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Behind the Scenes: Attending Conventions as a Publishing Professional

I went to both San Diego Comic Con and Gen Con in Indianapolis this year, and it got me thinking about how different conventions are when you are attending as a publishing professional instead of as a fan.

There is WAY more prep work involved. Don’t get me wrong. I know how much work goes into the perfect cosplay, and how much time it takes to go through the ever-shifting schedule as a fan. I’ve done it many times. However, for a big convention like San Diego, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group had a whole team of marketing and publicity people making plans for months in order to ensure that the booth was set up properly, coordinate all the events, reserve all the hotel rooms and badges, book everyone’s travel, make sure we had enough books for all the author signings, figure out what swag and giveaways we were going to have and when—then get all that stuff to the con—and assign people to escort authors and work the signings and events and while still making sure that the booth is manned at all times! Phew.

Our schedule is much less flexible. The final master MCPG schedule for SDCC was keeping track of at least 19 staff members and 28 authors/illustrators over five days of events and was over 38 pages long. Thirty. Eight.

As a fan, while there will be some panels and events that you really, really want to get into, if you can’t make it into Hall H for one panel, you can probably find something else cool and fun to do in another room.

But as a publishing professional, we all have responsibilities. Things to do and places where we have to be at specific times. Something that can sometimes be difficult to manage at really crowded cons when the flow of traffic is being routed the wrong way! So you have to be much more aware of time and travel distances.

We become part of the entertainment. As a fan, you're there to enjoy the con, see all the booths, pick up some swag, buy some cool stuff, attend some interesting panels, and connect with your favorite authors, illustrators, actors, and other creators. And it’s our job to provide that cool stuff and those great experiences.

For example, this year at SDCC I was lucky enough to moderate a panel of fantastic authors who were talking about Fandom and Pop Culture in YA, and getting to hang out with these amazing authors and connect with a crowd of fellow fans and feel all the positive energy in the room was amazing! I also helped with several signings—mostly my job was to act as photographer—and that was great too. I love getting to watch fans finally get to connect with authors that they love, and having the chance to talk with people about books and help connect readers to new books they might love.

But despite all these differences, one thing is the same for all of us con-goers, both professionals and fans: We are all there to geek out about the things we love, and share that enthusiasm with others fans! Every professional who goes to the con will take the time to walk the show floor and find cool new stuff and talk with other fans and make connections with other creators and professionals and just enjoy being part of the whole experience. I even get to show off my cosplay!

Hope to see you there next year!

Have any questions about conventions, or publishing in general? Let us know in the comments!

Author spotlight

Holly West

Senior Editor at Swoon Reads and Feiwel & Friends. Giant geek. Dedicated fangirl. Half-Elven Rogue Cleric. Also answers to That-Girl-Who-Reads-A-Lot.

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