There’s something I’ve been wanting to growl about since July, but I’ve been waiting to see if anyone from DCC would get back to me. So far it’s a big no, and I’m not a fan of the “respond to me or I’ll say something publicly” style follow-up because frankly, I shouldn’t have to make threats to get a response. So.
I had a generally good time at Denver Comic Con, on the scale of Comic Cons. I’ll be honest, these aren’t events I ever go to willingly as an attendee because they’re too crowded, too big, too noisy. (In general, I don’t go to any cons as an attendee anymore.) But the panels I was on were lively, the other panelists were great, and the volunteers I talked to were all excellent and helpful people. Also, I do want to say that the person who actually put the programming together and communicated with us little fish writers was fantastic and responsive.
That said, at the end of the con, I was honestly upset. And it’s about something that on its face seems like a very small matter: name tags.
As part of programming, but not an invited “celebrity guest,” I had to go collect my badge for each day I was on programming, and that badge was only good for the day. The badge just generically says, “PROGRAMMING [day]” and no name. It’s a little annoying to not get a comped membership for the entire weekend and to have to go through the badge pickup dance every freaking day (especially when badge pickup and entry is as confused as it was), but that’s a thing I can roll with.
The bigger problem was that I wasn’t given a name card at any of the panels I was on. None of the regular panelists got name cards either. We also weren’t given an opportunity and supplies to just make them ourselves. This is, frankly, bizarre.
At every con I’ve ever been to, large or small, having a little folded name card that you can put in front of yourself so people know who the hell you are is standard practice. Some cons just put the name cards in packets that are given to the moderators, so you get a fresh one at every panel. Some cons give you one name card when you pick up your badge, and it’s your responsibility to carry it with you and not lose it. But you get a name card regardless.
Except at DCC apparently.
So what this adds up to, when I have no name on my badge and no name card, is that unless someone was in the panel audience and ready to take notes at the very beginning when I introduced myself, they had no way of knowing who the hell I was. I had multiple attendees ask me or other panelists who we were for that reason. And if one person asked the question, you know there were at least ten others wondering but unwilling speak up themselves for various reasons.
It’s incredibly hard to get people to motivate and go look for your stuff. Any little thing that makes the cost of that step higher (like forcing someone to ask for your name and how to spell it instead of just being able to look at your name tag) makes it that much less likely they’ll bother to try. These on-their-face small things are actually very important.
At the end of the con, I asked about the deal with the name cards, because it was honestly a little upsetting. And I found out from a source that I completely trust (but will not be naming) that the reason we did not get name cards was that because DCC was willing to print cards for the “celebrity guest authors,” but not for the rest of us.
It’s also worth noting that we (meaning the non-guest authors) also didn’t get any kind of easily locatable presence on the website. The only place regular panelists seemed to show up on the DCC website at all was as tags in the scheduling widget. This is a definite contrast to other large cons I’ve done programming for, like Houston Comicpalooza, which puts all of their attending authors on a page with their picture and a link to a bio.
(And yes, Houston Comicpalooza is a smaller convention than DCC; this year it had around 40K attendees, which would put it at about 1/3 the size of DCC if the attendance numbers I’ve heard are correct. But we’re also not talking about a tiny mom and pop literary convention where there’s a green room maintained by a nice person with a bunch of crock pots that all writers are welcome in.)
There seems to be this feeling from DCC that small name authors just starting out are bottom feeders who deserve no courtesy and ought to be grateful that they’ve allowed us in the door to have exposure at panels. Setting aside for now the endless, exploitative plague that is expecting artists to do things “for exposure” because I’ll grant that cons are an arguably different sort of fish: Your exposure is worth absolutely nothing if it doesn’t even put my name where anyone can see it. You are treating my time and presence as if it has no value, and that’s highly insulting. It cost me money to go to DCC in real terms, and further cost me time that I would have otherwise been devoting to the editing of my next book – which is also money in my pocket.
I get that I’m no John Scalzi or Cat Valente. I’m under no illusions here. People are not coming to conventions specifically to see me. But I know that we little guppies of the publishing world are necessary to programming at these big conventions; we fill out their panels and give the programming volume that would be impossible if they relied only on their “celebrity guests.” My presence, however slight, brings value to the convention and I’ll be damned if I’ll accept disdainful treatment like I’m the one being done a favor.
I am worth at least a goddamn piece of 8.5×11″ card stock, a pinch of printer toner, and some basic fucking courtesy.