The question came up on Twitter today: Are cons worth the time and money?

Opinionated though I am, it’s not an easy question to answer. So here’s a quickie list of the pros and cons garnered from a scarce four years of con-going experience:

Con Pros

1) Networking. I’ve met lifelong friends through Cons. I’ve also made excellent business contacts, both in the writing business and otherwise. I’ve met a lot of really excellent people.

2) Fun. If it’s a good con, and you find your groove we’re talking Disnelyand-or-better level fun, not going-to-the-movies-because-you’re-bored level fun.

3) Vacation. This is different from fun. You can have fun at home. But a vacation is a break from reality, and Cons are definitely a place where many of the normal rules of reality don’t apply (but politeness rules do still apply: don’t be an asshole). It’s good to shake up your picture of the world from time to time, and a good con will do that.

4) Education. A well-run con will have programming in which you’ll learn new skills, get exposed to new ideas, and walk away with a slightly swelled brain. From the learning, not the cocaine.

5) Writing time. I’ve finished two novels and written several short pieces at cons.

6) Sex. If you’re looking for it, you can find it.

Con Cons

1) Expensive. Anywhere from $200 to $1000 for the weekend, depending on travel, hotel, food, and how creative you are with budgeting and buddying up. That doesn’t even get in to what you can spend in the dealer’s room.

2) Culture shock. If you haven’t been to one before, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see or hear things that offend you. Your boundaries are going to get stretched too. No matter how laid back you are, someone’s gonna push your boundaries. This is more interpersonal shock than culture shock, but if you don’t enjoy personal stretching, this could be a minor negative.

3) Con Crud. You’ll get sick–cons are petri dishes. Plan a couple days for recovery. Also, you know that thing called “sleep?” You won’t get any.

4) Sex. If you’re not looking for it, it can still find you. And follow you around. And not take anything but “you’re creeping me out, go away” for an answer.

5) Bad cons. Some cons just suck. They’ve been run by the same people for too long. They’re afraid of being edgy. They’re insular. For whatever reason, they’ve lost their spark. When this happens, it’s *depressing* as well as a waste of time and money. It’s hard to know when you’re going to run into one of these, but you’ll run into ’em.

6) Con fatigue. If you love cons, you’ll go through parts of your life when all the wonderful things about cons just aren’t enough to be worth the bother. Maybe you’re a writer at a point in your career where the panels are too elementary but you’re not ready for high-level networking. Maybe you’re transitioning from fan to pro. Maybe there’s a cultural divergence, and you just don’t fit at your local con. Maybe you’ve had a death in the family and, this year, the whole thing seems stupid. Or, maybe you’ve just gotten all you can out of the con experience and it’s time to call it quits for a few years, or forever.

— — — — —

Those are the things to weigh. A great con can literally be life-changing, just by virtue of the people you meet. A bad con is just annoying and will make you feel surly and stupid. Most are somewhere in between.

Anyone have comments or opinions on cons? Chime in in the comments!


  1. Thank you. I’m the one who asked, and Gail was kind enough to put out the call. Transitioning from fan to pro–that’s where I am, exactly. Orycon was my first con (actually, it’s the only one I go to) as a pro with a book out. This helps. 🙂

  2. Melinsa —

    You’re most welcome. I also was at OryCon this year–spent most of it in the bar writing stories. The transition period can be pretty weird, having a foot in each world and fitting in neither.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Balticon this year was my first fan convention ever. I’d avoided cons for a long time because of the various cons you list above. And the rumors of hygiene challenged con-goes that one frequently hears.

    A big part of why I went was so I could meet folks I’d only met online. I was half afraid that I’d end up lampreying onto two or three people I knew and driving them nuts by being around all the time. I think I managed to avoid that. I met so many people who were so welcoming, it seemed like if I ever wanted company, all I had to do was wander around the halls a bit.

    And it didn’t suck that I got to have dinner with one of the guests of honor on the first evening. 😀

    I know we didn’t talk much at Balticon, but I’m glad I met you, and I hope I’ll see you again next year. This time I’ll bring my own fedora.


  4. This is a great blog, Dan! I couldn’t agree more. Doc I think Balticon is rather special. I’m afraid is has spoiled small cons for me forever. They are all held up to it and often fail by comparison.

  5. I am a con goer, and I also set up cons. Your right, a LOT of cons are extremely expensive, and then theres the ones (like most of the Scifi cons) that are extremely affordable. and the hygiene? *shudder* but you learn to give them a wide berth.

    I to did BaltiCon this year, and it was ok, but no where NEAR a favorite. Would I do it again? maybe cuz right now its close. I much prefer ConTEXT, MarCon and AlbaCon to BaltiCon.

    Now, this year I was at 23 cons, and so many offer SO much good stuff, really research the cons you are interested in. Its the only way to go to the ones that will the be the best bang for your buck.

    Now, on the Con organizer side of it, I was DAMN TIRED of all the extremely expensive cons out there (Especially in romance) and that’s why I developed Authors After Dark ( its a con that doesn’t rape you of your hard earned cash just for registration, and actually feeds you for the weekend. Consider it if your considering doing a con, because I’m a HUGE fan of fair, something that’s lacking in the industry, and AAd is all about readers.

  6. I just went to my first con in, oh, um…a little over 30 years, back in October. 🙂 Last one was in New Jersey somewhere, and I was a starry eyed kid whose mother wanted to write, tagging along with her.

    Had a good time at this one (Albacon), a small event in Albany, NY. Met lots of nice people, went to some interesting panels and some less so, but overall it was a great time and I came home with a lot of energy. I’m looking forward to hitting a couple more in 2011.

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