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

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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