Shenanigans abound - the zenith of the 'Best Legs In Horror' debacle. l-r: Myk Pilgrim, Phil Sloman, and me, at 2019's FantasyCon.
What I'm asked more - certainly - recently, is "what are the conventions like?" More often than not, these questions are asked by newer authors, rather than publishers, editors and such. These questions are asked with genuine curiosity, at least, as far as I can tell. Maybe some trepidation. Even anxiety. I get it. After all, chances are good that these conventions won't be in your town, so you'd need to think about hotel accommodation, as well as booking travel to and from the event. How much money they'll cost. Which, in turn, comes with other considerations. Time off from the day job, childcare for families, etc. Things you might need to weigh up before you commit. I guess it comes down to: what do you want to get out of a convention?
Let's get into it.
As someone who was shy as a kid (I can remember when Mama would take me to see the doctor, and I'd sit in the waiting room, head down, swinging my legs as I sat on the chair), I can sympathise. No, I'm not like that now, but I can appreciate how it is to literally be the shy and awkward kid in the room. And I can understand why people will be asking about conventions. They've not been to a convention before. They don't know anyone there, or they don't know what to expect. They've not written anything in a while. They don't have many publishing credits to their name, if any. They're not good with people. Etc. etc. etc.
In spite of any/all of that, you still have your place in the community.
There's a truism in life that everyone starts somewhere - hell, life itself is like that. The horror community is largely supportive of their own, so rest assured that if you make it known you're a little unsure of a convention, I can pretty much guarantee that someone in the community is willing to step up to answer your questions and help lay your fears to rest. Not only that, but there'll also be those who will gladly support, encourage and uplift you, should you need it. If you can ask find the courage to ask for help or support - and it does take a level of courage to admit a shortcoming - then rest assured there are those in the community who'll gladly step up to help.
I've been asked what I get out of conventions. Which is a number of things. Such as:
1. Meeting genre peers. Yes, I'm an author - but I'm not slavish to it. Yes, there's a life outside of the writing. Family, friends, exercise, etc. That said, time with peers is good, because it's ...well, it's GOOD. It can also be good for BUSINESS, which includes:
2. New business/new connections. Invariably when I'm at a convention, I meet 'the usual suspects' as well as a making a new connect. More often than not, I WILL get new business as a result of catching up with someone face-to-face. And that's not a formal process. I might be lounging next to someone in the bar. Or, in the last case, just after a bear-hug after I caught up with them on the stall in the Dealers' Room. There's also:
3. New content. Because as much as people may buy into what I write, I don't have a book coming out every month. Conventions give you something to talk about, they get you out of the house and they also help you...
4. Keep up to date with your community. And because you get more interactive with your community, it also helps...
5. Raise your profile. Which, from the point of view of getting your name out there, selling books and making some money, is a GOOD thing.
The 'you-know-he's-gonna-start-some-shit' and 'how-the-hell-did-I-keep-the-camera-straight-when-I-was-pissing-myself-laughing' part of the day. Edge-Lit 2018. l-r: Pete Indiana Allison, Dion Winton-Polak, Ben Jones.
The bottom line here is what you, as an individual, want to get out of a convention - anything from wanting to see what they're like, to actually taking part; whether it's hosting a panel, doing a reading, etc. They're what you make them. For me, I actually get to mix business with pleasure and catch up with my community. Doesn't matter whether I meet you for the first time, or if I've known you for how many years. We can shop talk, spit game, take in a panel or two, catch some comedy. There'll probably be shenanigans. From the likes of the Best Legs In Horror debacle, and The Waitrose Incident, to the likes of the Alien: Covenant Flute Revelation (so much flute) to the Coffee Cream Wars. Where you're more likely to experience The Brick Of Laura Mauro rather than the eyes of Laura Mars. Etc. etc. etc.
Whether you've met them before or not, you get a chance to meet your community. That, alone, is worth the price of admission for me. Interacting with your peers online is nothing like actually meeting them - especially if you've not met them in real life before! Get to really know them; their tone of voice, how they carry themselves, how they, too, interact with their community. Get to really know them. Meet them and enjoy it - make those memories. Good ones.
Maybe the likes of myself and Steve Shaw took the moral high ground, or didn't get the joke, or feared recriminations, or... Shenanigans at FantasyCon, 2017.
Writing is like a lot of endeavours in life - and like life itself - in that everyone starts somewhere. This doesn't mean that everyone will get along with everyone - after all it's a community. And, like life in general, not everyone will get along. I call this out, because I have no doubt that there are some have have reservations about stepping to a particular event because so-and-so will be there. Fuck that. If YOU have business to attend to, YOU go attend to it. Easier said than done, maybe, but (again, as in life in general) some things should not stop you from doing what you want/need to do. As long as you're not a dick (and then, you have no place in the genre). Note that the the indie horror community is largely supportive and tight-knit so in the event that someone comes at you sideways, call that shit out.
I can't decide for you. But I can present the case for you. Get in where you fit in.