Gen Con is in full swing once more in Indianapolis, and so is one of its lesser-known but still intriguing areas. The Authors’ Avenue, an adjunct to the art show, has several dozen tables manned by authors and publishers of all sorts. I see many of the same people show up at these tables year over year, so it’s without a doubt that they find attending this event a valuable proposition.

I spoke to long-time Gen Con attendee C.S. Marks, whose advertising-wrapped van I’ve previously covered for TeleRead, about how the convention was working out for her. She said that she usually just about broke even or made a little money, but the convention was most valuable to her as a way to connect with readers. She noted that there is a “long tail” effect that isn’t immediately visible, as readers who discover her at the show go home and order more books from Amazon, or tell their friends and they order books.

She said she let the art sell her books rather than trying a hard-sell, and that’s no exaggeration—as I was speaking to her, a couple of con-goers wandered up, attracted by the subtle illumination on the face of the painting behind her (courtesy of a cleverly-positioned flashlight) which can be seen for some way down the exhibit hall. She chatted amiably with them for a while, and by the time I was ready to move on to another table they had decided to buy a whole set of her books!

The Little Guardians table at Gen Con
The Little Guardians table at Gen Con

I also stopped by the table of Ed Cho and Lee Charolais, the author and artist of the Little Guardians comics, who told me that this was the first year they were at Gen Con as actual published authors. Previously, they had been self-published, but this year they were picked up by Scout Comics, who has been bringing out trade paperback collections of their comic issues. They’re selling a collected volume of the first six issues, Trial by Spirit Fire, for $18, a $6 savings over the $4 individual price of each issue. It’s available through Diamond, but isn’t on Amazon; when I asked them, they said that Scout doesn’t distribute to Amazon, just to comics stores. They expect digital versions of the comics to be up on Comixology soon, though.

Nathan Marchand sells his books at Gen Con
Nathan Marchand sells his books at Gen Con

A few tables up, author Nathan Marchand was selling a few SF and fantasy titles. He’d already sold out of his military SF title, but had a few more of that one in his car to put out tomorrow. Nathan is another long-term Gen Con attendee, having been coming here since 2012.

For self-publishing and small-press authors, this can be a great way to reach out and get in touch with some fraction of the 60,000+ gamers who wander through these halls. And for gamers who also like to read, this makes Gen Con even more worth visiting.

Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary

Of course, small press authors aren’t the only reasons to come. Well-known webcomic artists Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary and Phil Foglio of Girl Genius were also around. This convention also had Mercedes Lackey, Terry Brooks, and the two authors who share the James S.A. Corey pseudonym in attendance—though unfortunately Lackey was taken ill last night and briefly hospitalized, apparently as a result of paint fumes in her newly-renovated hotel room. Also present were representatives of a number of publishers, including Jim Minz with whom I conducted a brief interview today (I’ll try to have it up on the site within a few days). The Writers Symposium also provides a lot of interesting and useful panels, with experienced writers offering advice to newer writers on some of the mechanics of writing and publishing.

Phil Foglio of Girl Genius

Gen Con is a lot more than just a gaming convention; it can provide a great opportunity for networking, making sales, and meeting fans as well. If you weren’t here this year, you might want to consider attending next year.

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