From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Cons For Pros, Part Four: Follow Up and Follow Through

Follow Ups

Hopefully, by the time you return home from a convention, you’ll have collected a nice stack of business cards. These cards and other marketing material you’ve picked up will be the basis of your post-con follow ups.

On the back, you’ve carefully jotted a few notes about your conversation with each person, as discussed in “The Wrap Up” of Part Three in this series. Use these as a “to do” list when you get home.

Create a brief e-mail letter and customize it for each of the individuals you spoke with at any length during the convention. A sample might read:

Dear X,
Thank you for our conversation on Y during GenCon last week. I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts about Z.
As we’d discussed, I am very interested in opportunities to freelance as a (writer/artist/editor) in the industry, and I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction to explore that avenue with your company.
Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me.
I.Joseph L. NeedaWanna jJob

I recommend doing this for all the contacts you make at the convention who are already involved in the industry. Just because someone doesn’t have hiring authority doesn’t mean they don’t have experience and insight that you can learn from. Plus, you have the opportunity to make more friends – always a bonus on both a personal and professional level.

Follow Ups – Part Two

Immediately after a big convention, many industry folk are swamped, exhausted and inundated with new contacts. I recommend setting up some sort of follow up list for yourself and sending a very polite second letter about a month after the first one. Avoid any sort of guilt-inducing statements – remember the person you’re writing to doesn’t owe you a response. But a simple follow up saying something like “I know it’s busy after big cons, so I thought I’d drop you a note to follow up on my email from last month” is a diplomatic way not only to keep contact, but also to show that you’re the kind of person who has follow through and persistence. Another note can follow, a month after that, if necessary.

Listen and Learn

The responses you receive back may vary from “check our website” to extensive offerings of advice. Regardless of how small or large, it’s always nice to send a follow up letter thanking the person for taking the time to write you. Especially if they’ve taken the time to actually give you an in-depth advice, remember that this is a valuable gift, and treat it as such.

However, as you learn more about the industry, you will also find that you’re sometimes given contradictory advice. One professional says you must do something one way to make it in the industry, while another says that such an act would make it impossible to succeed. When you receive industry advice that is mutually exclusive, as with any other situation, you’re going to have to make some decisions on your own. Weigh the pertinence of each person’s advice for your particular situation. Consider which works the best with your own personal philosophies and professional ethics. And then set your own course of action, based on what resonates correctly for you. Be sure to thank both individuals, however – they’ve both taken the time to share with you the truth as they see it.

Follow Through

At some point, there’s a good chance that, if you handle yourself well and have skill and persistence, you may be offered a job in the industry. While each individual situation is unique, there are some basic things to keep in mind about the gaming industry.

While you are working in the entertainment field, you’re still doing a job. Be responsible about deadlines, prompt and responsive with communication, and realistic about what you can and can’t perform. If you take on a job and discover that you don’t think you’re going to be able to complete it in a timely and professional manner, contact your supervisor and let them know that. Don’t just drop off the face of the planet and stop returning emails. Most industry professionals understand that sometimes things just come up, and may be willing to work with you, either by offering an extension, or by finding someone else to take on a portion of the project.

As well, be respectful of the Non-Disclosure Agreements you sign – violating one of them not only will almost certainly assure you don’t work in the industry again, it can cost you a great deal of money. NDAs are legal documents, and violating one could find you on the receiving end of an expensive lawsuit.

And finally, if and when you do break into the industry, remember to treat those who are still aspiring with the same respect and courtesy that you wanted while you were there. It’s easy to lose one’s humility on the “professional” side of the gaming table, but when it all comes down to it, we’re all just gamers.

GenCon, and other gaming conventions, can be intimidating to the aspiring professional. But they can also be a unique opportunity. I hope that these blogs I have provided some advice and aid for those of you who are seeking to enter the industry. Questions, comments or insight can be sent to me or catch me at a convention – Even established professionals still use cons as an opportunity to network, find new projects and meet other industry folk! After all, even established professionals should take advantage of opportunity whenever they can!

Jess Hartley is a freelance novelist, writer, editor and game developer with almost a decade of experience in the gaming industry, where she has created and has been published in a wide variety of mediums, including novel-length fiction, role-playing game products, magazine articles and fiction anthologies. She currently authors an online advice and etiquette column entitled One Geek to Another. Jess lives in Arizona, with her family and a menagerie of other interesting creatures, where she participates in a plethora of strange and curious pastimes which often make her neighbors and acquaintances scratch their heads in confusion. More information about Jess can be found at her website:

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