Writers are Sheep and Other Things I learned at SFContario4

I never attend a con without learning something new about the publishing industry, or at least about trends in publishing, and SFcontario4, which was held in Toronto this weekend at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, was full of surprises.

Lesson one: Author panelists attending a con should double check the schedule on the website for last minute changes. I admit that I did a good imitation of a deer in the headlights as this con approached, failing to contact the con committee to volunteer for panels until almost too late. Life is hectic. At the last minute I did e-mail frantically, and I managed to get on two panels, Indie versus Traditional Publishing and one on The Cornetto Triliogy of movies. At least that’s what I thought until I arrived at the Ramada and picked up the con schedule.

Surprise! Make that four panels. I came across my name in the program book listed for Dragons Through the Ages and Writing as an Evolving Process. The former listed me as the only panelist and the latter as the moderator. I guess the con committee took me at my word when I wrote that I was flexible.

imgresProblem is, I don’t know much about dragons in fiction, so after a quick consultation with the programming people, I moved the Indie versus Traditional Publishing panel from 9am Sunday to 4pm Saturday in the Dragon panel slot. I posted a flyer about the change all over the con, and thus my panel was well attended and a great success. Better yet, I didn’t have to get up early on Sunday morning to listen to the crickets chirp in the hotel ballroom. With lots of Saturday night parties, I find it hard to believe that anyone would have showed up, even if I’d promised free coffee and donuts.

RunningSheepLesson Two: Writers are Sheep. Two years ago at Ad Astra everyone was talking about how well Young Adult novels were selling. The demand was so great that even novels that could barely be called YA were branded as YA just to jump on the bandwagon. Things change quickly. At the Dystopian Themes in YA panel, we learned that editors, agents, and the marketplace in general are buried in YA. My advice to authors is write what you love and don’t chase a market. I know some might call me a hypocrite because my 1000 Souls novels are about vampires, but I started that series long before Twilight, and they’re definitely not paranormal romance. Now I admit that there are a lot of zombie novels out there raking it in on Amazon, so maybe the lesson here is that if you’re going to chase a market trend, indie-pub as fast as possible before the market changes. Still, if you’re in it for the long haul and don’t want to look dated next year, write what you love.

The best events of the con for me were two (different) readings by Douglas Smith from his debut novel, Wolf at the End of the World, which launched at this convention. He’s a great writer with a stack of awards for his short fiction, and this weekend I learned he’s also a great reader. Doug is definitely not one of the sheep. Writing is a passion for him, which was evident when he spoke with great emotion of the horrors of the residential school system for first nations in Canada, something his novel required him to research in depth. I picked up an e-copy of the book, and it’s next on my reading list after I finish Justin Cronin’s The Passage.

Wolf launchHere’s Doug with his book at the launch. Doug sent me a new photo because of the soft focus of the photo I took with my old iphone three. I think the lens is dusty. Did I mention I used to be a camera assistant in film and television? You’d think I’d take better care of my gear.

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Mike is the author of the 1000 Souls series that includes: Sacrifice the Living, Generation Apocalypse, and Heretics Fall. Warning: they contain violence, adventure, fast-paced action and hopeless love.