In May I spent a week at the RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans.
This is far more of a coincidence than it might sound. While our local chapter meets in Albuquerque, Darynda and I live at nearly opposite ends of New Mexico, which is a pretty big state. Thus, while I fly out of Albuquerque – an hour’s drive south for me – Darynda flies out of Amarillo, Texas.
However, we both connected to New Orleans via Dallas Love Field. And were on the same flights both going and coming back.
Total surprise to us both.
Thus, we ended up with Before (left) and After (right) airplane selfies.
I think it’s interesting to see the difference in our faces. The light is warmer in the After pic, because it’s morning in New Orleans, versus the harsher mid-afternoon light of Dallas in the Before. But even factoring that in, I think we both look more relaxed and happy in the After pic.
Maybe a little more tired. Possibly a few pounds heavier from all the damn beignets.
But still, I look at the photo of us after a week with our tribe, talking books, reading and writing non-stop and I see that it was good for both of us. I’ve kind of been harping on return on investment (ROI) lately, because so many people seem to want to apply that standard to the cost of attending conventions. This is more of a business approach than I typically take to writing. After all, if I only cared about making money, I could have become a stockbroker. If I can make a good living as a writer, I’ll be delighted. That is, in fact, my plan. But that’s partly because writing feeds me on other levels, too.
I can see it in my face.
We’re also hitting summer conference season. I have RomCon in June and RWA National in July. I was considering DragonCon in August, but decided against it and am waffling on World Fantasy Con in November. For me, it’s mainly a question of time commitment, though going to conventions can be pricey. A lot of writers (or their spouses!) try to parse out the return on investment (ROI) for going to conventions. They try to calculate if book sales increase in proportion to the expense of going.
This kind of math is impossible to do.
A number pre-pub writers have told me they’re not going to a convention until they have a book to sell. I usually nod understandingly, but I usually want to take them by the shoulders and shake some sense into them.
Because you don’t go to conventions to sell books.
You go to make friends.
And, not to sound like a famous advertising meme, these kind of connections are beyond price.
That’s what networking is all about. It sounds like this very dry thing, which I suppose it can be. But in truth, networking is about forming friendships, finding your tribe, developing that extended family of choice. In reality, it’s the least dry effort there is. Those friendships become your greatest support. These will be the only people in your life whose eyes don’t glaze over when you weep over your 49th rejection and who rejoice right with you when that 50th query strikes gold. They will pet you when those edits seem too difficult to contemplate and understand why it’s just SO VERY WRONG that your heroine on the cover is holding a knife. They are also your first and best cheerleaders.
Today, there’s an article in USA Today on the Happy Ever After Blog with a list of recommendations from authors for books like Fifty Shades of Grey. Two of my friends recommended my books – one said Petals and Thorns and the other cited Sapphire. I owe them big time for this and will find ways to pay it back. But I also know I don’t have to, because they’re my friends.
Beyond price, I tell you.