possible vendors, and have already sent this email to three of them:


I see from their web site that you guys are going to be at Wondercon—me too!

I’m doing a seminar at 6:00 pm on Saturday based on my book The Guide to Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction. Now I’m out there looking for a friendly bookseller to bring a few copies of the book to sell at the convention. How do I talk you into doing that?

The book is published by Adams Media:


It should be available from whatever distributor you normally work with work with. Alternately, I can bring some myself for you to sell on consignment.

For more on the book, and me, check out my blog at:


If you let me know in advance that the book will be available at your booth, I’ll start Tweeting, etc. and make sure to mention you at the seminar.

See you in San Francisco!

Notice that I was chatty and friendly? I asked them to sell my books. I didn’t demand. I made no apologies for asking, either—why should I? These are people who are in the business of selling books at conventions.

I really only need one of these people to say yes. I am prepared with a number of copies of the book, which I bought at a discount from Adams, in case they want me to provide that stock. If they can order from their distributors, better for me to not have to lug them to San Francisco, but note that I am willing to do so, and made it a point to offer that option. Think of ways to make it easier for people to help you and they’re more inclined to do so. If no one responds, I’ll bring some books anyway, and figure something out on the fly. Many conventions don’t like you to just sell stuff at seminars—there are various rules and even laws/sales tax situations, etc. Be as aware of and sensitive to those things as you can. I’ll do a little research on WonderCon policies, but your best bet is to err on the side of caution and not sell stuff under the table at conventions. Note that I’ve also promised to promote the sale of that book—and why wouldn’t I?—at my seminar and via Twitter, this blog, etc. I’m looking for a partner for the weekend, and I need to be willing and able to hold up my end by driving people to that (or those) booth(s).

Those are important first steps. I have an event and I’m working on a retail partner. Is that all?


I sign books with R.A. Salvatore at Gen Con ... When was that? 2008?

Another reason I’m going to WonderCon is that, as evidenced by last week’s post right here, I’ve been drawn back into comic book fandom, so it logically follows that now I have the hankering’ to write some.

That’s right, people, I’m off to San Francisco, hat in hand, to try to drum up some work.

To that end, I’ll be working the ol’ contacts for the next couple weeks like . . . um, all the analogies that come to mind are too dirty . . . like a guy who wants to write comic books.

How to do that? Well, I have a bit of a leg up having a pretty robust “Rolodex” (when do we stop using that brand name?) that includes comic book writers, editors, and publishers, and a whole bunch of people who know them. If you’re reading this and you know I have your email address, now you won’t be surprised when I contact you looking for an introduction to someone else, or try to set up a meeting or a lunch or a groveling session.

Well, I won’t grovel. That’s unseemly. But I will pitch. So get ready for that.

I also went through the list of special guests. Do I know any of these people? Do I know anyone who knows or might know any of these people? I will exhaust all possibilities before I hit the runway at SFO.

Another trip through the exhibitor list. Which publishers are going to be there?

I’ve got my list all set.

You never know who you’re going to bump into at a convention: Wil Wheaton and me at Book Expo America. And boy am I happy I don't have to wear those black WotC shirts anymore. The logo would scrape my left nipple off by the end of the first day. That's pain.

Then there’s the next-level stuff. What does this convention do that’s different, interesting, and worth at least considering?

WonderCon is doing something they call Comic Creator Connection. I’ve never heard of this before. It’s basically speed dating but designed to put writers and artists together. Now, I already know a few artists, some of whom I know you’ve heard of, but then can you ever know too many artists? I don’t think you can. Am I too awesome for this, too cool for school, too accomplished to chat for five minutes with some wannabe? Wow. Do not ever let me think that. No, I’m not too cool to meet people who are passionate about their art. Maybe I’ll walk away with a shrug, but why go all this way to not do stuff?

There, I just talked myself into it. The Saturday session overlaps my seminar so I’ll sign up for Friday. And I’ll do that as soon as I’m done writing this. No need to put that off, especially if there’s a danger it might fill up.

I guess all this boils down to one word when it comes to conventions:


And that takes some planning, a little work, a few emails . . . but it’ll be worth it.

Keep an eye on my Twitter feed, and the April 5th edition of Fantasy Author’s Handbook to find out how I did.

And if you’re going to be there—I’ll see you in San Francisco!

Be sure to wear a flower in your hair.


—Philip Athans


P.S.: As I was writing this an email came through from San Diego. All the hotels are booked up and I may actually be screwed. I really hope I don’t have to just cancel that. Stay tuned.








About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
This entry was posted in Books, comic books, conventions, Publishing Business, Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels, SF and Fantasy Authors, transmedia, Writing, Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Pingback: PART III ERRATA & ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction | Fantasy Author's Handbook

  2. Pingback: WONDERCON 2011 | Fantasy Author's Handbook

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