Farpoint: Lessons From Disappointing Sales

Farpoint: Lessons From Disappointing Sales

Greetings all,

ChibiFarpointAnother 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

 

RaidenANDGambitSilver 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.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Busy at Farpoint!

Busy at Farpoint!

Greetings all,

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.

Wish me luck at the table!

Thanks for reading,
Matt

MarsCon 2020: My First Con Outside of Maryland!

MarsCon 2020: My First Con Outside of Maryland!

Greetings everyone,

IMG_2318Last 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.

IMG_2315A 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.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Hope to see you at MarsCon!

Hope to see you at MarsCon!

Greetings all!

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!

Three_Book_99_Cent_MarsCon

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.

If you’re in the area, please stop by and say hi!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

Shore Leave 2019 Report: Encouraging consistency

Shore Leave 2019 Report: Encouraging consistency

Greetings all,

Power_and_Repressed CustomerShore 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.

Grace and Amanda
Grace, Amanda, and Stevey at Shore Leave.

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.”

Bob_Drifter_ReaderI 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.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Working To Improve Skills

Working To Improve Skills

Greetings all,

A while back, I did a post about using other skills to 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.

Grimm

 

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.

Naruto

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.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Such An Awesome 2019! (convention)

Such An Awesome 2019! (convention)

Greetings all,

AwesomeConSo we got some rest, and boy did we need it. AwesomeCon 2019 was such a wonderful, huge event. As usual, I wanted to take a moment and give you some insight as to how things went.

Last year ended on a high note. We had always planned to slow way down this year to get life figured out and write some more books. The wonderful thing is I honestly thought, “Well that was just an amazing success, but no way do I do that sort of stuff again.”

Well, I didn’t.  In terms of books sold, I did even better. I sold fifty one books! I don’t remember the count from Baltimore Comic Con, but I remember it being in the forties.

The first thing I need to do is praise God for such an amazing blessing! Through four years of work, I’m seeing progress in this business venture, and all things come through him.

The next thing I need to do is thank all of you! If you stopped by and picked up one (or a few) copies of my work, you’ve helped my dream come true. I hope you enjoy the stories. I hope reading them makes you that much more excited for the things I’m working on next.

This wasn’t just a fun day for me though. Steve D’Adamo was right there with me, and he sold copies of his book, The Warden of Everfeld: Memento. He even posted a blog about his side of things.

So I won’t go over information he covered because I frankly want you to read his blog. But I do have some additional insights.

  1. How I measure “success.”

D5nXJwSWAAAHwLwI ran into another author who was a bit upset that sales weren’t there. Now, some authors measure success in terms of profit. I’m not one of those. Even with multiple books, I still don’t have enough products to expect to actually profit. I “made” $289. That’s fantastic. It’s certainly way more than I normally make. It paid for my table ($273.35 for badges and table), but I spent $456.66 ordering books, so I actually lost $441.01. That might lead to a lot of sad faces and discouraged hopeful authors. First, AwesomeCon is a huge event with pretty expensive artist alley tables.  I don’t go to AwesomeCon to make money. I got to AwesomeCon to have fun and meet people. I got to meet new readers who I hope will become loyal readers. My two of my three most loyal readers were all people I met at AwesomeCon. So yeah, I lost money up front, but those people buy my books I later release, even if they wait to do so at the next AwesomeCon.

So I told the author I mentioned above, “I already know I’m going to lose money here. I don’t count success by dollars made. I count it by books sold.” Fifty one is a new record. So I see this event as a huge success.

How could I have done better? Well, I’m still not used to having so many books.  I ordered twenty copies of each of my longer works (Caught and The Journals of Bob Drifter), and I ordered thirty copies each of my shorter works (Repressed & Sojourn in Captivity (paperback) and The Power of Words).  I only sold more than half of one of those. So I just ordered too many books.  If I’d only ordered half of those numbers, I still would have lost $213 (or so), but that’s expected at an event where I still have a very limited number of things for people to buy. This is something I’m going to try to adjust. At Shore Leave, I intend to sell prints as well. It’s a low-up-front cost item that will help me diversify what people can come to my table to purchase. I’ll also be able to bundle them and increase deals for potential customers.

Now, Shore Leave is much less expensive to attend. I clearly don’t need to order more books. I took that money I earned from AwesomeCon to pay for my table. If I sell all of those books, I’ll make back that table. Mathematically, I will still have lost $100-something, but I’ll have that many more books out there for people to read, (hopefully) enjoy, (hopefully) review, and (hopefully) recommend to a friend.  

2.  Try new things:

caught-front-cover
This cover gets a lot of looks, so I’m going to try and sell prints of it.

As I mentioned above, I’m always looking to try new things. My biggest mission is to provide low-cost (both to me and the potential customer) products to purchase. Bookmarks did not work. They make great hand outs, but people just don’t want to pay for those. So I looked around and realized that there are a lot of artists in artist alley (go figure). So the new plan is to commission art based on my books to sell prints of at conventions. I don’t expect to do as well as people who sell cool pictures of trademarked characters, but I’m not touching that. But if someone looks at a really awesome picture of Caden or Elele, they may want to buy it. They may want to know about the character. This may work; it may not work at all. The point is you have to diversify your options. Not everyone reads. Most people who go to conventions buy art from someone. Why not art based on my books? Plus, it gets Carlos and Collin some attention. Also, I’m sharing profits with them so I don’t pay up front. It’s a risk on their end, but it’s an investment of time for the potential to profit money.

3.  Sharing is great!

D5Ht92lX4AI4_7MI’ve shared a table before, but I didn’t know how to do it. I’d read both of Andrew’s books (I shared a table with him a few times), but he’d only read one of mine. Also, we thought of our one table as two tables rather than thinking of the table as ours. This might have been something I did wrong. I’m not saying we didn’t try to help each other out, but we were still pitching our stuff more individually.  Steve knew all my pitches for all my books. He understood my work, and he knew how I was marketing. We talked before hand. We also pitched what was right for the reader. If someone said they liked traditional fantasy, I put Steve’s book in his hand. Steve must have sold at least three of my books. I might have sold as many of his. We amplified one another. Now, Andrew is wonderful, and he worked hard for each other. I just lacked the understanding of how sharing a table really works. This is something I really want to continue to try. It brings the up-front costs down for each of us, and it really works when you’re selling the books people want.  In fact, during AwesomeCon, I actually told a reader I probably don’t have a books she likes (she’s a fan of Terry Pratchett). I directed her straight to Andrew’s work. I told her, you’ll love him.

So those are a few insights. Ultimately, I couldn’t be happier. It took Julie and I a week to recover. We were so exhausted, but we had so much fun.

If you were one of the people I met at the event, thank you so much for giving our work a try. We truly hope you enjoy the books.

Thanks for reading,

Matt