Friday morning was an early start. We were giving the first panel of the day so we had to get ready early which meant donning our Carmilla Movie cosplay. This year we were exploring gender through cosplay and digging into the realm of gender-bending and crossplay. (If you are interested in this panel please reach out to us and we will happily share the presentation with you.) Being an early panel on Friday meant that fewer people were in the con so attendance was a little lower than we had be hoping for, but it still went great! If you attended we would love to hear your feedback on what you thought and what you would like to learn more about. We feel so honored to be a part of the cosplay presence at ClexaCon and love watching it grow each year.
One Day at a Time
There were many main stage panels this year, (all of which can be watched in full on ClexaCon’s YouTube channel) but the two we attended that day were One Day at a Time (ODAAT) and Hollistein. I didn’t get to see the ODAAT panel the previous year because I was in the throws of completing the above mentioned Carmilla cosplay, so I was really excited to see it this year because I had heard such wonderful things about the panel. And let me just preface with; it DID NOT disappoint! Of course Isabella Gomez was in attendance again, but this year she was joined by her counterpart Sheridan Pierce and Executive Producer Brent Miller. Isabella knew what she was getting into, but this was Sheridan’s first taste and she was so excited to be at ClexaCon.
The panel covered everything from what some of the challenges were to handling heavy topics on set to if there is still a future for the show (Brent is hopeful!) And towards the end of the hour, Brent interrupted the conversation to take a phone call from the one and only Rita Moreno who didn’t really understand what was going on but took time from her shooting schedule to thank everyone for their love and support of the show along with some witty remarks to her co-star. It was a really wonderful surprise and a fantastic way to end a main stage panel.
The next main stage panel we attended was one that we always look forward to. While there has been no new Camilla content for over a year, Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis continue to draw a huge crowd. It was moderated by the ever fabulous Dana Piccoli who has been a pillar of ClexaCon and become a celebrity in her own right at the ClexaCon scene. (P.S. you should totally check out her book Savor the Moment.) Her Hollstein panels are always a highlight of the weekend because she asks interesting questions and Elise and Natasha are comfortable with her and, therefore, are willing to doing the crazy things they know she is going to ask them to do. This year was no different and we once again were provided with some juicy scenes performed by Elise and Natasha to satiate Carmilla fans during this dry spell for content. We also got a surprise performance from Annie Briggs which really topped off one of the best panels of ClexaCon 2019. (As mentioned before, you can view all main stage panels on their YouTube channel).
@dapperdorian had some additional motivations in attending ClexaCon this year. He had just finishing up his manuscript for a lesbian Gothic novella and was beginning to query publishers. ClexaCon is a wealth of many things, one of them being LGBTQI+ friendly publishing houses. This year there were more panels dedicated to writing and querying so @dapperdorian had a full schedule the entire weekend of panels
Marketing and Selling Lesbian Fiction
There was only one panel on the first day relating to writing, but it was good. They talked about the audience for lesbian fiction being majority queer women (obviously), but went more in depth into this audience’s motives for the fiction they buy/like. Representation, of course, is center stage at this convention and this was certainly the case in this panel. They discussed how readers like to see themselves represented authentically, but positively. The ‘bury your gays’ trope is to be avoided at all costs as a queer writer. Romance is the top selling genre for this audience so having a romantic plot as the focal point of your story allows for exploration of all of those factors that make it queer fiction.
Once you’ve gotten past the hard part (i.e. getting published) getting your book into the hands of readers is the goal. In this respect the panelists emphasized the importance of online reviews. It makes sense that queer women likely trust word of mouth marketing from fellow queer women than more traditional forms. If you can get well known queer women to read your book and write about it, you’re living large! “Net Gallery is your friend,” was the key piece of advice I walked away with from this slide.
As an author you are the face of your book and, therefore, your personal brand is what sells your book. Establishing yourself as an author surprisingly follows the marketing funnel quite well. You must create a tagline which at first glance describes what you’re about while also showing off your mastery of words. Creating that killer hook may be harder than writing your novel. Whatever type of writer you are (yes even the brooding and cynical English major cliche of which ilk I belong) write in that fashion everywhere; your social media being the main one here as we’re talking about self marketing.
Networking is important in every field, but perhaps never more so than as a novelist. Getting a booth and doing the convention circuit is an essential part of the industry. There is no one who knows your book better than you so only you can talk people into buying it. Part of winning at conventions is to guest, figure out the schedule for the conventions you want to attend and submit panels when they have open submission. Other writers are your friends, if they have a blog offer to guest write for them, cross-promotion on social media is another great way to get in front of new audiences and having a variety of swag at your table if attendees aren’t interested in your genre perhaps they are interested in a writer friend of yours.
After an eventful first full day, we decided to stop for dinner on our way back to the hotel and take it easy for the night because we knew Saturday would be even crazier.