Thomm Quackenbush, author

A Smattering of Advice for Guests of Conventions

So you've been asked to be a guest at a convention. How great for you! I'm so proud. However, you might need a bit of guidance...

In regards to your own health:

  • Eat regularly and like an adult. You want to be as functional as possible at the con and the Ramune-soaked shore of Lake Anime do not make this easy. Sugar-highs and starvation are not going to allow you to enjoy yourself.
  • Bring healthy snacks. A weekend anchored to a table, consuming salty chips and fatty cookies, leaves me with a con hangover that lasts until the following Thursday. It may seem like a silly consideration, but a handful of almond will sustain you until you can get a meal. The less processed your con food, the happier you will be.
  • Sleep. You can probably get by without going to the nightly burlesque rave at 2 if the con expects you back at 10.
  • Do not guest alone if you can help it. For one, it is lonely and boring. For another, redundancy at the table gives you the freedom to take bathroom breaks and still have someone selling while you are giving panels.
  • Bring things to entertain yourself during the lulls. And yes, unless you are a Very Big Deal, there will be many lulls. I recommend an e-ink Kindle over something that flashes, makes noise, or cannot easily be paused. (If you are an author, you want to have conversations about the books you are selling and not the one you are reading, thus why I don't recommend reading someone else's book openly.)

In regards to the con-goers:

  • Be as happy to sign a book for the one person who visited you all day as you would be for the hundredth. It is not their fault you are having this experience and they shouldn't be punished.
  • When handed a present you didn't expect by one of the con-goers-and this is more likely to happen than you imagine, especially if you are a repeat guest-be gracious. They mean for the best and are probably giving you something important to them, especially if it is handmade. Even if you don't like it or don't want it, pretend you do until you are alone. (The exception of course being something uncomfortable or inappropriate. No one needs to pretend to want erotic fan art of oneself, especially when the unicorn's proportions are all wrong.)
  • Don't accept food from strangers unless it is prewrapped, particularly if you are a woman. Trust me.
  • Let the con-goers come to you. If you are shouting for their attention, you are detracting from their experience. As cool as you may think you are, the convention is not about you (even if your name in on the con's advertising). Let them have their fun.
  • Do not sexually harass the con-goers. Some of them are giddy with the freedom that comes from dressing up, being away from parents, meeting friendly strangers, and encountering guests. It is sleazy to prey upon their compromised judgment and excitement. Do not catcall them. Do not touch them inappropriately, holding that handshake or hug too long. Do not be suggestive (or overt!). If the chirpy teen in the Homestuck makeup makes a clumsy pass at you, be an adult and redirect them. You have the power in this situation. Don't abuse it. You don't want to be the factor that makes the con unsafe because I guarantee the internet will tear you apart for the next three years if you cause a scandal. Your "easy lay" can be the thing that kills a convention, to say nothing of your career and freedom and their sense of safety.

In regards to fellow guests:

  • I do not care who you are and how cool you think your work is: Be respectful of the other guests. Bursting through the doors with an inflated ego and treating people like garbage assures you will be derided and loathed.
  • This goes double for looking at other people's tables as though they are your competition instead of having a parallel experience. If you cannot browse without sneering and snorting, stay at your own table for the duration of the convention. The vendors work exceedingly hard on their crafts and do not need your haughtiness.
  • Feel free to network. While these people may be of humble means now, they are all gradually improving their careers. The beginner web cartoonist may be the "overnight sensation" in a few years and you will wish stayed in contact. At the very least, they likely are cool people.

In regards to con and its staff:

  • You are not at the convention to have fun. If that was your intention, you are on the wrong side of the table. Your job is to be a part of the con-goers' fun. You are-dare I say it?-working. You can enjoy yourself there, but don't mistake your role.
  • Do not badmouth the convention on social media, even if you think that will be the edgy thing to do. (Exceptions can be made for Dashcon and its ilk, but then stick to facts instead of accusations.)
  • Make sure your contract is squared away before you walk through the door. More than likely, the con organizers are thrilled to be working with you if you are a professional and want to make sure everything is in order. Don't try to throw new demands and clauses at them last minute. That reads as amateur and entitled. If they haven't agreed to pay for your accommodations and meals, don't ask them to once you arrive on site.
  • Suggest yourself as a guest at conventions if you are interested in going. Don't expect organizers will beat down your door. There are many hundreds of potential guests out there and they may not know you exist yet.
  • When it comes to recompense for conventions, be realistic-that means being fair to yourself. When I was first asked to be a guest at a con, I asked a previous guest and an exceedingly famous author how much they would ask. The previous guest suggested I take the venue for all they were worth, the author said I should only ask for enough to cover my expenses and time. My wife then talked me down another hundred dollars, because this venue would give me good exposure to readers who were presently unaware of me.
  • Clean up after yourself. It seems as though this ought to go without saying, but I have been guest at a few conventions where other guests vacate with their merch, leaving behind empty boxes and soda cans. Con staff is not your maid. Treat them with respect.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings.

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Works by Thomm Quackenbush


Find What You Love and Let It Kill You by Thomm Quackenbush
Pagan Standard Times: Essays on the Craft by Thomm Quackenbush
A Creature Was Stirring: A Twisted Christmas Anthology by Thomm Quackenbush
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