As I mentioned I would a few days ago, I attended GenCon in Indianapolis this year for TeleRead, just as I did a couple of years ago. I unfortunately took sick with a case of “con crud” on Friday night, so I did not have the energy to do the blogging direct from the con I had expected. However, I conducted many interviews, and will be posting them to TeleRead over coming days.
Although GenCon is best known as a pen and paper RPG and board gaming convention, it actually has a lot for writers—especially self-published or small press writers. Apart from the Writers’ Symposium, which offers writers the chance to hone their craft and discuss writing with their peers, the GenCon Exhibition Hall (the equivalent of a smaller convention’s “dealer room”) had an entire section set aside for authors—and not a small one, either. There were at least a couple of dozen different self-published or small-press-published authors and publishers (and one who even took pains to make it clear he was with a mainstream publisher) with individual booths.
Most of these authors were veterans of many such conventions (there were a few who had just done a couple, and one who said this GenCon was her first) and said that they were an important part of the marketing and promotion work they did for their books. Because fans of fantasy and SF gaming are often also fans of the fantasy and SF genres in general, they said that this was a great way to expose their work to the tens of thousands of people who attend every year. They also liked being able to meet in person the on-line fans they already had. At least a couple of them had entirely sold out of their stock by the time I spoke to them Sunday afternoon.
And leaving aside the webcomic/graphic novel authors (whose relation to e-media is a special case), all but one of those I interviewed had their work available in e-book format as well as paper. Amazon’s CreateSpace was mentioned several times. One author gave away her e-book free on Kindle during GenCon. Most agreed that having an electronic presence was important.
Another service that was mentioned a number of times, both by the writers (including Michael Stackpole, with whom I touched base in a brief follow-up to my 2011 interview) and by a number of gaming companies I spoke to, was Kickstarter. Kickstarter, it seems, is the hot new thing when it comes to self-publishing and small-press publishing, because it helps you gauge the demand, tells you how much of a thing to make, and gives you the funding to get it done. There is a danger of “Kickstarter fatigue,” in which people get burned out on chipping in to Kickstarters, but this will probably not be as much of a danger for writers or companies who have already built a reputation for trustworthiness because people know what they’ll be getting.
I will begin transcribing and posting these interviews over the next few days. Despite the great amount of material I amassed, there was simply so much going on that just as it did in 2011 it feels like I barely even scratched the surface.
One thing is for sure: self-publishing authors who haven’t thought about this form of promotion before might want to give it some consideration. Getting a booth at the big gamer cons—GenCon, DragonCon—could be a great way to move some books and jumpstart some word-of-mouth.