1 October 2016

Should Writers Attend Conferences & Conventions?

logo of the BFS 2016 FantasyCon
For a host of reasons it's been a few years since I attended any writers' conferences. Last weekend I broke my duck by attending FantasyCon-by-the-Sea in Scarborough, a full-on three-day event. To say that it was flabbergasting is putting it mildly.

The British Fantasy Society has been going since the 1970s. I was a member a fair few years ago and even gained the enormous kudos of having a short story printed in one of its magazines. This year I was nudged into rejoining by an author acquaintance. After all, I’m working on the Torc of Moonlight trilogy, and in the interim have published a Horror novelette and novella. I’ve even a ‘Fantabble’ coming out in the 666 anthology to be published at the end of this month. With Scarborough a mere hour away how could I resist FantasyCon?

The venue was the enormous hotel The Grand, a Grade II listed building dating from 1867. It is shaped in a ‘V’ to honour Queen Victoria, and is built around the theme of Time – a fascination in itself for a Fantasy or SteamPunk writer, if only I’d had, er, time to explore. It has certainly seen better days, but not even its two ornate ballrooms and various adjoining rooms were enough to swallow the event. The Royal close by, itself dating from 1830, had its own ballroom and coffee shop pressed into action. They were needed.

Ignoring the karaoke, the disco, and the ‘bingo’ which I was told had a huge number of books as prizes, on offer were:
  • 30 panels
  • 16 book launch events
  •   8 Guest of Honour interviews
  • 11 Masterclasses
  •   8 Agent/Editor sessions
  • 33 double-author readings
Knit into that lot The David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy, The FantasyCon Banquet, and The British Fantasy Awards, and there was hardly time to sleep, never mind eat breakfast.

Of particular interest were the dealer tables, mostly of small presses, some recent start-ups like Luna Press, others, such as PS Publishing, with a long and illustrious track record of titles and awards. Big names from both sides of the Atlantic mingled in the bars, and if attendees set their sights on speaking with someone in particular, it was certainly doable. Everyone I met was giving of their time and experience.

So what did I learn?
  • Indie publishing is not frowned upon by agents or publishers
  • Fantasy and Horror, and their sub-genres, have markets outside the mainstream
  • Being accepted in award-winning anthologies and magazines helps gain an author notice
  • Podcasts need to be investigated
  • My breadth of reading is nowhere near wide enough
This latter failing was ably fed by both the dealer tables (I bought nine books) and the goody bag presented upon registration which, as well as a pen and a stick of rock (it even has FantasyCon lettered through its centre, and no, I haven't eaten it yet), contained a hardback doorstopper of a novel, a hardback novella, a paperback novel, numerous chapbooks and fliers, and the FantasyCon brochure, itself a 102 page A4 all-colour magazine of information, introductions to Guests of Honour, and samples of their fiction. This is no way to get my own novel finished.

FantasyCon 2017 will be held in Peterborough 29 Sept - 01 Oct. If you're interested in the Fantasy genres and live in the UK, I suggest you mark your calendar.


  1. Interesting article. I'll be at FantastiCon in November (as I was last year), nice to mingle with other authors, most (but not all), published by the Hosts Dan and Gabi Grubb of Fantastic Books. This year I'll have my eldest daughter (15) with me, herself becoming a Con goer and giving me a chance to relive my youth.

    I haven't been to any writer focused events for many years - but perhaps after this year's FC2016 and my Panel experience and possibly a reading from 666, I might think about it a bit more...

    1. Hi John, thanks for dropping by and sharing your views. I'm very much of the same mind. We need to reach out to our potential readers, and also to widen our interests. I was at ComicCon in Bridlington this afternoon: an interesting variation. Lots of Cosplayers and... 'comics', though graphic novellas might be a more true description. I also found Dan & Gabbi there going down a storm by opening a portal to the world of VR with Occulus Rift. Let's hope some of them make it to FantastiCon in November. See you there!