Two Conventions in less than 10 days. That’s what I did last week, folks. June 17-19 I attended Denver Comic Con (awwwweesome!) and then June 22-26, I flew off to Nashville for UtopiaCon 2016. Another awwwweesome.
While not everyone who reads this is an author, I wanted to share some of the wisdom I gleaned from these hectic ten days.
1. Plan in advance, and actually DO the things on your to-do list. Don’t wait until the last minute to get everything done. If you have to fly to a convention, make sure you have the right luggage to get your books, marketing materials and display items to the venue. Otherwise, you’ll end up scrambling for appropriate luggage and sweating over the weight limits.
You really don’t want to know how I know this.
2. Find the balance between taking too much, and not enough. It’s not easy – but talk to people who have done the event before. Look on Facebook. Is there a group for the people going? I was fortunate to find a group dedicated to authors heading to UtopiaCon. I didn’t really need to ask questions because so many other people did it before I even thought of any. But I did read the discussions and follow them, and it helped me tremendously in deciding what I needed to bring with me. When you have to travel to the venue, the logistics of what and how much to bring are paramount.
3. It’s okay to sell out of a product. I sold out of HEART OF THE GOBLIN KING, and I took orders for it. I added a small fee for shipping, and boom! Done! So bring the amount of product that works without hurting you logistically (thank goodness for Southwest and their two bag allowance!). You can still sell and be successful if you have overwhelming demand beyond how much product you have in hand that day.
4. Prep your display before you show up for the event. I hadn’t done any conventions as an author, and nothing on the scale of either of the two I attended. So I researched table set up, and made notes about what has worked for other creative people who are selling at these events. You know what? It worked. I found a great blog that broke down how people decide you’re not the artistic equivalent of a used car salesman. Set up your table beforehand and look at it as dispassionately as you can. Does it appeal? Is it cluttered? (Side note: Give yourself time to set up at the venue and eyeball your table as well. De-clutter. Make everything visually appealing. If you’re not sure, bring a friend for set up to help you look at your display objectively.)
It worked. BUT – and this is a big but – it’s work. You cannot spend the time and money that working conventions takes without committing yourself to hard work. Comic Con started on June 17, and I was home and done by June 27 with both cons, and I am EXHAUSTED. Be prepared for that. Have help so you can get something to eat and drink, and the ability to go to the bathroom. These things matter as much as anything else you do, people!
5. Come up with a one line description for your work. People are moving by. They don’t want to stop and hear the entire 5 page synopsis. Make it quick, intriguing, and snappy. What would interest you as a potential reader? That’s how I developed my descriptions.
6. Don’t hard sell. People don’t mind being sold, in my opinion, if you lead them to it logically, and without a baseball bat. No one likes the used car salesman. Don’t be that guy for your book. People will nod, take your swag, and scurry away, sorry they made eye contact. That’s not the kind of impression you want to leave with them. Practice how you’re going to talk to people. This is important if you’re not really a people person. Let’s face it, writing/creating is a solitary profession. So if you’re not comfy with it, stand in front of a mirror and practice.
That leads to my final takeaway-
7. Always put yourself in the place of your audience.
I’m a reader. Most authors are readers as well. It’s part of why we write – we want to transport others as we ourselves have been transported. So what would work for you, as a reader? What sort of table display at a convention would draw you in? What kind of chat from the author would inspire you to take a chance on an author you aren’t familiar with?
What would turn you away? Think about what sort of message you like to see from those selling a product, and what works and doesn’t work for you, as the audience.
I find that if I think of my audience at all times, I tend to do things that they like. Because they’re things that I, as a reader and a fangirl of various fandoms, like.
You do all these things, and you’re probably going to have a pretty fantastic time. No voice at the end of it, but who cares? You had fun losing it!