I attended Archon38 this past weekend. Archon is the annual Science Fiction convention for the greater St. Louis area. The St. Louis metropolitan area is one of those oddball border communities where half the population lives on one side of the state line and the other half on the other. This explains why while Archon is actually held in Collinsville, Illinois, it is still considered a St. Louis convention and is hosted by St. Louis Science Fiction, Ltd. Unfortunately, the state line in this instance happens to be the Mississippi River, one of the biggest rivers in the world, which means if you live on the Missouri side one has to traverse a major bridge, and thus a major bottleneck.

I worried as I approached the Polar Street Bridge that I’d end up in a major backup, but I zipped right across, and was quickly on my way to Collinsville. I took this as a good omen. Boy was I right.

One of the prime motivating factors for me to go to Archon this year was that I learned late in the game that one of my favorite people was going to be a guest/panelist – none other that Genevieve Ching, who writes under the names G. P. Ching for young adult and Genevieve Jack for more mature readers.

A line at the registration table.

Waiting to register

The only snag in the day was registration. The process was unduly long, but it gave me a chance to chat with a few folks in the line about conventions past, Archons in particular. The registration desk was using those cube things for credit cards, and the wireless signal kept dropping out on them. Finally, to the applause of many, they strung two big Ethernet cables across the hallway and hardwired their connection to get things moving along. Hopefully they’ll do that from the start next year as signals are always bad in convention halls.

Once registered I set out to find Genevieve. Genevieve was one of the early participants in #FridayFlash, and I’ve been following her online for years. I simply could not pass up the opportunity to meet her in person. I found her display right off, but alas, she was not there – probably doing a panel.

So I ducked into the dealer’s room to visit my friend and potter extraordinaire, Christine Collins of Mud Cat Studio. She does wonderful work in clay and has also branched out into jewelry. Don’t tell my girls, but I picked up these lovelies from Chris. Santa may just leave them under the tree.

Two ceramic cups, one with a fairy, one with a winged cat.

Cups by Christine Collins

After my visit with Chris I went out and found Genevieve at her booth along with her husband, Aaron. I introduced myself and generally swooned in her awesomeness. She really is as wonderful in person as online, and Aaron is every bit as nice.

Genevieve Ching at her table.

The best pro table at the Con.

I found out that she had a panel coming up in an hour or so on Publishing In the Digital Age, so I made a point of finding the room before woofing down a quick lunch. ($8 for a pretzel and a soda – ouch!)

I only attended two panels this year: Publishing In the Digital Age, and Medical Nano Technology: Were are My Nanobots? As I get older I find I don’t have the stamina to work a convention like I used to. I’ve decided that next year I’m going to preregister and get a hotel room for Friday and Saturday night so I can do more but still rest up on demand.

Publishing In the Digital Age was a terrific panel discussion moderated by Dan Koboldt with Trudy Myers and Genevieve as his other panelists. It’s always nice when the full panel shows up. This panel discussion was worth the entire price of admission all by itself. The authors were very forthcoming on how to handle the business end (as to the production end) of being a self-published author. Important things I learned included:

  • hire a good cover artist – without a good book cover you’re dead
    - you can get a high quality book cover design for as little as $100
  • hire a good (emphasis on good) line editor
    - a good line editor might run you around $1200 for a manuscript of 60-80K words
  • hire a good developmental editor
    - a good developmental editor might run you around $800, for similar sized manuscripts
  • if piracy becomes a problem, hire a firm to hunt them down and issue C&D orders
    - that can run you around $45/month
  • free helps sell
    - if you have a series, consider giving the first title away once the second title is available
  • with the advent of ereaders and cell phone apps novella’s are back
    - be sure readers are fully aware it is a short work or you may antagonize them
  • put out a newsletter
    - shoot for around 1,000 subscribers, realizing of course that it will take some time to achieve that
  • churn is good – strive to have several new releases a year
    - it maintains reader interest in you as a writer
  • write (see churn, above)
The three member panel for publishing in the digital age.

Panel – Publishing in the Digital Age

I cannot emphasis those last two enough. Genevieve told us that she tries to write 2,000 words a day. 2000 words a day! When editing she shoots for three chapters a day. She has produced nine novels since starting in 2011. She is incredibly productive.

I have always wondered how much financial investment it takes to get a manuscript into shape for publication. From my notes above one can expect to put out something in the neighborhood of $2100 just to get a book in print. Of course some of those costs might get skipped for the first book (at the cost of quality), but once it starts generating revenue use that money to a) fix the first book, and b) get the successive books in better shape before they go out the door.

Henry Stratman seated on stage discussing nanobots in medicine.

Panel – Where Are My Nanobots?

The other panel I attended was Medical Nano Technology: Where are My Nanobots, with a panel of one – Henry Stratman. I always try to catch Stratman as he is a very dynamic speaker and exudes enthusiasm for his topic, which is usually real science in nature. While he did not disappoint me this year I can’t share any of my notes with you since I lost my pen between panels. But if you enjoy panel discussions that are of the science fact variety, I heartily recommend you try to catch H. G. Stratman at every opportunity.

After Henry’s panel I debated the pros and cons of staying or going. There were still things worth doing but I’d have to work dinner in there somewhere. At 8 bucks for a pretzel and soda I shuddered at the thought of what real food would cost me at the convention center, and going out to eat alone does not appeal to me in the least. I decided to chuck it in. My mission was accomplished, I had met Genevieve Ching in person. Life is good.

Me and Gen in front of her table.

Me and Gen in front of her table.

There is a new bridge across the Mississippi River, complete with new highway ramps. I had not been to Illinois since it opened. So, of course, I got lost on my way home.


The pregnant Klingon was making me nervous, the way she kept looking over at me every time her young one complained about being hungry. Damn, how did I get separated from my group – you know, safety in numbers. When his growls reached a crescendo she finally made her move, closing on me like a cat on a mouse.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Would you mind watching my Paulie here for a few seconds? I need to get him some pretzels before he starts eating things off the floor.”

“Uh…” Where was Cyndi when I really needed her?

“Really, I can’t take my eyes off him for a sec. Just while I use the vending machine?”

Before I could answer she plopped him in my lap and stepped the ten feet away to the snack machines. As she started depositing coins she looked back at me. “Can I get you a Coke while I’m at it?”

“I’m good,” I said. But I wasn’t. I could feel a warm wetness spreading from Paulie’s bottom and begin to trickle down my leg. “Just fine.”
© 2012 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.

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