Planning to be at a con but not paying registration to be at said con, some call it “Bar Con-ing”, seems to be happening more and more and there are those who’ve taken the concept of Bar Con too far. Here’s the thing – Bar Con itself is a positive aspect of any con. The key consideration here is that Bar Con occurs because the con is happening. It’s a part of the con.
When you didn’t pay registration, but you’re at the con all weekend in the bar or lobby? Posting publicly in advance on your professional author pages or websites to tell readers you’ll be there and let you know if they want to buy your books? Selling books out of your bag or hotel room? Not cool.
When you’re sneaking into a panel or event to see friends? And oh, you didn’t plan to do it but you did? or it was for research? You didn’t pay registration. You’re hurting the con.
This is why we can’t have nice things, people.
Yes, there are amazing networking opportunities at a con, especially at the bar. Everyone goes to the bar eventually. And hey, if you’re not attending the con but you’ve set up some time to have drinks with an agent or editor or fellow author for networking while they’re in town? Cool. Or maybe you pick them up in the lobby and head off site for dinner. Great.
But “I’m attending… sort of” or “I’ll be at the hotel all weekend” or “come find me at the bar all weekend” and flying or driving long distances to get there? You are attending the con and not paying the con for the confluence of professionals and meeting of minds you want to take part in. The con suffers. You’ve hurt the con financially and if it deteriorates as more people like you do it, you wonder why.
You are part of the problem.
But the networking! “I need the networking and I can’t get ROI on the con itself”. I see this argument a lot from people. But did those people approach it in a constructive way? Reach out to agents and editors and industry pros who’ll be there to schedule meet up times that don’t conflict with con interests? Most of the time no. They sit at the bar where the magic happens because they might accidentally or randomly talk to an agent or editor who likes the convo so much they invite the author to submit their manuscript.
Yay! It could happen!
Yes, it could.
That agent or editor is also going to see the author doing this unprofessional thing. They will likely research the author online–because that happens when considering working with an author–and see that the author even posts about planning to do this unprofessional thing. Or the author posts after the con describing how they snuck into panels or events. Not only unprofessional but indiscreet.
The writing career is tough. I get it. I live it. There are also nuances to every situation that could argue for why what a specific person is doing is not hurting the con and is important for their life or career. Bar Con is a great thing and valuable to career building. It is.
However, people have jumped way the hell over the line in taking advantage of it –taking Bar Con too far– and then they wonder why their favorite cons deteriorate. They say they only do it to this one con because whatever but really it’s like cheating in a relationship. If they do it once, they’ll rationalize doing it again and again. I’ve seen this at anime, SFF, and romance conventions. It frustrates me when those cons go down under the weight of this sort of behavior.
I prefer to contribute to the cons important to me and support them, as opposed to cutting corners and cheating the con.
ETA: Brief recap to be clear…
- Bar Con can be good when not taken too far. Meet ups and getting together can be super valuable. Bar Con in general = GOOD.
- Sneaking into convention panels or events = BAD.
- Selling at the bar or in the lobby or out of your hotel room = Tacky as hell. And Bad.
- Camping out all weekend stalking agents and editors coming to the bar = Questionable results.
There can be times when Bar Con is great! It’s just lately, I’ve seen people take advantage to the point of extreme WTFery. There is the source of my rant.
What do you think?