GenCon Writer’s Symposium Slim on Self-Publishing Content

2014.Writers.LogoAuthor Blair MacGregor posted some great thoughts on this year’s GenCon Writer’s Symposium, which again features lackluster coverage of self-publishing in its panel and content line-up:

One presentation is called, “Self or Traditional: Pros and Cons of Each.” The other is, “Self-Publishing: Why It Works, Why It” (I’m assuming the cut-off word on the schedule is “Doesn’t).

Yes, in the year that SFWA — derided as so out-of-touch — at last opened its membership to income-earning self-published writers, the Writer’s Symposium believes the most pressing questions writers have about self-publishing is whether it’s good or bad.

There are no “Business of Self-Publishing” panels. Nothing on what tasks are involved in producing print and ebooks. Nothing on connecting with editing, art, and design professionals. Nothing at all on avoiding the numerous businesses out there intending to fleece writers. Yes, there are a couple general panels that could be of use to self-publishers. However, last year’s seemingly cross-applicable panels — such as the panel on seeking professional reviews — included direct “don’t bother if you’re self-published” references, so… yeah. Not hopeful about that.

SFWA’s change in membership requirements was a pleasant surprise, but con schedules like this one show that the traditional publishing establishment’s acceptance of self-publishing has a long way to go.

The 2015 GenCon Writers Symposium is happening this summer from July 30th to August 2nd at the Indianapolis Convention Center.  Who’s going?  Anyone having thoughts similar to Blair’s?  Anyone have any con experiences as a self-published or aspiring author they’d like to share?

6 thoughts on “GenCon Writer’s Symposium Slim on Self-Publishing Content

  1. Hi! I commented on Blair’s blog as well, but I wanted to drop you a line as well, James! Here is what I told Blair:

    Thanks for voicing your concerns. In fact we don’t really have much in the way of “Traditional Publishing” panels either this year. Each year we try different things, and the question of who publishes the book really isn’t a big one for 2015.

    As for the panels, I certainly hope you’ll check out the panel descriptions as well as the names. You’ll find that one is by an extremely successful self-published author, Maxwell Alexander Drake, in which he helps to explain that self-publishing works but he includes a healthy dose of “but it’s not magic” as well.

    The other panel is being put on by Michael J. Sullivan, another author who had success in self-publishing. The description for that panel is forthcoming, but again, it’s not a “one or the other” thing—it’s looking at all avenues.

    In addition, many of the authors speaking on the panels have self-published or are active self-publishers. In addition to the two authors mentioned above, Matt Forbeck, Richard Lee Byers, Dylan Birtolo, Bradley Beaulieu, and more have all been involved in multiple self-publishing projects.

    Most of our focus this year are on topics that apply to every author. It doesn’t really matter where or how the book gets published. We just want to help the authors make it the best book that they can!

    I’m sorry that it felt like this was a plan to avoid the topic! In fact it just wasn’t part of the schedule for normal reasons BUT a couple of authors had excellent solo panels on the topic, so I thought, “Sure! Let’s do those!”

    I do hope that in the future if you have questions, comments, or concerns, that you’ll contact us. We’re happy to talk, and with 145 panels this year, there’s always a big picture!


    Marc Tassin
    Director of the Writer’s Symposium

    P.S. I’m running a Kickstarter right now to self-publish an anthology of short stories. 🙂


    • Thanks for responding, Marc. I appreciate your comments, and I think it’s great that so many of your panelists have self-published.

      I think it’s a representation issue that Blair was responding to, honestly. Self-publishing is still treated as somewhat alternative from the perspective of the traditional publishing industry, and the con scene has been and arguably still is heavily focused on authors published by the big five publishing houses. Authors like Michael J. Sullivan are excellent examples of self-publishing success stories, but it’s important to note that Mr. Sullivan is now primarily (if not entirely) published by a major publishing company, having used his early success to attract their interest. In an era when there are numerous self-published authors (easily) outselling their traditionally published peers, it can seem a bit of an oversight when the panels at events like GenCon are dominated by authors with “big publishing” contracts.

      A great part of the Symposium’s schedule this year does seem directed at topics of interest to all writers, regardless of publishing method, but like Blair, I can’t help but notice that the “Business of Publishing” panel is heavily geared toward solving problems that are mainly of relevance to authors hoping to be published traditionally (e.g., pitches, synopses, etc.), and that other panels are comprised entirely or almost entirely of traditionally published authors.

      That said, it looks like a very interested symposium and I’ll be sorry to miss it. My comments were intended more toward the publishing industry as a whole (self- and otherwise). GenCon proved to be an interesting example of what I see as a general theme.


  2. Pingback: To Do List For Writers | jean's writing

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