I started attending conventions as a fangirl long before I was a professional writer. I knew what to expect and when I got my first Guest of Honor invitation I was over the moon. I still get a little thrill at the very idea that someone wants me to attend a convention... as a guest!
But it's not the same thing. Whether heading out on a book tour or invited as a guest to a small local sci-fi convention, attending programming at a larger conference, or visiting one of those monster book festivals or comicons there are some things I think a professional writer should always keep in mind.
So here, for your amusement (and perhaps education) are my highly subjective... Tips for the Traveling Writer
What's that? At least six hours sleep, two full meals, and one bath.
Actually, I usually try for 8, 3, 2. I recommend a morning swim (at most cons I get an AM pool to myself) plus a hot tub mini soak and shower. People often forget about the hotel pool when there is a major event, so if you like to swim don't forget the bathing suit and goggles.
2. Sleep well
I highly recommend investing in ear plugs and an eye mask, that way odd noises and insufficient curtain coverage in strange hotels won't be a bother. I carry a decongestant as well, in case I'm stuffed up from flying or allergies or temperature shifts.
3. Start as you mean to go on (but probably can't)
My start? Egg white omelet, vegetarian, no-cheese. As an avowed not-really-breakfast person I force myself to eat this omelet every morning. Most hotels have something like it on the menu. Why? Because it's the only meal I know I can guarantee I will have time to eat; egg whites are a good solid protein that sticks without weighing me down, and it is always hard to get veg on the go. Convention green rooms and cafes are available for snacks, but those snacks are usually carb heavy and if you get protein, it's meat or cheese. I find if I start right I don't worry as much about the rest of the day.
4. Soak thy feet, every night
Keeping in mind that I wear stilettos, I still feel that this applies to everyone, especially at those bigger conventions where you're walking for miles. I soak my feet and rub lotion into them every night (no matter how tired or how drunk) and this is one of my biggest tips. Nothing is worse than sore feet, treat yours with love.
5. Thou shalt wear deodorant but not perfume or cologne
I know, you love that scent, but no one else does (not matter what they say) and you're likely putting on too much. Yeah, you really are. This rule holds doubly true if you are flying.
6. Thou shalt tip thy maids
Look, working as a maid in a big hotel really sucks. Leave a tip each day in a prominent place (I usually go for the zone of little bottles in the bathroom) and I add a note with a heart that says "Thank You". Be a decent human.
You could be going to the hottest place on earth, or the coldest, but you're in a convention center or a hotel or a bookstore, and the AC/heating is notoriously tricky. I carry a scarf and a light cardigan at all times.
8. If offered a mint, take it
It's usually a subtle hint. Take the hint, take the mint. Carry mints yourself, share the love.
9. Honor thy moderator
Moderating a panel is a rough job, but someone has to do it. Be nice. Be polite.
10. Thou shalt carry badge, ID, business cards, phone, cash, name tent, mints, individually wrapped toothpicks, tissues, pain killers & other meds, snacks, and water upon thy person at all times.
Some conventions are great about supplying these kinds of things, some aren't. Be your own savior, be someone else's, hack the planet.
11. Thou shalt not eat raw onions
Well I mean you CAN eat them, just not when on the road and at events. Your favorite food? Practice a little willpower, for everyone's sake. Eat as many as you want when you get home.
12. Thou shalt follow the protocols of cosplay
No realistic weapons, no sticky substances (AKA the PB and J rule), no view-obstructing wings or hats, be aware of your costumed dimensions. I am well known for my abhorrence of the backpack, but if you insist on one, please be aware of it sticking out behind you. Nothing is worse than being a short female constantly whacked in the face by a backpack-wielding Sasquatch, particularly on planes.
13. Thou shalt not dress like a slob
Look, if you are traveling for work, you're traveling for WORK. Whether that is as a professional writer or appliance servicing technician. Represent.
14. Say thank you
Someone invited you, someone brought you in, someone argued to make you a guest. Try to find that person and thank her. Thank the people running registration, and the green room, and programming, and the dealer room, and the bookstore. Mostly these are fans and volunteers. They make the event happen and they do it because they want to meet you, they want to meet writers. All they get are complaints, and issues, and fires to put out every day. Don't add to their stress. And if there is a Dead Dog Party and you happen to be invited, do go. They are often the most fun and you get to meet all the people behind the scenes.
Gail Carriger starts her book tour (8 cities in 10 days!) today when her new book, Imprudence, releases into the wild. She writes steampunk comedies of manners mixed with urban fantasy. Her books include the Parasol Protectorate and Custard Protocol series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. She is published in 18 different languages and has 13 NYT bestsellers via 7 different lists (including #1 in Manga). She was once an archaeologist and is overly fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea. Find out more at www.gailcarriger.com