Monday, October 6, 2014

My First Big Convention

My very first author event was in March of this year in Madison, IN. Since then, I've been to three local toy shows and an author's convention called Imaginarium in Louisville, KY. But all year, I had my sights set on one event...


Archon is St. Louis' biggest and longest-running science fiction/fantasy convention (38 years). Past guests of honor include George R.R. Martin and Stephen King. I actually attended this con last October just to scope things out, and I was determined to sell my books here in 2014.

So hopes were high, and I was nervous. I love selling in person, actually. I'm a natural extrovert, and I always engage with prospective buyers. At this convention, I felt like I was with my true audience. Steampunks and non-steampunks alike wanted to know more about my books.

I love meeting new people anyway, but I had so much fun getting to know my fellow book-lovers. This is why we do what we do, right?

So here's what I've learned this weekend:

1) Presenting your books to the right audience is crucial. The people attending Achon love science fiction/fantasy, so my genre was a perfect fit.

2) You need to ENGAGE with people. So many authors just sit behind their tables and passively wait
Me and G.P. Ching
for people to come up. I stood up the entire time to be eye-level with people. You need to connect with others. To me, I'm not just selling a book. I'm asking someone to go on a journey with me. Sounds hokey, I know. But people who give you money for your book deserve, at the very least, your time and your attention. Every buyer is more than a buyer. I made real friends who I hope will enjoy my stories.

3) Some people at cons are a little...weird. We all know this, but there's a certain segment of the sci-fi population who are socially awkward. I still tried to reach out to them. Some of them welcomed the opportunity to make friends, so much. And it was truly painful to see one of these awkward guys trying to talk to a girl. Crash and burn.

4) Visuals are key. Invest is a professional and sturdy banner and display. Don't go cheap. Save up your pennies and do it right. A 6 tiered book rack puts your books up at eye-level, and a banner with your kick ass cover art attracts attention.

5) Which leads me to #5. If our cover art is not eye-catching. It's worth it to spend the money to get one that will draw people's attention. People passing by stopped and looked at my cover art. Oh, and we did have a giant bowl of candy out too. That helped. (We went through 12 bags of candy). I lost count of the compliments and "wows" I got from my cover art. Thank you Enggar Adirasa.

6) The amount of dedication and skill it takes to be a cosplayer is mind-boggling. Tony Acree, author and CEO of Hyra Publications, took a ton of pics. We shared a table and we had an absolute BLAST. We were for sure the two loudest people there. Here's just a few of my favorite cosplayers:

She made this herself. Amazeballs!

Steampunk family. They bought my books!

This big dude saw my books and had to have them.

I'm not a Trekkie, but I got this one!

My #1 pick. These two were so darn authentic.
Of course, I had to dress up too.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Your sign looks amazing!
Yes, some weird people at those conventions. And I can definitely picture the crash and burn.
Great tips and glad it was a big success for you.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You're smart - never sit! Always stand and engage others. That was a tip I received before my first signing and I'm so thankful. Candy helps, too. (I always get bags of Tootsie Rolls from the Dollar Store.)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Sounds like you had a blast - and that, of course, came across in the way you presented yourself and your work. I love when we find "our people." :)

Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption

DEZMOND said...

What? There are awkward nerds among the sf people? I'm shocked, this is news to me :))))

Jay Noel said...

Alex: My banner was SO worth the investment. And thanks!

Diane: But next year, I will get rubber mats for my feet. My legs are so sore.

Madeline: It was so much fun hanging out with people who had the same interests.

Dez: VERY awkward. I felt bad, as I was really puling for some of those guys. Others were just so awkward, it bordered on inappropriate.

jaybird said...

Jay- this is all such sound advice and it's so familiar to me. I guess because it's like marketing 101. When I used to train marketing reps I included a lot of what you are saying here; even though we weren't selling books. I think you being a drug rep is SUCH an asset and helps tremendously in the marketing and sales end of being an author. Because to me, the same basic principles apply. And I have never met a "shy" rep, lol. Most of us are huge extroverts. NOT the case at Cons, for sure. But knowing your audience is also a huge marketing strategy. Good for you that you were able to cross-over and be successful at the Con. You look great and I love all of the pictures and crucial advice you included here. Well done!!!

Jay Noel said...

Jaybird: Thanks! It was fun, and I don't think I'm even capable of just sitting back and waiting for people to come to me. Pssst....I'm not a drug rep. Lol. I'm in immunodiagnostics. So I don't have to lug around a dolly with samples asking for signatures! I get to talk to many drug reps in the waiting rooms, though. It's a really declining industry. Waiting rooms used to be jammed with drug reps. Not anymore...

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I love your banner. Congratulations on the success, dude. You deserve it cause your writing is frickin' awesome.

T. S. Bazelli said...

Sounds like a really fun time! Thanks for the tips too. Gotta bookmark those for the future :)

mooderino said...

The artwork for your books is certainly eye-catching (good call on using that artist). I think you're finding your audience and things are clearly on the up. Very cool.

Moody Writing

Sarah Foster said...

That banner looks awesome! Glad you had a good time a sold some books.

cleemckenzie said...

You got my attention with those eyes, Jay! Glad you had a great event.

Jay Noel said...

Michael: I appreciate all your help and support!

T.S. I'm still learning, but I'm getting pretty good at selling my books in person.

Moody: You hit the bullseye right there - finding your audience. I'm so glad I have one.

Sarah: Thanks! I'm so glad I spent the $$$ and got a good one.

Lee: Yeah, I had to open REALLY wide.

Jenna Howard said...

Congrats on a successful convention. Sounds like the bigger ones are the way to go.

Jay Noel said...

Jenna: If you can afford the bigger price tag!

Mark Noce said...

Great advice! I will definitely try to put it into practice myself:)

Carol Kilgore said...

I can see what fun you had!

Intangible Hearts said...

Sounds like YOU are living the dream. Congratulations my friend.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Great costume Jay and standing set you apart from the rest and made you approachable. Congrats!

sarah saad said...

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