This time last year, I was starting a new job and needed to focus on learning how to do that properly. The year before that, I was a graduate student at Georgia State paying for my M.A. by working as a graduate research assistant and didn't want to spend the money.
Things are a little different this year, so I'm going back to DragonCon! For those of you who aren't in the know, DragonCon is the big science fiction, fantasy, horror, comics, etc. convention in Atlanta every Labor Day weekend.
In 2008 I went to DragonCon and met representatives of the company holding the rights to the BattleTech science-fiction franchise. I spent the next year (I probably could have finished it faster) writing "Skirmish at the Vale's Edge," which tells the tale of the Clan Wolf invasion of the Oberon Confederation, and told them in person in 2009 that I'd submitted it.
(I also got a good reference from established BattleTech writer Loren Coleman, who vouched for me that unlike some other fan-fic writers, I wasn't insane and actually did believe in the rights of copyright holders.)
They ultimately accepted the story and it's now considered part of the BattleTech canon alongside books written by established authors like Michael Stackpole, Mr. Coleman, Blaine Lee Pardoe, etc.
This time around, I've got two completed novels--the post-apocalyptic steampunk Western Battle for the Wastelands and the Lovecraftian science-fiction/horror The Thing in the Woods--to pitch. I've got got two more incomplete projects, the horror/dark comedy/bizarro Little People, Big Guns (which I've blogged about under its original title Badgers vs. Midgets) and the science fiction Bloody Talons: An Oral History of the Avian War, that I can pitch as well. Even if they're not done now, I can get permission to submit them once they're done.
(Bloody Talons is the secret project I've been referencing in posts tagged with "aliens" and "alien invasion." It can be described as a cross between World War Z and Independence Day. I'm still going to keep the details close to the chest though, since it's maybe 1/3 finished.)
When I was at DragonCon in 2011 and 2012, I made contacts with publishers and pitched Battle. Although neither pitch panned out (I did get a "this is good" rejection from one publisher though), meeting representatives of publishers at conventions is a good way to get around the "no unsolicited submissions" bar. If you get permission, it's not an unsolicited submission anymore. Just be sure to reference that in the e-mail to be safe.
Furthermore, even if I don't sell anything as a result of my visit, it's a good way to network and learn. I've interacted with Michael Stackpole and Stephen Michael Stirling, both of whom are really cool guys, and learned about the craft of writing. I might acquire some interesting new books (which I could get signed, considering how many authors are there) and collectibles. And I just learned from my friend James R. Tuck that the Fire of Brazil near the hotel has a $10-12 lunch. Considering how those Brazilian steakhouses are typically $50+ I think I'll hit that up pronto.
It's going to be a fun weekend. :)