AwesomeCon was a few weeks ago, and I always like to talk about how the conventions I attend go.
This con is special to me because it was one of my first ever and certainly the first “big” convention I ever attended. I go every year, and I plan on being there every year God grants me life.
From a business standpoint, I did fairly well. What I mean to say is I sold about what I normally sell at any convention. AwesomeCon is a bit more expensive to get to, but that means I get a lot more exposure too. It’s a weird balance between sales and marketing, but I’m pretty satisfied with how it meant.
I’m hopeful that the new readers I met enjoy the books and maybe drop me a review or two. I also made a few new author friends and linked up with some fans. Look, the fact that I can say with certainty that I have fans is still kind of a wondrously strange thing to me. Getting to say hello to a few loyal readers and maybe meet a few new ones is always a plus.
Another reason I’m such a fan of this event is the fact that I usually have a panel. This year was no different. My panel about “The Pitfalls of Unwary Self Publishers” has become a tradition. I managed to record the event this year so anyone interested in the process (or more importantly the things they shouldn’t do) can just watch the video.
Finally, I got to see some cosplay, my favorite was of a young woman who dressed as the new Doctor. I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, and she was the first person I’d seen wear the 14th (there were 14. Count them. #AllRespecttoJohnHurt) Doctor’s attire.
These events are always fun, and I can’t express how grateful I am to everyone who comes to see hello, much less listen to me rant about my books and then actually buys one. I’ll always be indebted to those who help keep my dream moving forward.
Shore Leave was a few weekends ago, but I was a big backed up, and I wanted to do more than just update you on how it went (spoiler alert, it went well).
I met some great new readers. Here’s a picture I took with a few. One was so kind, she continued to update me on where she was in the book each time I saw her. (She’d made it to Chapter 10 of Caught when I last saw her.) I’m happy to say I usually expect to sell enough books to make back what I paid for the table. This was true for Shore Leave as well. I even managed to get some autographs for my mom (she was a big Star Trek: The Next Generation fan).
I met several wonderful people at the panels I was on, two of whom (I happen to have their cards on my rat’s nest of a desk) were Kelli Fitzpatrick and Derek Tyler Attico. They weren’t the only people kind enough to let me hang with them during the panels, but I have their names handy, and I wanted to give them a shout out. Andrew Hiller was also just a few tables down from mine, and having him to chat with on occasion is always a good time. He was the one who gave me the opportunity to sit on panels he was unable to attend.
I’m still working and learning when it comes to actually selling my books, but one of the things I like to do is peel back the curtain sometimes. You have to have a lot of conviction to just be a writer. Creating a book and revising it until it’s ready to publish is a mission of faith all by itself, but then putting yourself out there can be daunting. Remember, I’ve said conventions are my number one way to generate sales.
True though it may be, one still has to be willing to put himself out there again and again. To help put it into perspective, I had a thought and acted on it (a bad habit of mine).
I decided to start tracking statistics.
I did that so people planning to do conventions knew that getting a table can work and be fun, but you have to be willing to work at it.
How I work. People are wonderful, and I think of them as compassionate people that are, at the very least, interested in the same things I’m interested in. Marketers (Steve, help me out here if I’m off) call this the funnel process, but I think of my process more like a series of doors.
Every person who walks by receives a little handout from me. People like cool, free things. I have cool chapter icons and covers, so I hand them out. When I do so, I simply say, “If you have a moment, I’d love to talk to you about my work.” That’s door number one.
When a person tells me they’re interested, I give them the pitch to each book. Then I tell them the sale I’m having (I always have a sale of some sort during a convention). That’s door number two.
If people like the pitch, I put whichever book in which they’re interested in their hand. That’s door number three. If reading the first few pages doesn’t grab them, they probably say thanks but no thanks.
Every now and again, they show some level of interest. That’s usually when I direct them to door number four. I tell them about the electronic versions of my books and tell them about whatever e-sales I’m running. A great number of my online sales come from this. I can’t get the numbers for The Journals of Bob Drifter yet, but I sold eight more copies of Caught in this manner.) Yes, I want to make money, but what I want more is for people to like and enjoy my work. I don’t care if they buy the 99-cent (when it’s on sale) version of Caught, the free (with an credit) Audible version of Bob , or whatever. I write stories for people to enjoy, and I consider it my job to give them every option to choose from.
The thing is, it’s pretty daunting to hand out that many cards or book covers just hoping someone’s willing to give you a bit more time.
That’s when I decided to just keep count:
The first time I tracked it, I handed out seven book covers before someone listened to my pitch. The good news is, that person bought my book.
The next time, I handed out 12 bookmarks and gave five pitches before someone bought a book. Sound pretty rough? Well, I don’t think 1-out-of-12 is all that bad myself. I’d actually be thrilled if that were the case.
I had to hand out 74 book covers and give 15 more pitches before I sold my next book. I won’t like folks, that was a pretty epic sledgehammer to my confidence. I had that “I’m the nerdy kid at a junior high dance” feeling. I kept at it. Why? Well, for one, what else was I going to do? Also, you’re going to get a lot of rejection and doubt in this field. You, frankly, need to be willing to fight through it.
The next time was a bit easier. I handed out 29 book covers and gave five pitches. Believe it or not, that fifth pitch sold two books.
Average it up and it took me about 31 book marks and seven pitches to generate one sale. I don’t know what other authors do (and I’d be curious to hear about it in the comments below), but that’s actually a pretty good day for me. I would have done much better had I not left about 20 editions of Caught on the convention floor at AwesomeCon. (Just left them there. I completely forgot them.) For one, Caught was much more in demand at Shore Leave than it was at AwesomeCon (different audience). Also, bundling my two books as a deal tends to generate a few extra sales. Learning that made me want to crawl in a hole and cry for a while, but I had things to do.
I don’t consider myself super aggressive or even remotely aggressive. I try to be friendly, and I only communicate with people I think are at least willing to talk to me. My point is, you have to put yourself out there. I don’t think of it as 116 people didn’t want my book. That sort of thinking is poisonous. I considered each person I spoke to a new acquaintance made. Each sale was a victory in and of itself. If those sales result in good reviews, that’s all the more awesome sauce for my cool-guy taco.
So if you’re at an event, and you start to feel like that poor junior high kid who bought a brand new pocket protector just for this dance, get out on the floor and shake your tail feathers. Remember you love what you do, and you like people. The ones who get up and dance with you will be all the more special for it.
I’ve had a few days to rest (at least a little), and I think I’ll be back to work in another day or two. It won’t be long at all before my next event, which is Shore Leave. I’ve just learned bout some more opportunities coming my way, so stay tuned for that. With that said, I wanted to give you all a bit more insight as to how AwesomeCon went.
First off, some special thanks. The first must be my helpers. They get the chance to attend the event and have some fun, but they have to help me sell books and give me periodic breaks. Events like this take a ton out of me as it is, and I wouldn’t be able to do them without help, so I’d like to offer special thanks to Peggy Trujillo and Keith Simmons. They made it so I could step away when I wanted. They made it so I could attend my panel (more on that later), and they made it possible for me to check a few items off the bucket list (yes, more on that later, too). A note about Keith, turns out, his cosplay costume was well liked by the AwesomeCon folks. He made their list of favorite costumes.
Next I’d like to thank Andrew Hiller. He actually joined me at my table this year. Teaming up with him gave me another person to talk to. I’ve read A Halo of Mushrooms, and A Climbing Stock is on my TBR. It was a pleasure working with him, and I want to make sure I say thanks for sending some traffic my way and keeping me company.
Last, but in no way the least, is the new group of friends I made during my panel. I didn’t have anyone to be on my panel with me, and I truly wanted those in attendance to get the most out of the experience. So I approached a group near my table and asked if they’d care to join me. They call themselves the Awethors, which is a clever name if I do say so myself. They were a super group of people to meet. Jeffery Cook, D.R. Perry, and E.A. Copen were fantastic additions to the panel, and they made it a huge success. I had several people come up to me and tell me they loved it. I owe that success to them. Thank you all for joining me.
For those interested in the marketing side of things, this is the spot you should be interested in. Jeffery wrote a book called, “Working the Table, An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions.” I can’t wait to dig into that. I brought around 300 business cards, 75 bookmarks and a ton of QR-Code cards I’d made a while back. I should have brought more of the bookmarks and business cards. I ran out of those on the first day, and I think they were effective. All told, I sold about 10 more books than I’ve ever sold. Caught finally gained some traction, and I’m hoping readers start posting reviews soon. I’m also nearly sold out of soft-cover editions of The Journals of Bob Drifter. I’m proud of the fact that I sold enough product to make up the table, gas, new books (sorry, TBR pile), and parking. By any standard, that’s a success. I’ll admit I didn’t reach my super goal, but I’d still call that weekend a success.
I think my favorite part of the event was having people approach me and tell me how much they liked my work. I posted about that earlier, but I can’t say enough what it means to me for people to show their appreciation. A lot of those conversations gave me some much needed motivation to stay true to my dream and keep at it. It’s amazing to think anyone would take time out of their day to stop by and just say they liked my books. Thank you!
A note on the value of reviews: I had a large number of people who spoke to me about my book. They took a night to think on it and then came back. A lot of them said my reviews on Goodreads made a convincing argument to try my books. I’d like to thank those who reviewed my books. I’d be ever so grateful to anyone else who’s read my work to do the same. They really do matter. If you hated them or loved them, there is no such thing as a bad review in my eyes.
The convention wasn’t 100 percent business. Last year, I made it a point to meet Summer Glau. This year I had a chance to meet someone who was fundamental to my dream to become a writer. If I’m being honest, Stan Lee was far too busy to do much more than sign a comic, but this Uncanny X-Men #101 is right up there with my signed copy of The White Dragon. I honestly only need one more autograph to have my own personal Rushmore of authors (ok, look, Tolstoy would be on that list, but I don’t think that’s in the cards). I didn’t pay for the photo or any of the events, but having that signature on my favorite comic ever is really special, and I’m glad I got the chance to do that.
It feels weird. This post is under 1,000 words, but I feel like I only scratched the surface. I wish I could talk about every conversation and every cool thing I saw, but there’s just too many. All I can do is say it really was a great time, and I can’t wait for next year!
Happy AwesomeCon everyone! So this convention has a special place in my heart. They were the first large con to contact me and invite me to their event. I’ve had a panel there every year (like last year) since I became published, and I have one this year as well. I always look forward to this convention, and I’m excited about what I have going on this year.
First, I’ll have a partner in crime. Fellow author Andrew Hiller will be with me at the booth, he’s joined forces with me. I read A Halo of Mushrooms, and posted my review here. It’ll be nice to have someone to sit with and talk about writing with all day. Andrew and I will be at table P19.
Next, I’d like to announce a few sales. To celebrate this event, Caught will be on sale for 99 cents from now until the 19th. If you were waiting on a deal, this is your chance. Outside of the electronic universe, the hard cover for The Journals of Bob Drifter will be reduced to $30. The soft cover will be down to $20. Caught will be it’s regular price of $9.99, but if you haven’t had a chance to grab any autographs from me, I’m bundling the books. You can buy Caught and The Journals of Bob Drifter together for a total of $25 (with a soft cover of Bob, $35 for the hard cover and Caught). I wanted to re-release Bob before this, but it’s my own fault for giving my editor two books to edit at the same time (I’m selfish really). So reducing the price to Bob is the least I can do for those readers who want to try out my work.
As I mentioned above, I’ll be hosting a panel (actually it’ll be more of a Q & A). It’s about the Pitfalls of Unwary Self Publishers. That’s scheduled for 5:30 June 16 in room 154. I hope to see you all there!
AwesomeCon runs from June 16-18. Doors open at noon Friday and close for another year at 5 p.m. Sunday.
I think that’s about it. I’m looking forward to a great weekend, and I hope to see you all there!
I’m home on vacation, which for me means I get to spend way more time on writing. I was making good progress on Sojourn in Captivity already, and now I’m happy to report the fourth (of five) draft is done! I want to take another moment to thank my beta readers. Your feedback helped make this a much stronger story, and I was pleased with it before I sent it out. Now it’s back to the editor for the copy-editing pass. The story is what it is, now we’re making sure the writing is as strong as it can be. That’ll be the last draft before I add a bit of information (a forward) to it and send it off to the Slush Brain’s honorable captain.
This also gives me a chance to put out a few other updates.
First, I’m happy to announce I did manage to get another event lined up. I went to Shore Leave a few years back, and I confirmed a few months ago that I’m heading that way again.
Speaking of conventions, at last year’s AwesomeCon, I had the chance to talk about the pitfalls of self publishing. I’ll be doing that panel again. This one is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Friday, June 16. It was a fun panel to do last year, and I have more information this year.
Sojourn isn’t the only project I’ve sent to my editor. I’ve re-designed The Journals of Bob Drifter, and I sent that PDF her way for a quick proofread before I re-release that. I would have loved for that book to be re-released before AwesomeCon, but it’s not not logistically possible. Still, it will be re-released this year, and doing so will allow me a lot more freedom with that title (not to mention a lower (I’m not sure how much) cover price).
Now that I’m not bring so much mental energy on Sojourn, I can turn my attention back to Images of Truth the actual first complete novel in the Perception of War saga. (Sojourn is simply a prequel novella.)
I want to finish Images of Truth (I was halfway done when I switched gears for Sojourn) before I put my full attention on the Oneiros log. I’ve started (and even nearly finished) an outline for a novella featuring Kaitlyn. Then it’s full steam ahead on the rest of the trilogy.
I’m a guy who needs something to look at when his eyes start to cross, so I’ll be working on a draft of 1,200 (another project that should be coming your way in the not too distant future). It’s still my ambitious hope to dedicate the rest of 2017 and all of 2018 to writing and conventions and then release a minimum of six projects in 2019. That would be three Oneiros books, 1,200, and a few from a new series I plan to start. I have a bunch of other drafts too, but those projects are much larger. My hope is this new series will keep good product from a common universe coming, which will then give me more time to finish those larger products (New Utopia and Perception of War) the way they’re meant to be finished.
I want to thank all of you who read my blog (and of course my books)! Your support really means the world to me. I’m putting a lot into 2019, hoping that will be “my year” more or less. Your support always makes it easier to sit down with the lap top.
I just wanted to let you all know I’ve added a new link to my panels page.
I had the privilege to join Authors Heidi Angell and J.B. Taylor for a fun discussion about the first two episodes of the new season of Doctor Who and its spinoff Class. You probably want to jump to the 30:51 mark as we had to hash out some technical difficulties, but that’s when the discussion begins in earnest. If you want to see it, You just jump straight to it here.
What’s going on? Pretty much everything. I mean, I have to line everything up so I don’t miss JUST the things I’m participating in. This virtual convention is pretty much a book convention without the costumes. (Actually, I’m probably wearing a costume, you just can’t see it).
At any rate, I’d like you all to take a look at the events I’m involved in. Please feel free to participate and share whatever you see. I’m personally most excited about the panels (See below).
So, what am I up to this 3rd annual Cycon?
Author Showcase: This is where you can see all the authors involved. There are a BUNCH of talented authors participating, including most of (if not all of) my beloved friends aboard the Slush Brain. You can click the above link for the entire list. If you’re looking for yours truly, I’m located in the 2017 Horror Showcase. This is because I think Caught fits best in that section. You’ll see Bob around there, too.
Book Expo: Letting people know what books are out there is important. This breaks the books down by genre. You can see book blurbs and covers for all those books (and mine).
Character Tournaments: Sal, the main character from Caught, has landed himself in a character tournament. I love these. It’s just natural nerd discussion. Who would win in a fight? You can head over to the link and vote for all the characters. I don’t know how Sal would do against some of these guys, but I like his odds in Round 1. Just as with my Book Cover of the Month, I only ask that you vote and vote in every match.
Book Cove Bracket: Speaking of book cover brackets, B2B has one of those as well. Caught is lined up in the Horror category. I’ll be paying close attention to the winners from each category. I love my own project, and this looks to be like a good time. I’ve seen some of the brackets already, and they look great! So do a guy a favor, and send some votes his way?
Panels: This is just awesome. So Angela, Captain of the Slush Brain, Mistress of the Web Sea, Queen of Online Conventions (and the brain behind Brain to Books), set up a bunch of panels. I’m in a fair number of them. We talk about Anime (Naruto), Book Covers, Fantasy Fiction and Magic Systems, Doctor Who, and a lot more. Just head over here, to get a look at all the panels. This was so fun to do, and I hope you all take a minute or two to see some of the topics of conversation.
There’s honestly too much going on to go over in one blog, but there’s so much. There are giveaways. There are blog hops and genre tours. It’s pretty much endless.
I hope you check out these events and get to know these authors the way I do.
When I published The Journals of Bob Drifter, I had some pretty funny ideas about how the book would sell. I thought I had friends who would buy the book and recommend it to others. I thought those readers would recommend more. I thought I’d do a few events and I’d need boxes and boxes of my book just to keep enough stock.
That wasn’t remotely the case. While setting up what I call my six-month tour in my little area, I did manage to get invites from a few bookstores, who not only allowed me to peddle my wares in their place of business, but they also have a few copies of my books. To this day, I’m grateful for them, but I have yet to sell a single copy of my book anywhere I’ve been that sells books.
Now, it’s possible that I just don’t know what I’m doing. If you’ve had success at a bookstore, please let me know in the comments below. As I was looking for the closest window from which to leap, something occurred to me.
People don’t go to bookstores to find books. They go to bookstores to find books they’re looking for.
That might sound like the same thing, but stick with me here. I love books! I love reading. I have my own little system regarding how I buy my stack of books. As I stood there watching people walk by trying ever so politely to pretend I don’t exist, I realized those people didn’t come to the book store to meet a new author. I know I don’t go to a book store to do that. I go to book stores, to find the latest books form authors I already know and love. I walk in the door, scan the “coming soon” sign, zip straight to the Fantasy section and look for those names I’ve already learned I enjoy seeing work from.
How many of you have a list of favorite authors? I know I do. I have what I call “Authors who I drop what I’m reading for.” I have authors who I know I will enjoy reading while I wait for one of those other authors to finish writing another book. Every rare now and again, I’ll be so hard up for a book I’ll wander my favorite section and give a cover that draws my attention a shot. But my time is rare these days, and I have a lot more author friends now. I tend to read their work and the work of their friends.
The point is, I don’t meet new authors there. Do you? I give new authors a chance through one of three ways: Way One (most rare): I’m desperate for something to read, and I look for the coolest cover I can find. This scares me because I usually end up in the middle of a trilogy or not liking the book. I have a rule about finishing books I start, and sometimes the “cover” technique disappoints me.
Way Two (Next Most Rare): I read anthologies when authors I love are in them. Honestly, this has been the most reliable. I’m a huge fan of Peter V. Brett, but I never would have known about him had I not read an anthology that included Brandon Sanderson. There are a few other authors I’ve discovered in that manner, too. Lucky for me, I’m very lucky to be involved in Idle Voyages, and I’m optimistic about the chances those readers will find a bunch of authors they’ll enjoy.
Way Three (Most Common): Word of Mouth. This has burned me every bit as much as it’s been a blessing. I’ve come to expect some recommendations will be better than others.
What awkward position does this method put a self-published author in? I’ve only just been invited to participate in an anthology. I have a few friends and readers that sing my praises. I have one in particular who may have sold more of my books than I have.
Don’t fret. While I’d like to hear from others who have more success than I do through social media, I do know of one glorious place where people are willing to give new authors a shot.
Conventions! Disclaimer: I’m a fantasy/paranormal/science fiction author. Conventions work for me because that’s where my readers go. There, they’re willing to meet people and give new authors a try. I have the most sales at conventions, and the residual sales are also more effective.
Now I noted in a lot of my earlier blogs that I went into this ignorant and without a plan. That was just plain foolish of me. Since then, I’ve become more active in social media. I’ve gotten my website to be more effective (Thanks Quintessential Editor!) It’s just too soon to see if these methods will help more, but basic marketing still holds true.
Identify your audience. No. People everywhere won’t love your book. You’re audience isn’t everyone. You’re audience is very specific. I like it when lots of people try reading my book, but when I sit and think about who will most like my book, I get a very specific picture. You should too.
Find out where they go to hang out. You want your marketing to get your product in front of your potential readers. I promise, you can spend thousands on marketing, tracking impressions, printed products or views. Those metrics are pointless if you don’t know who you’re trying to reach. I know because I wasted thousands doing just that. Don’t make my mistake.
Lately, I’m much more careful about how I market and what I invest in. I make sure that what I’m paying for has some quantifiable way to measure success. When I invest, I ask, What do I want to do, and how will I track it’s effectiveness? That doesn’t always have to mean sales, but it’s nice when it does.
What am I looking for other than sales?
Active Followers. Followers who read my blogs, post comments or click likes. The more regularly they work with me, the more encouraged I am they’ll want to or have read my book. This applies to all social media platforms.
Clicks to my buy page. When I invest in online marketing, I want to see what effectively gets people to click on the link where they can buy my book. So I measure this by tracking link clicks. I can use this same formula to gain more followers as well.
Other Blogs. First off, other bloggers are awesome. I meet a lot of very smart people who in turn make me smarter. Next, I remember a rising tide floats all boats. The more you work with others, the more they’ll work with you.
To date, more than half of my sales have come from conventions. They’re demanding and draining, but they work. When Caught is released, I’m going to focus the great majority of my efforts on those conventions. It’s where I found my readers.
Have you earned sales in other ways? Do you have a trick that’s worked? I’d love to hear it. Until then, see you next time.