Sunday, November 15, 2015

Things I Learned at BizarroCon

by Lee Widener

BizarrCon is an annual writers conference/convention hosted by Eraserhead Press at the Edgefield Manor in Troutdale Oregon. The 2015 event was the eighth year, and the first time I attended. Following are some highlights of the convention for me, with some final thoughts at the end. I'm writing this several days after the con, so many things have already faded. Please don't be offended if I don't mention everything.

Pedro Proença is really tall. Really fucking tall. I'm 6' 2” and I have to crane my neck to look him in the eyes. He's also thoughtful, brave, gentle and full of wonder. He and Sarah Sindorf came all the way from Brazil to attend BizarroCon and Pedro took second place in the Showdown. Two of the most interesting conversations I had were with Pedro, and he inspired the germ of a new Bizarro book I'll write. This will go down in BizarroCon history as The Year of Pedro.
Pedro Proença is the author of New Bizarro Author Series book Benjamin

Two of my favorite moments came from author Laura Lee Bahr. Her reading at the Eraserhead Press Party was pitch perfect, and included her rendition of an old fashioned spiritual sing-along. She brought me to tears with her performance in a short film for her book “Haunt.” Sadness, loss, isolation and longing all poured from her eyes and pulled me in instantly.
Laura Lee Bahr is the author of Long Form Religious Porn. Long Form Religious Porn

The last four times I've seen Danger Slater perform, he's used an array of strange accouterments, so I'm naming him the World's First Bizarro Prop Comic. Danger won the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown with his unique brand of Bizarro comedy.
Danger Slater is the author of I Will Rot Without You

Christoph Paul really knows how to work a room. Watching him dressed in his guise as Mandy deSandra, stalking around the ballroom before the Wonderland Book Awards, making contacts, was an education in promotion. It was like Divine had been reincarnated. You're amazing, Christoph!
Christoph Paul is the author of  Slasher Camp for Nerd Dorks

So many great readings that turned me on to works I haven't had a chance to pick up yet. At Matthew Granberry's reading from Worm Job I nearly fell off my chair I was laughing so hard. Michael's book sold out so fast I didn't have a chance to buy it! Gabino Iglesias read from his new novel Zero Saints, and in just a few minutes he had me spellbound with the power of his words. Adam Millard brought the house down with his story of a man peeping on two ghosts fucking, and the description of the new sexual position “The Angry Pirate.” I wish I could have just stayed in the Ad House all weekend and listened to authors share their visions, but schedules did not permit such luxury.
Michael Granberry is the author of Wormjob
Gabino Iglesias is the author of Zero Saints  
Adam Millard is the author of Jurrasic Car Park 

I had a chomping great time at the NBAS reading block reading from my book Rock N Roll Head Case, while fellow NBAS author Michael LeSueur shoved bananas in my mouth. Thanks to Tiffany S. Candal I can share a bit of this with you!

Later in the evening, sitting on the back porch of the Ad House drinking some delicious Long Form Religious Porn Cider, Carlton Mellick III told me, “Ten years from now they'll remember that reading.” High praise from the father figure of the Bizarro community.

Finally getting to meet some people I've known for years on Facebook, such as Edmund Colell, Gabino Iglesias and David Barbee, or more recent acquaintances like Don Noble, Jim Agpalza, Alan M Clarke, my NBAS partners in crime Pedro, Anthony, Michael, and Christoph, and meet many, many new friends too numerous to mention.

The food. THE FOOD. That's enough said about that. If you were there, you know. If you weren't, I can't describe how good it was.

Bizarro films. Every single one was impressive in style, content and quality. Ranging from silly and satirical, to horrific, serious, philosophical, and many other moods, I was beyond impressed. I've attended many film festivals in my time and there's always a few clunkers, but not here. And really, isn't it worth it just to see Danger Slater locked up in a cage? Thanks to John Skipp for curating this selection.

All these things were wonderful, amazing treats, and I'll remember them always, but just as important were the more formal aspects- the workshops and panels. To the organizers of BizarroCon, I thank you. You've taught an old dog some new tricks. The most important lesson I learned can be summed up in this phrase: Bizarro is a community. What exactly does this mean? I'll make some points and then tie it all up together.

We're all creators of some kind- authors, artists, editors, publishers, musicians, filmmakers, whatever. We all want to sell our wares, but the cards are stacked against us. A figure that was presented during one panel was 7,000 new books are published every day. Did you get that? EVERY DAY. How in the world do you get someone to buy your book amidst this deluge of product?

Another statement made during the same panel was that because of this impenetrable wall of words readers don't buy books anymore. They buy AUTHORS. This makes sense to me. I can relate it to my taste in music. I don't buy songs. I buy artists. Once I find an artist I like, I stick with them. I like to go on their musical journey as they change and grow over the years. Though there are exceptions, of course, like Bobby Pickett and the Monster Mash, the chances are if you have a body of work a prospective reader can check out, you're more likely to attract that reader.

You need to stand out as somebody a reader wants to read. Hey- buy my book! Hey- BUY MY BOOK! PLEASE won't you buy my book? Somebody please buy my book. Somebody buy my fucking book. BUY MY FUCKING BOOK! NOW! We see these posts every day. Did you buy the book? Unless you knew the author already, probably not. How then, do you stand out? You need to be somebody people want to know. Well, that's nice- how do I do that? I'm going to fall back on the advice dating experts give. Look at the qualities you admire in people. For me it's generosity, intelligence, wit and being interested (yes, I meant interestED and not interestING). Develop those qualities you admire in others, in yourself.

If you work on the qualities you admire, people will be attracted to you. They'll be interested in your work. Be an expert in something. Yes, you ARE an expert in something. You have interests, don't you? If you didn't, you wouldn't be a writer. Share those interests with the world. I've always been interested in strange and offbeat music, so I run an internet radio station showcasing that music. I like weird art, so I go to art events. Share these interests on social media. Your favorite author just released a new book? Share that info. Review books you like. (Opinions differ on this. Some very knowledgeable people say writers should never review books. I don't agree. Writers NEED reviews, dammit! But I also only review books I like. I never post negative reviews.)

You need to be seen. Go to events. Introduce yourself. Talk to people. Are you shy and introverted? Get over it. I go to readings and concerts and I always try and talk to several people afterwards. Writers, musicians, and artists love to meet people who like their work.

This is all about building relationships. There are those hardliners who believe it's all about the work. The work should stand on its own, speak for itself. That's fine, if you want to be one of those writers who only sell books to their family and immediate friends. It's also about being genuine. Don't friend a hundred people on Facebook with only the intent of selling them your book. We've all met those types, haven't we? “Thank you for accepting my friend request. Here's a link to my latest book.” You delete those people immediately, don't you?

It sounds counter-intuitive but the best way to sell your book is to NOT sell your book. You're selling yourself. Be positive. Be interested AND interesting. Be interested in what others have to say, and what they are doing. Share your interests. Be engaged and engaging. Don't just click that like button- say something relevant as well. Not every time, but frequently. Respond to comments on your own posts. You see the pattern here? relationships are a two way street. You give and you get. Be generous. Give more than you get. Do it because you WANT to, not because you're expecting something in return.

Now, there are caveats and exceptions to everything I said above. If you live in a remote area, it's harder to get involved in things. You may need to create your own events. YES YOU CAN. The point is, you're creating a network around yourself, and your goals need to be long term. Your first book wasn't a best seller? If you work hard, your next one will do better. All this stuff takes time. Time away from your writing. There's no getting past that. But you want somebody to read your work, don't you? And all this time spent networking, building relationships and being a good citizen in your community will feed your psyche and make you a better writer. Way at the start of this article I mentioned talking to Pedro Proença at BizarroCon. If he and I hadn't been there together at that time I would never have gotten the idea I have for a new book.

I've thrown a lot of ideas out there. I hope it made some kind of sense. These are the things I learned at BizarroCon. At the opening ceremony Rose O'Keefe made the statement “I guarantee you 100% this will change your life.” The contrarian in me didn't want to believe her. Dammit, she was right. I learned a helluva lot in three days. Thank you Rose, and thank you Bizarro community.

If you have any comments or questions on anything I've said here, please post them below. I'll do my best to answer.

No comments:

Post a Comment