The weekend before last, I got the chance to volunteer at the World Horror Conference, which came to Atlanta this year. Although I've been to DragonCon and AnachroCon multiple times, this is the first time I've attended a conference dedicated solely to horror and the first time I've worked as a volunteer in that context. And I got a gig as a panel monitor, which meant I could watch panels so long as I kept all the speakers hydrated, kept the room clean, etc.
Not only did I get to see some interesting panels, but I got to make some very useful contacts. I talked with representatives from a small press (I'm not going to name said press at the moment, for reasons you will see) and pitched them The Thing in the Woods. They were interested, and one of the relevant editors gave me what looks like a personal e-mail address to send it to. I spent the last week editing the book (mostly for style and some minor grammatical quibbles) and put it in the press's preferred format and submitted it to all the appropriate e-mail addresses last Saturday. The press's response time is within 90 days, with six months on the outside. Now all that there is to do is wait and keep my fingers crossed.
The conference also yielded an unexpected bonus. I attended pitch sessions hoping to snag a spot with one press I was interested in as a possible market for Thing. Instead I was seated with another press, one that puts out horror that's too gruesome for me and for whom Thing would not be a good project. So on a whim I decided to pitch my on-hiatus bizarro story Little People, Big Guns, which features a group of little people making war on a pack of badgers that killed one of their own, to another imprint by the same company. They were really impressed, which one of them said was the most entertaining pitch they'd heard all day. However, they said it sounded like Act I rather than a full novel. Their rule is to keep the insanity escalating. So on the fly I came up with Act II and Act III, the former of which involves the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (which would explain one character's strange behavior in Act I) and the latter of which involves a gigantic bear-sized badger and said character missing a foot and with a literal ax to grind.
They liked the plot, and so now I've got another project to write. Considering how I originally intended for this to be a short story (or at most a novella) I'd self-publish on Amazon for the Kindle, the possibility that this could be a published novel (albeit probably a short one) is a major boon.
Finally, I met a cool guy who's a voice-actor. Given my earlier dabbling with the idea of making "I am the Wendigo" into an audio book, this could be a really useful connection. I've got a lot going on right now, but I've definitely saved his business card.
So let this be a lesson to all aspiring writers--if you want to make good contacts, network, and pitch, volunteering at conferences is one way to do it. However, you should take pains not to be obnoxious or in it for yourself. Remember, volunteering is work, and you should put that first. Don't worry, there'll be plenty of time for the stuff you want to do as well.
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