There’s less than a month to go for The Bram Stoker Awards® Weekend and 25th Anniversary World Horror Convention in Atlanta at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, and although it may seem like you’ve got ample time to prepare, there are a few things you may want to get done ahead of time. Especially if you’re kind of new to the whole CON scene. (I wish someone gave me tips before I went to my first one, where I knew absolutely no one outside of one person I met online.) That was in 2011. Since then, I’ve been to a few more and enjoy going now that I know what to expect, and how and when to prepare.
First, make sure your reservations are confirmed, in your legal name, and that you have confirmation numbers. This goes for both your airline and hotel. I’ve already received two “updates” changing my flight times. Last year, I missed my early flight to Portland because their emailed “update” went straight to my spam folder. If you receive an email to check in early, do it, print it up, and highlight the times. Also, check your spam folder.
Make sure you’ve planned a way to get from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the airport on your departure date. Especially if you’re using an airport shuttle.
Have some business cards made no matter what you do for a living. You will talk to people and get to know folks in all kinds of professions in and out of writing. And when they hand you their card and tell you they’d like to talk more about your project, you’re not going to feel so hot jotting your info down on a napkin. Unless it’s a cocktail napkin and you’ve had a few drinks. But then you have to wonder if the person will remember you, or if maybe they tossed out that napkin. (Although, I’m sure there are plenty of folks who have probably had some great successes this way.) It just looks more professional, I think, to have a card.
If you’re planning on promoting yourself or your works and want to get items into the “goodie” bags for registered attendees, order that stuff now. You may want to see samples, sometimes the artwork takes time to prep and do, and sometimes they mess up, and may have to reprint. I’ve gone through this with misspelled guest of honor names on t-shirts, and have actually gotten my address wrong on business cards and had to reorder at the last minute because I didn't check them when they arrived. I paid triple the amount for overnight shipping versus the cost of the actual cards. Order promo items now: bookmarks, ad postcards, keychains, pencil toppers, pencils, t-shirts, frisbees, pens, etc. (The number required for this CON is 500, so make sure you have the right amount.) You can have the items shipped to the hotel and held for you (sometimes there's a charge), or you can bring them along.
If you’re planning on selling books at the Mass Signing, make sure you have them ordered and packed nice and neat in a box so they won’t get damaged. The first time I did a signing, I think I brought 25 books--too many. I think I sold around 15. Unless you’re really popular, have a smash hit, and/or you’ve talked to friends who will be in attendance that want to buy your book there/or your publisher has a table in the dealer’s room, don’t bring too many. If your publisher will have them available there, lucky you, you don't have to bring any. Have smaller bills available to make change. It helps if you make your prices easy, even numbers. If you have a “Square” or phone adapter credit card slide, bring it. If you don’t and plan on selling books, order one now. They’re free. You just have to download the app and set up the account. Don’t forget you’ll have to pay the HWA 20% for book sales because of their non-profit status. It goes to their hardship fund.
Start thinking about attire. Even if you never leave the hotel, a lot of walking is involved. Think comfortable shoes. And it’s not called “Hotlanta” for nothing. (Even though Atlantians hate that name.) Inside though, the hotels tend to blast the A/C, so you might want a sweater or two just in case.
If you’re going to be reading anything aloud, have it ready. Go over it a couple times, standing up, and reading out loud to make sure it sounds good. Mostly practice if you’re nervous about that kind of thing, (like me). I hate speaking in public. My pugs are already sick of listening to me, but I read my stories out loud to them as well. It actually helps me find errors I might’ve missed just by skimming over something with my eyes.
These are a few major things I came up with for now. There will be more as the time draws near. Another big help are lists. I help out with Pitch Sessions, and it’s nice to have the schedules organized, printed up, and enough copies made for all the volunteers. Even though someone else is in charge of this part, I like to remind myself to remind them not to forget.
Stay tuned for a two-weeks out post. Then maybe a day-before. If not, I hope to meet many of you there.