Sometime last week, I got a great email. I signed up for Shore Leave before COVID changed everything. After a few years of waiting, I’m happy to say Shore Leave is back, and so are we! We’ll be visiting.
I have new books to sell, and I’m looking forward to seeing all of you and talking to you in person about how things have been with you and what I’ve been up to.
Sure, it’s a short and sweet post this week, but it’s big news. I already had one convention this year, and it looks like we’re going to ramp up.
We’ll probably take it slow. We want to make sure that we’re able to actually recoup the funds we spend to be there. As a marketing effort, conventions sold books, but we’re trying to be more profitable as we grow.
Shore Leave 42 is scheduled for July 15-17. People much cooler than I will be there including Summer Glau, Gates McFadden, and Robert Duncan McNeill.
Hi all, just a quick shout out if you’re in the Waldorf, Maryland, area, we’d love it if you stopped by the Maryland Comic Con. I’m here for the whole thing, and you can stop by, say hello, and pick up any of the new titles I’ve released since before COVID happened.
The wife and I are discussing options for future conventions, but nothing solid has formulated just yet. As I’ve mentioned, COVID forced me to learn more about marketing and maximizing online sales, and we’re trying to keep overhead costs low. So I don’t actually know at this time what our plans will be.
Whatever we decide, I’d sure be happy to see you today.
So the Southern Maryland Comic-Con is next month (scheduled for Nov. 13), and I actually have a table. Believe it or not, I bought the table a year and a half ago, but then COVID hit. They were so awesome, keeping me up to date and holding my spot for all this time, and now they’re ready to go.
To my knowledge, this is the only event I’m scheduled to attend this calendar year. We’re hoping to get back in the swing of things, but that depends on several factors. So it’s my sincere hope that if you’re in the area, you’ll come by, say hello and maybe buy some books. We have a few new things (and hope to maybe have another surprise) for you to try since the last time we were at a table.
I just wanted to put it out there in the hope that you might consider stopping by.
As I type this, I’ve received one of my two Moderna vaccinations. We’re all excited to see the hope of a world returned to normal. We’re even seeing conventions spinning up, which led to this particular post.
Before COVID, we were poised to try a year filled with twelve conventions. We managed to do a few before COVID came on strong, but things shut down pretty quickly.
Once lockdown happened, I was forced (in a good way) to work on my marketing game. So I focused on AMS, trying to generate more sales. As you can see from my Marketing Journal series, I am selling more books. The problem is I’m spending way more than I make. Now I’m working that problem, trying to weed out useless keywords that only cost money, but that money spent takes away from money I can save for editing, cover art, chapter art and, in this case, conventions.
I don’t want to simply cut off all my AMS campaigns and save the money our family budgets for Weech because these campaigns are indeed getting me more sales. I feel the right thing to do is to keep working on those campaigns to make them profitable. Then they pay for themselves and help contribute to those other funds. However, that’s going to take time.
The wife and I have a few thoughts. Because some of the tables we purchased for 2020 were pushed down the line (meaning we still have the tables), we might actually be at a few shows this year. We’re just not honestly sure which (if any). We don’t really plan on doing any shows unless the tables are already arranged.
But we have hope for 2022. I’d love to be back in full swing (meaning 12 shows) that year, but that all depends on the budget and how long it takes me to figure out marketing.
COVID forced me to work on marketing, and I am (in a way) more successful because of it. COVID also effectively destroyed my efforts to improve my point of sales (books sold at tables). I might try some bookstores or libraries if I can pull those off. My hope is that we can get back to conventions in 2022, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Even though I’ve been at this for six years, I’m still learning more and more every year. I have a few other plans brewing in my head, but they all cost precious time, so I’m very careful deciding what to pursue and what to leave alone for now.
I’m curious to see what other authors out there are doing. If you have a system that works, please fill me in. Maybe you have a blog that really helped others (or yourself). Please, share the link. For now, I just wanted to pull back the curtain a bit and show you just one of the impacts COVID had on my life as an author entrepreneur. My hope is it will give those considering this path things to think about (and solve before they are problems). Another goal is to share ideas and see maybe where others have been able to succeed.
Regardless, I always appreciate the support you show me through following this blog and commenting.
Another convention has come and gone. Farpoint was a good time. I had a lot of fun. The kids were there again this time, and I got to hang out with my whole family. This really came in handy.
You see, the sales weren’t exactly what I’d hoped. I sold thirteen books. That’s fifteen less than MarsCon the month before, and no where near the 50 books an event I had last year.
So how do you deal with it? Well, first you keep your chin up. We authors have to have thick skin for so many reasons. You have up and down events and years, and you have to celebrate every high (even if it’s just one page read on KDP), and endure all the lows (sitting in a book store watching people pointedly turn away from you to avoid your pitch).
The next thing I do is try to see what might cause this issue. There are factors.
This event didn’t exactly have a lot of foot traffic. There were several cool people. They were fun to talk to, but there just weren’t a metric ton. I’d be shocked if there were 4,000 people total in attendance. I don’t know the statistics, but that’s certainly how it felt.
I didn’t have a new book. Sure, my Testimony is coming soon, but it’s not out, and Betrayed isn’t ready either (but it is getting close). I had a handful of people come up to me to tell me how much they loved one book or another. Those who didn’t already buy all my books picked something new up, but what did I have for those who already bought the books I’ve published? I think at least five people came buy looking for my newest book, and I didn’t have it. That’s on me.
I’ve been to several Farpoints. I intend to be at more. But those people are pretty familiar with me. They’ve bought my books. You can oversaturate an area or a convention. This is one of the main reasons the wife and I are trying to expand where we go.
Silver lining: The wife is doing some amazing things. We had prints this time, and two of them sold. She also sold another 12 chibis! Seriously, those things are adorable! What that did is relieve some of the stress and financial burden from the lack of book sales. I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have Julie and her art there.
There’s another con coming in a new area. Annapolis ComicCon is next, and that’s a new area with (hopefully) new readers. It’s a one day con that’s smaller, so I have to adjust my expectations accordingly. If I set fifteen books, a few chibis and a print or two, I’ll be pretty satisfied. I also have Four State ComicCon coming up next month too, so those are opportunities to turn the ship around and meet new readers.
I hope this information is helpful. Again, you have to always work to keep a positive mindset in this business. Things come and go, and it’s still fun to write books, and it’s even more fun when people stop by the table to tell you how much they enjoyed your stories.
I’m busy working at Farpoint this weekend. I’d love to see you all there. I’ll, of course, fill you in on how things went (day one was encouraging).
As always, I have three books available for 99 cents.
An Unusual Occupation, Repressed, and Sojourn in Captivity, are all on sale for the duration of the convention. Please consider trying one of those titles out if you haven’t yet. If you have, please consider taking a moment to give them a rating and review.
I’m always happy to have a chance to meet new readers and say hello to those who’ve already given my work a try.
Last week I took a moment to tell you all we were in Williamsburg, Virginia, for MarsCon, so I wanted to take a few moments to let you know how things went.
My main goal for this trip was the try a few new things and to get my work into hands of new readers.
I sold 28 books in total. Sojourn in Captivity drew the most interest, and that makes me happy since Perception of War is really something I’m going to write. In comparison to last year, 28 books is fairly slow, but there wasn’t a ton of foot traffic at the event, and 28 is still a solid number of books sold based on my historical average.
The real star of the show is my wife. She’s a talented artist, and we had an idea. She takes photos of people and then draws chibi caricatures of them.
A simple paper and ink chibi is $5, and a full-color digital chibi is $15. She got a lot of attention even with a small spot on the table. She sold six chibis (three ink, three digital). She really stole the show in all the best ways, and I love her for the active role she’s taken in this journey. If you’d like to be a chibi, you can order one by email here. She’s already had people contact her by social media to set up future orders, and that is super encouraging.
Why the art? Product. On. The. Shelf. Author copies of books are costly, and the percentage we make isn’t great. That puts the overhead for a convention at a high mark that’s unlikely to be met. For instance, MarsCon cost us $708 for just the table and books. I would have had to sell every book I had on its own (no bundles) to make a profit. With my wife’s help, the art can pay for the table, and the books have a better chance to pay for themselves, which would allow us to make conventions an investment for profit rather than a marketing tool.
Now, that dollar amount is higher because I bought essentially two cons’ worth of books. But, if the art (low upfront cost) can pay for the tables, we have a real chance. This is because books and a table are normally about $444. This shifts depending on the event, but I’m currently optimistic that chibis can not only let my wife have some limelight (she’s always wanted to let her art be her career), but also take a step forward to making our little business profitable.
I hope you’ll send some emails and make some orders.
This was a pretty solid start to the 2020 tour. It was essentially a fun family vacation that allowed me to get books into the hands of new readers, and that was the goal in this case. I’m grateful to everyone who stopped by to support our dreams.
My 2020 tour is up and running! I’m hanging out at MarsCon in Williamsburg, Virginia! That’s right, Weech is expanding his horizons!
This is my first time at the event, so I don’t really know what to expect.
What you can expect though are some 99-cent deals!
From now until around midnight on Monday, Repressed, Stealing Freedom, and An Unusual Occupation are on sale for the convention. If you haven’t tried one of those books, this is a great time. If you have read one, maybe recommend it (or gift it) to a friend you think would like it.
As usual, I’ll do a post with some photos and information about how it went in terms of a business trip. For now, I just wanted to let you all know what I was up to.
Shore Leave was last week, and it was yet again a huge success in terms of books sold!
The thing that really makes this so encouraging is that I’ve now had three consecutive conventions where I sold more than 40 books. This makes me feel like things are starting to build in the best ways.
At Shore Leave, I sold forty-nine books. I was especially thrilled at how the Repressed/Sojourn paperback worked out. I sold out! My favorite story is that one woman bought the book. She came back the next day to tell me how much she enjoyed it. She said she read Repressed in a matter of hours at the pool and loved it. When she found out Kaitlyn’s first appearance was in Caught, she bought that book.
I only have one copy of Power of Words remaining, and that’s pretty good. They actually sold pretty fast. I thought for sure the last one would sell, but it just sort of stalled I guess. But still, I sold 13/14 copies.
The next thing that happened is probably the most encouraging. The Journals of Bob Drifter has been out for four years, and I’ve done three Shore Leave events now. This is relevant because I met Amanda (and Grace) at Shore Leave. Bob did very well at the event, and I think I owe a lot of that to Amanda and Grace. You see, they came to say hi (and buy a few new books! Thanks!). While there, they managed to convince somewhere around four people to buy at least two of my books. They convinced one friend to buy all four of my books.
That’s not it though. That happened to me twice that I can recall. One person would be checking out my table, and another would come up and say, “I read his book (BLANK (Usually Bob)), and I’m telling you it’s good.”
I can’t express to you how that makes me feel. First off, just having someone walk up and say they enjoyed your book is a wonderful feeling, but to have previous readers bring you more readers is the very definition of “word of mouth!” It’s amazing!
The theory I have is this: It takes people a while to get through their TBR pile. This is true for me. I’m only just now reading books I put on my TBR pile a year ago. My thinking is that these people have had Bob on a shelf for a minute and then it just came time to read it. Now they have feedback for me, and they loved it!
Amanda said, “It’s (Bob) one of the best books I ever read.” She then told me the story about how she was at work and a coworker was trying to draw her attention and couldn’t because she was that enthralled. WOW! (But please don’t get in trouble at work, Amanda!)
Another person might have been one of maybe three people to buy my book at a convention last year. He said, “It (again Bob) was one of the best surprise reads” he’s had. He said he bought it because he liked me (which is why most people buy most things at conventions). But then he read it and loved it.
All that feedback is so motivating. I can’t wait to get my next few books out there!
I nearly sold out of all my books. Those were just a few stories I wanted to share because of how amazing they made me feel in the moment. Julie was near to tears a few times. It’s just such blessing, and we thank God for brining so many wonderful people to our lives and letting our business grow.
So now for the business side. Shore Leave (and most other conventions I go to) have much more affordable tables. And the sales from the event made back the cost of the table (which is a huge benchmark to me). But things went so well, we only actually lost about $100. This is still a loss, but it’s significant growth. We’re hopeful that the prints and more products (big news on that is coming) will help tip the scales and allow us to change how we define “success” when it comes to conventions. For now though, we’re just overjoyed this event went so well.
For those who tried my books, thank you so much! We hope you enjoy them. Please remember to leave a rating and/or review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. They really do help.
A while back, I did a post about using other skillsto reduce overhead costs. The idea is whatever you know how to do (as in you’ve received training or instruction), is one more thing you can do that you don’t have to pay others to do. I still affirm that even if you are a paid editor, you should have another editor look at your work. Editing is a funny thing. A person can be pretty blind to his own work. I know I am.
Anyway, one area I wanted to improve on was my digital illustration, and I had a few pieces I wanted to share to show how I’ve been doing.
This image of Grimm is one I’ve recently done. I took the cover Collin Fogel did for Bob’s Greatest Mistake, and made a few changes. This is all digital art done with Adobe Illustrator. In my own opinion, this is fairly novice work. It doesn’t look like a kindergartner did it, but I wouldn’t’ expect anyone to commission me as a digital artist. I was reasonably satisfied with it, but it was missing something. Then I realized my biggest complaint with it is the clothing. I’m not very good with digitally illustrating cloth. So I mean to work with this more and improve my overall skill.
I’m much happier with Naruto, but when I step back and look at it in comparison to Grimm, I realized a few things. First, this is a portrait. I don’t have that many clothes to deal with, and the style of this picture is different. I think I have a pretty good grasp of gradients and faces.
So what do I do with this? Well, I’m still practicing. Any skill is honestly just a matter of time and practice. Talent helps reduce the time, but there’s no level of skill that practice can’t attain.
The idea is to increase the options I have when I go to shows. I anticipate a world in which I offer convention goers digital anime-style portraits of themselves. I won’t ever sell licensed material, because that’s frankly copyright violation. Sure, people do it, but the copyright owners can always come collect whenever they get in the mood, and I don’t want to be in the blast radius when that bomb drops. But, I CAN do portraits of people and my own characters.
I aspire to do art from my own work along with the portraits to increase what I can offer potential customers. I’m nowhere near a place where my books alone can profit me in a convention. I’ve even mentioned in previous blogs that I measure my success on books sold, not money made. Adding products and services to my table can shift that metric.
So what do you think? What would you like to see me try next? Is there a character from one of my books you’d like to see me try and illustrate? I will do fan art (because I’m not ever going to sell it), so if you have another character you’d like me to try, let me know.