Not every Eastercon has a newsletter. But it seems to run better if there is one! The newsletter contains information about programme changes, information of interest to attendees (e.g. changes to bar opening times!), and more recently, photographs of things like award ceremonies and masquerade. A new feature was tried in 2006 by establishing a website (www.ConNewsletter.co.uk) that was updated throughout the convention (and afterwards, or so the plan went) with the newsletter, and providing a newsletter email address (ConNewsletter@gmail.com). These addresses are available to future Eastercon committees to use if they wish, contact Chris O'Shea.
In the following "you" refers to a prospective Newsletter Editor.
The newsletter should contain:
- A Title/Logo
- Programme changes
- Fannish news
- Gossip and things overheard in the bar
- Lists of award winners including Masquerade winners
- Photographs (particularly of the Masquerade and award winners
- Reviews of Programme items
- Bid session results
- And at least one issue should have a colophon to thank those involved in producing the Newsletter
It can also contain:
- Quotes from the press about fandom in general and this convention in particular
- If there's an election of some kind, campaign speeches etc.
- Adverts for forthcoming conventions
- Commercial advertising
The newsletter should be light in tone and enjoyable.
The biggest problem for any Newsletter editor is striking the right balance between
- being serious and informative
- being frivolous and fun
You might be tempted to publish gossip or "in-jokes". Beware. What may be hilarious to 10 people may leave 500 people scratching their heads.
If there are a lot of programme changes then it may be best to produce "pink sheets" - special fact sheets with additional information which would be in the ReadMe if it weren't now out of date.
Typically a pink sheet is produced to indicate a large number of programme changes and/or to print a totally updated programme grid for the current/next day of the convention.
Number of IssuesEdit
- Thursday Welcome Issue - prepared before the con, and with last minute programme changes in it.
- Friday Afternoon - Programme changes, information about Thursday night restaurants, and travel stories
- Friday Late - Opening ceremony review and just getting the con up to speed
- Saturday Lunch - what happened in the parties and bars last night, programme items to see, information on the bids for Eastercon two years ahead
- Saturday Masquerade Issue (with photos), usually out around midnight as laying out a photo heavy issue always takes longer than anyone expects!
- Sunday lunch - what happened last night etc.
- Sunday late afternoon Awards Issue (including the result of the Bid session and photos of the award winners)
- Sunday Late
- Monday morning - last programme changes, requests for lifts home etc.
- Monday afternoon - convention is closing down now so a summary of what's been going on etc.
And if there's enough kit left over, possibly a:
- Monday evening Dead Dog special (with photos of the closing ceremony), scurrilous gossip and general silliness
It is recommended that one or two fixed points (at least) be identified where the latest newsletter will be left in a stack. It is also common to have a small team of distributors(*) take the latest issue "hot off the presses" to the bar or other locations where they can be handed to fans.
It is also good to have a location where back issues can be obtained (while stocks last!)
Remember to keep a few complete sets for yourself.
(* If there are children acting as gophers then you may find a team of small distributors instead.)
Equipment and TechEdit
Remember the KISS principle. "Keep It Simple".
Pick a software package beforehand which your main editor/layout person is familiar with. Many Eastercon newsletters have been produced with common word processors. For example: OpenOffice has a good word processor, but if the layout person favours Microsoft Word then that works well also. You should only try a full blown Desktop Publishing package if you have dedicated people who are really familiar with it and can work on every issue. The same person might use a DTP package for a 30 page fanzine over three weeks but prefer a word processor for a 2 page newsletter written in four hours.
Ideally you should prepare electronic templates for each issue containing as much information as possible before the convention. This will save you time on the day.
Computing power is getting a lot cheaper and more common nowadays - and you could probably produce a newsletter just with members' laptops. Desktops are a pain to transport and setup. Remember some Kingston locks for security as you will have people coming in and out of the newsletter room all weekend. The most important thing to remember with networking is that you need basically three electronic trays - or folders.
- Tray for typed in content
- Trays for the current issue (or possibly one for each issue)
- Tray for used content. (Don't just delete it once used.)
You can do this with USB flash keys if necessary rather than setting up a network. You probably want separate machines for:
- volunteers to type up handwritten submission
- photo submissions
- Editor / layout
- Print Server (which controls the printers)
Of course you could combine any of these.
As for printers - you can probably get the convention to pay for three office laser printers. Get spare toner on "sale or return" so that you can get your money back on anything you don't use.
Typically once an issue is ready you will use one printer to print the front, and one the back. The extra printer is to speed things up and act as a spare.
Several UK convention have used duplicators such as Gestetners or A.B.Dicks/Laniers for printing. These create a master stencil which is used to print the copies using ink rather than toner. This can be more expensive than a laser printer - but typically a LOT faster. It is probably overkill for an Eastercon but should be considered for a Worldcon.
People will assume you have a photocopier. It is important to agree with the committee before the convention if the Newsletter is also a duplication and signage room? Ideally it ISN'T. Consider whether you need a flatbed scanner to help act as a photocopier. All in one printers are more common nowadays and provide scanning and short run copying.
Do you need internet access? If possible the newsletter should have its own way of accessing the internet - though this could be through the hotel's WiFi, or some other means.
Consider what publications you want to put online - and when? Chat to Chris O'Shea about ConNewsletter.co.uk
You should plan the number of issues you expect to print based upon some fraction of the warm body count eg print 400 copies for 800 people, say. You will quickly tell if you have printed too many or too few and can adjust the print count next time. There is nothing to stop you from printing more if they run out.
Since paper is sold in reams of 500 sheets this probably means getting 2 reams per issue. It helps to have each issue a different colour so that fans can easily see which ones they are missing. It is generally best to leave white for a photo heavy issue - such as one done for a masquerade. Beware of dark colours which can be difficult to read. If you end up with two similar colours then make sure you print them far apart in time.
If people are using Newsletter facilities for duplication (e.g. printing posters, signs, fanzines) then make sure that they either bring their own paper, that you buy extra white, or that they use the newsletter colours which have already been published.
The Newsletter should appoint photographers and reporters to hit the major programme items. It is usual to have a submission box where articles can be left for publication in future issues. Quite often the newsletter will also have a computer with a card reader/USB socket to accept photographs and digital article submissions. Some conventions have experimented with having a ConNewsletter email address for people to send in articles (before or during the convention).
This doesn't happen every time, but often someone will make up a newsletter, similar in layout to the official newsletter, but with silly items, parodies and even more scurrilous gossip. Usually with a pun for the title, based on the title of the official newsletter. Some years the Spoof Newsletter is actually produced by the official Newsletter team as a way of having fun and being sarcastic that they can't do as the official voice of the convention.
Print out a couple of draft copies for proof reading. It really does help!
You should record who took the photograph when it was submitted to you.
It should be made clear fairly early on whether your newsletter will be published online. That means that you may want to get the permission of people in the photographs. This is particularly important if they are children, in costume, or basically doing anything that they might not want to explain to their boss. Use your own intelligence here.