11289382_639724059505704_7995984262206924445_oSo a while back, I posted my blog about finding new readersQuintessential Editor brought up a great idea in which I post some of my successes and mistakes.    Being the dutiful Brown Piper than I am, I sat down and wrote it my next “blog writing” day.

How to Find Them:  Well, in some cases, they found me.  They found my website or my book and shot me an email.  What this should tell you all is it’s a business.  They have table to sell to vendors, and you’re vendors.  If you go to one convention, they’ll have flyers for pretty much every other convention you could dream of.  Snag the flyers.  They usually have tables themselves, so you can ask them for an “artist alley” form and sign up.  (More on that later).  I’m based in Maryland, so I just google “Maryland Comic/Supernatural/(INSERT RELEVANT THING) Conventions,” and start shopping.  Just shop for the right ones.

Which Ones Should You Go To:  The closer they are to your genera or plot, the better.  It’ll be tempting to just got to every one you can, but trust me, it SUCKS to sit at a table for 8-hours a day for three days for no reason.  Don’t go to who will have you, go to the ones your readers are going to.  For me, comic conventions, science fiction conventions, Supernatural (the TV show) conventions are all great opportunities because that’s where people who love my book will go.

13340212_817443098400465_8265856894364055042_oBig or Small:  My second convention was Awesome Con.  Another author told me it was a bad choice.  You see, that convention is huge, and the table price was higher because of it.  My table selection wasn’t smart (I PROMISE I’ll get there), but I wouldn’t trade that convention for anything.  I sold about 10% of the books I’ve sold so far at that first event.  Maybe that’s not good for most, but there’s a few reasons for that.

(TANGENT):  That author was right in one way.  I was at a table with one book.  That meant the most books I was going to sell per customer was, well, one.  Any author there with more than one book could literally sell twice as many books per customer as I could.  This is why I advise self-publishers not to go indie until they have at least two books ready to go.  It opens doors for marketing and repeat business.  I may be alone in this, but it made sense to me, and I saw it work in practice.

Artist Alley:  There are usually a  few types of booths.  You want an artist alley table, not a vendor table.  What’s the difference?  About $300.

hand-truck-564242_960_720How Many Books to Bring:  I get a lot of varying opinions here.  I made the mistake of buying a BUNCH of books, thinking I’d sell out at my first event.  It didn’t work out for me.  I sell about thirty books an event.  That’s on the low side.  I mentioned one reason above, the other reason is the price per book.  I made a lot of mistakes in publishing Bob, that cover price is one I’m literally still paying for.  I didn’t pick it.  I sell it on my website and at conventions at the biggest discount I can.  The next convention I go to, I’ll have Caught available.  I’ll bring sixty (thirty of each) to the event.

Matt’s Guide:  Don’t buy a table for more that $200.  Bring enough to profit $200.  This means you’d have to sell enough to earn that money plus what you paid to get that table.  Don’t forget to factor in gas and/or lodging.  If you sell out, celebrate, and adjust your inventory for next time.  (Any of my other indie authors out there, PLEASE don’t hesitate to comment on how many you bring to an event).  The more inventory you have, the more you should bring.

Marketing or No Marketing:  I always bring something, but I honestly don’t think I’ve sold a single book from any of the cards or bookmarks I’ve given out.    What they DO is open the door.  If you offer them something free right off the bat, they’ll probably be ready to hear your pitch.

11856477_675681279243315_3901215017321117512_oHave a Pitch:  You better be ready to talk to people.  I have what I call an elevator pitch and then a small series of tidbits that helps.  One thing I do is something I learned when I heard an author speak a while back.  I forget what she calls it, but I call it the blending technique.  I take two things that are similar to my book.  I tell people the book is “Supernatural meets Dead Like Me.”

Those who say I shamelessly rip off Odd Thomas are also correct.  I don’t just say that to say it.  I genuinely feel that my book takes the tone of Supernatural and the situation of Dead Like Me and combines them into something new.  Give them the plot hook.  Have reviews ready. Have a  sell display.  That’s just a small stand-up display that you put on the table that has some reviews on it.  Me personally, I just print out multiple copies of a few and hand them out.
Tables Are Barriers:  If you have a  corner table, life is great.   I try to stand in front of my table four an hour or so, then I sit down for a while.  I wouldn’t do this if I were in the middle of a row.  You’re in the way of customers and other people trying to sell their hopes and dreams.  I’ve seen people spend the whole convention on their feet, in front of their table, and it worked.  They were in a corner table.

13315522_818771598267615_4618003615500143653_nThe Gretzky Approach:  A person not spoken to is a sale not made.  I’m confident I have a  pretty good feel for people.  So if a guy walks in with an F-U tattoo on his forehead just for me, I leave him (or her) alone.   I’m not there to jump in people’s face, and they’re not there to be accosted.  But I do say hello to EVERY person who walks by my booth.  I do offer them whatever I have to give, and I do ask them, “Can I tell you about my book?”  Boy do I love it when that beautiful cover of mine draws someone over.  That thing does half my work for me.  But at the end of the day, you have to be approachable.  Saying hello and BEING personable helps.

J.R. Handley offered some advice in the comments section of the blog mentioned above.  It all lined up with what I’ve seen.  He mentioned Dead Robots Society Podcast and Kristen Martin.    I’d be a fool not to mention them, and I think anyone about to start marketing at conventions should check them out as well.  J.R. If you have the direct links to either of those specific podcasts or Vlogs, please thrown them in the comments section and I’ll switch up the links.

I mentioned bookmarks.  Every convention I went to had some sort of cover.  I’m frankly too broke to buy much more than the table I sit at, and the promotional stuff I bring.  I’m not saying its a bad idea, I’m just saying I can’t do it.

Take Credit:  Not for your work, I’m pretty sure your name is on the book cover.  I mean have a  way to take credit.   I have a  pretty good split between cash and credit customers, but having that option means a lot.

CoverRevealSteal Ideas:  I saw one author create a display.  She offered to autograph that for people who bought the ebook from her QR Code reader.  I did it, and it does work.  That also did a LOT to help me reduce the pain of that cover price.  The e-version of my book is every bit as entertaining, and I make about the same profit.  This gives them the book, gives you a reader, and let’s them have something you can sign.  I think everyone wins.  That’s an idea I stole from someone I saw selling well at an earlier convention.

Bring Help:  Usually tables come with at least one other badge.  Take it, invite a friend.  Let him or her have fun, and have that person sit in for you when you have a panel or need a break (or you want a picture with that awesome person you’re a huge fan of.  No Corey, I’m not going to post that picture, I’m too afraid it’ll appear as appropriation.  I do make every effort to meet people I’d like to meet. I DO NOT try to sell THEM my book.  In fact, I try not to sell vendors my book.  They’re at the convention to sell products, work, and earn a living just like me.  If we just buy each other’s stuff, we’re not making any money.  Anyway, having someone there to help is great.

Sign Up For Panels:  Every convention has a request form for a panel.  Get a group together and have one.  I’ve done about three panels.  They’re fun, and they’re a great way to meet those ever elusive new readers.

13332909_818316954979746_6280352059775471406_nGet Pictures:  Oh do I suck at this, but I mean to get better.  Getting pictures and posting them on social media really does a lot to legitimize your presence.  The help I mentioned above would be awesome for that.  Whatever you do though, get pictures and post them.  (NOTE:  all kidding with Corey aside, make sure you inform the customer what you’re taking it for and what you intend to do with it.  They have some rights.  You do too, but save yourself a lot of pain and just talk to people, especially if they’ve already bought your book.)

These events are DRAINING!  I love them, but they’re a ton of work.  If you have the time to take a vacation day, do it.  You should be exhausted, but you should also have fun.

Anyone else have a  few tips I haven’t mentioned?   I’d love to see them in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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21 thoughts on “The Wrath of Cons: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions

  1. This! This is the post I wanted to see about conventions. It may seem like common information to some but for me the whole process was kind is intimidating and I couldn’t find much info – this post fixes all those issues. I love the title too…pretty clever bud.

    I’ll reblog this tomorrow on QE if you’re okay with it. This is a great source of information about the craft and the more people that see it the better. (Plus it saves me from using up a post 😝 )

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’d be honored for the re-blog. Thank you so much. Yeah, it’s funny, of all the things I did and mistakes I made, this was the one part that fell together for me and felt natural. I wasn’t even thinking about it until you asked. I’m so glad it was helpful.

      Like

      1. Thank you kindly! I am truly humbled by this. I’ll check my Twitter soon enough and go back and add you if I haven’t already. Thanks for your support and I look forward to your next post!

        I wish you the greatest luck for your future writing endeavors! ^_^

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great tip about not bothering with a vendor table until you have two books to sell. I think I will use that strategy. i haven’t yet worked up the courage to try giving out promotional material at conventions, but my tentative publication date is also far enough away that I have time. I skipped Baltimore Comicon yesterday (I, too, live in MD), but I have zero materials to give out besides my personal business cards. Would you generally recommend going to conventions with just some simple promotional materials and trying to network in the run-up to publication?

    Looking forward to exploring your blog more. Thanks for the follow!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a great question. Going to conventions is very wise. Sanderson spoke about it, I’m sure it’s in Writing Excuses. Agents go there, more importantly, publishers go there. I think it’s about being confident in your profession. Go out. meet people. Tell them about yourself. Have cards (I’m in the middle of cleaning my room because I can’t find my cards anywhere), but I always try to have cards on me and a pen because one day, a stranger is going to approach me and say, “Hey, aren’t you M.L.S. Weech? Can I have your autograph?” You have to be READY for opportunity. Open to it. So yeah, if you can’t get a table, or you’re not ready yet. Go. Have fun. Get pictures. Meet artists. Go to panels. Have more fun. Give your card to everyone you meet. If you go to an event, and you come back with cards, or bookmarks or anything you can hand out, every one you came back with was someone you should have introduced yourself too. An person not greeted is a reader not made. Since you’re in the area, shoot me an email. Us local guys need to stick together!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Excellent, thanks for the advice. I’ll start working promotional materials into my marketing plans for next year’s convention season. And yes! I’d be happy to connect with a fellow Marylander-writer.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So first of all, will you be at Supernatural’s NJCon this year? Because I will–I’ll totes look for your table. 🙂

    I have to admit, selling your book by referencing Supernatural will work on me. And I like the idea, in general, of comparing your book to two different things the potential reader is likely to know. Or, well, chances are she’ll at least recognize one of them.

    All around good advice here; thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well…the book is only 3.99 on Amazon Kindle :). I won’t be at NJCon THIS year. But I’ll be cruising a lot of cons once I get Caught finished.

      I’m glad you like the advice. Let me know if it pays off for you at your cons. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

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