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The Care and Feeding of Your Artist GoH

The idea for this has been kicking around for awhile, and I figure perhaps I will finally get it down, in hopes that it might be useful for con organizers (and artists) out there somewhere.

I have been a Guest of Honor at a fair number of conventions over the years, starting back in the early 2000′s, and since we’re coming up on ten years of GoHing soon, I figure I’m probably as qualified to talk about it as I’m going to get.

So let’s say you’re a con organizer, and you want to get an Artist Guest of Honor at the con…

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The cheese plate. You all know my feelings about a fruit and cheese plate. I will forgive you a LOT for a fruit and cheese plate.

Ah, a woman after my own heart! Academic conferences can be brilliant for these. I have enjoyed some truly excellent cheeses during afternoon tea-breaks at professional astronomy meetings. (And some very nice wines too, but that's another story.)

There have been a number of discussions over at www.skepchick.org about safety at cons, and they've come up with some great tips, especially after Elevatorgate*. Generally, it's not cool to assume that everyone at the con is there to be hit on or propositioned by you. Con attendees and guests are not paraded in front of you so you can pick one out for the hot tub later. Show some bloody respect. Also, sexism is Very Not Cool. Many cons and fandoms struggle to keep a balance of men and women as fans, going on stage and thinking you're some kind of brilliant comedian who can crack wise about them wimmins and their ways is going to get you a boot to the head. The behaviour and tolerance the staff and headliners show is what helps set the tone for the whole con Don't let ANYONE mess it up. It's OK to ask someone to leave because they're a dick, everyone will thank you for it.

*explanation available upon request (long enough comment already)

This gets bookmarked. Especially since bookmarks, not tags, not archives are the only way to ever find stuff like this again.

There's also my favorite, 'make it clear who the GoHs are'. The one con i was GoH at did everything right - except that. They had someone other than me, the artist GoH, running a panel on an 'Artist's FAQ' at the same time as my Q-and-A. Everybody went to the Artist's FAQ and almost nobody came to my Q-and-A and then everybody asked me, afterward, very confused, where i had been, and/or were very surprised to discover upon meeting me at my table that i wasn't the person who had been running the Artist's FAQ. There was also a person who helped with some of the merch who was given a Dealer's Table as thanks, which is fine, but who was apparently told he was a secondary artist GoH at the last second. He was not on any of the conbooks et all as such, and people seemed very confused by his telling them that he was the GoH. People confused me with him. It was weird.

I was just curious, is it possible Ursula will ever make it out to Phoenix Comic Con? (It's fairly huge and I think the sales would be great!) If not PCC, would she consider going to North American Discworld Convention (to be held in Baltimore, July of 2013)?

Cant believe [some] cons dont think artists are important!

Mind. Boggled. (why invite if you dont think they matter? Plus, who gets the eyeballs INTO the books? if not the cover artists!)

This is fantastic stuff, and despite my quibbles, I'm very likely to reference it as a textbook for "how to treat your guest(s)".

The quibbles: As at least one poster mentioned, at fan-run cons, author guests aren't generally paid, any more than artists are. I think this fundamentally comes from the early days when cons were as likely to be run by the pros as by the fans (and that's still not unheard of today), so reimbursement for hotel/travel and free membership (and a +1) was considered appropriate payment for the work of being a GoH. That said, for -any- GOH, offering up a dealers table free of charge is a good way to make sure your guests can make ends meet without either cutting into the con's budget or breaking what is more or less an informal pact among fan-run cons.

Also, regarding putting Joe the Nameless One on the same panel as, say, Ursula LeGuin...it's going to happen, and it -can- be fine. At literary cons, the custom is much more to make panels of people with an interest in the topic somewhat regardless of fame, and as long as the audience is there at least -partially- to see people talk about the topic, it is far more important that the panelists can all be amusing talking about the topic than that one of them is more famous than the rest. I -was- that guy at Lunacon, as they put me on my first panel moderating a webcomics thing with Howard Taylor. The panel -did- get away from me a bit, but it was fine.

On the other side, I attended the plague panel at Worldcon -- with Seanan McGuire, an accquaintence of mine from filk (and occasionally WSFS and gaming), and, um, 3 other people. This might have been pretty unbalanced (and Seanan was certainly the most -entertaining- person on the panel), but really, it all worked well, and it ended up being a discussion between the panellists, rather than "Seanan makes happy noises about how we're all going to die for an hour," so all was well (that would have been fine for the audience, I suspect, but not so much for the other panellists).

Actually, that's a good one for guests -- when you're on a panel, if it's not a solo act, remember that even if you think the audience is just there to see you, the other panellists deserve to be heard too--let the moderator moderate you, and try to make sure that all the panellists participate in the conversation rather than trying to make your viewpoint/experiences dominate. Everyone will be happier that way.

I'm the sort of person who hates to impose on others, get in the way or generally ask for anything even if I need it. Thus the idea of being a GoH is paralyzing in the sense that I'd be terrified of seeming arrogant/entitled or presuming that I'd be getting anything like bag fees paid or per diem for food or...anything. Makes me anxious just thinking about it, not that I assume I'll ever be one, but...

Maybe a companion entry to this one could be "So You're a Guest of Honor..." with instructions on what questions to ask and information to provide. I realize much could be gleaned for that purpose from this entry, but a similarly condensed list of questions and common information to be provided by the GoH seems useful? Maybe? >_>