I Have Thoughts… (On Some Comic Con Panels About Publishing)

July 3rd, 2012

I’m gearing up for San Diego Comic Con, which starts next week, the famed Nerd Prom. There’s so much to be excited for! A Firefly 10th Anniversary panel! A look at what’s ahead for the Mass Effect universe! A whole lot of Geek & Sundry funtimes! Not to mention awesome signings and panels with Stephanie Perkins, Ransom Riggs, Tom Sniegoski, and our own erstwhile Rexroth, aka Webmonkey, Doyce Testerman.

But in looking over the full programming schedule, I came across a couple of oddball panels that made me do a full-on head tilt. For instance, there are several panels by an “Award-winning author” on writing and the publishing industry that had me googling him, wondering how a publishing professional like myself with 17 years of industry experience could not know this guy who’s such an expert in my field. And yet… his publishing experience, as far as I can tell, is limited to an indie press that seems to be run by himself, with his books either their only publications or close to it. I’m not the only one that’s noticed this seems skeevy, either.

Lest you think I’m picking on one guy, there’s another panel by “America’s youngest multiple award-winning authors” that aims to impart to those who attend “the process from creating your [novel] idea to getting it published”. Again, their chosen route to publication is with a company whose website address redirects to a page for the series by the aforementioned authors. A Google search again only brings up the single book series these panelists are promoting.

At a con with sizable attendance by the major New York publishers, plus numerous other legitimate houses that aren’t run out of a single author’s home office, in a town that boasts multiple literary agencies with respectable sales and talented, well-known stables of authors, this seems disingenuous at best, and purposely misleading at worst. How can someone with no experience in the publishing industry speak to its strengths and weaknesses? How can they provide truly useful information to the aspiring authors who see an official “Comic Con How-To” panel on the schedule, and blindly trust that the speaker can provide them with roadmaps to the publication that most of them likely hope for?

My longtime readers know I think self-publishing can be a great route to publication for many authors, but I have to call bullshit on panels like these that don’t admit what they’re actually promoting. If Comic Con only presented these panels with ones that also offered the expert panelists you find at any of the dozens if not hundreds of writers conferences held annually around the country! Yes, most of the people at Comic Con are going for comics and the nerd nirvana promised by the major Hollywood and game studios, but with a growing rise in interest in book publishing, and as I said, attendance by most of the major New York houses and numerous traditionally-published author panels and signings, there’s no reason it couldn’t also be a destination for writers looking for real advice from real publishing professionals. Heck, I’ve got some open time slots in my schedule — come ask me! Maybe next year I’ll put a proper panel together. Who’s with me?

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8 Responses to “I Have Thoughts… (On Some Comic Con Panels About Publishing)”

  1. @meoswell Says:

    The create your own press to publish your materials is a long standing model in comic books – Studio Foglio, Exhibit A Press, Zap Comix, just to name a couple. It doesn't mean they are good, but often the only way to get published was to pay to have them printed yourself. That was the whole point of the Indie Press area of the Con. Things have changed in comics to the point that online comics make some of the costs more manageable, so fewer folks go the self published print route. (but there will still be plenty there)
    Regarding his credentials, he may or may not be any good, that I can't say. And I've been to not so good panels at the con, although I don't go to many of the 'how to' type. I know you feel that you do a service for the authors you represent (I'm not suggesting otherwise), but you may feel like a gatekeeper to him. And it's heart, the Con is still somewhat anti-establishment; that may well be how he got booked.

  2. Raewyn Says:

    I would love to see a panel by you. In Australia we have a convention for pop culture (comicon is only just spreading here) called Supanova and the main reason I go is to see the writers. I spent one year following one particular writer around for her panels and courses. Having established writers to talk to is a real bonus for me. Having writers like you mentioned seems to short change me

  3. DaphneUn Says:

    Hi Mary – I'm not at all suggesting I would have anything to say on the topic of comic book publishing, but once you get into novel publishing, there's a lot more worthy discussing than just the self-published route. And if the panel description doesn't mention that the author is self-published, then I think they're doing a disservice to their community by promoting it as a "How To" guide to book publishing.

  4. Kate Says:

    I do not know much about how Comic Con is put together but I too was disappointed when the descriptions of these panels didn't seem to match up with their titles.

    But, I'm pretty sure that people in charge of putting panels together do not have to have any credentials in the field or anything. I know of one person who put together a rather successful panel that was a Fandom panel and then the next year someone asked her to put together a panel for something completely different. As far as I can tell she had little to know knowledge of the new area in which she was putting together a panel, she simply had connections to Comic Con.

    All of this knowledge is second hand, though, so I'm not even sure of it's reliability. But I don't for so large a convention, I don't think it takes much to be put in charge of putting together panels.

    As far as the panel with "america's youngest award winning authors," Sunday is traditionally Kids Day at the convention and, though I agree with you about the misleading, I do think this is a, "How to Publish" panel aimed at very young people. Thus they wanted it to be about young people. I believe they had the same panel last year.

  5. Elizabeth Briggs Says:

    This drives me crazy and it has been going on for a few years. I don't know how these people get panels, but I'm worried what kind of advice they are giving out. I think a real publishing panel of agents and editors would be amazing.

  6. @Sarah_Nicolas Says:

    I had a similar experience at the (admittedly much smaller) MegaCon recently. One of the sessions was basically a self-pubbed author telling people he could "help them get published." I was very disappointed.

  7. kt literary » Blog Archive » So how do we fix it? Says:

    [...] On Tuesday, I posted about the several seminars listed as part of Comic-Con’s official programming that I felt were disingenuous attempts by self-published authors to push their brand of publishing on the masses, without providing a true industry perspective. And I offered to submit a panel of my own, though things being as they are, that’s not likely to happen this year. Which is fine! It gives us almost a year to get ready for 2013′s Comic-Con. [...]

  8. kt literary » Blog Archive » One Week to ComicCon! Says:

    [...] of you who’ve been long-time readers may remember my posts last year about the Comic Con panels that were presented as part of the How-To Publishing track, [...]

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