Monday, October 12, 2015

Attending Cons...A Newbie's Perspective

After writing about my last science fiction/fantasy convention experience last week, it got me thinking about cons in general. This is the second year I've been going to these events as an author. My very first con of any kind was way back in 1984, and it was a big Doctor Who convention. Despite that, I don't consider myself a convention veteran, but after two years of sitting on the other side of the table, I've learned a few things.

1) Many vendors leave out bowls of candy as an incentive for visitors to stop by. This year, I took a mental count of attendees who took my candy before saying a word to me, and every single person never even looked at any of my books. Not one. They just sauntered over, grabbed some candy, and took off. So the candy stops now!

2) Cosplay continues to be the main attraction at these cons. As a vendor, if you dress up, I guarantee you will get more people stopping by, which means more sales. I put on the Captain Nemo outfit, and I got stopped a bunch of times for a photograph just walking to get some water.

3) Since cosplay is the big thing, the weird thing is, comics are NOT the main attraction at these so-called-comic-cons. Baaaack in the day, comics were the main draw. Not anymore. Other forms of entertainment take the main stage. Even just regular books have taken a back seat.

4) So much diversity. I saw tons of families, people of various ethnicities, and the LGBT group was well represented. This is one of my favorite things about cons.

5) It helps to have help. Unless you have an iron bladder, you will have to pee. And maybe eat. So having someone to run your table is a HUGE deal. Make sure your backup knows all about your books and stuff too.

6) Sexy cosplay is a big thing too, but if your butt is hanging out of your skirt, the con staff will stop you and make you either change or cover up. This happened right in front of me. A girl was telling me about her favorite books, and a staffer stood next to her, patiently waiting. When they turned around, I understood right away what the problem was. Yikes!

7) All the awesome geekiness inside the vendor's hall is like walking into Willy  Wonka's factory. But WHOA, what's going on these days? Can you say MARK UP? Dealers are making up their merchandise like never before, which makes me think that their costs have gone up too.

8) Speaking of costs, how do any of us artists keep going to cons? Seriously. Maybe 8 out 10 actually covered their expenses. Thats' really sad. The cost of just getting a table in artists' alley or in the vendor hall also seems to be going up, and people are buying more of the collectibles, toys, and other high ticket items these days

9) Beeeee yourself. I think so many con-goers love going to these events because they get to be themselves out in public. No judging, no bullying...and you're surrounded by like-minded people. It's a great atmosphere.

10) Did I mention not to bring candy in the hopes of luring people to your table???


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Probably why I wouldn't do well at a Con - no way I'm dressing up.
Sorry the costs make it so prohibitive for many people. Shame the Cons can't make more money through sponsors and door tickets and not gouge those there to sell. Probably why so many mark up their merchandise.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

See now, I wouldn't take the candy unless I was going to at least look at the books. I'd feel too guilty. :)

Jay Noel said...

Alex: I'm still a geek at heart, but I'm by no means a diehard cosplayer. Many people take costuming to new heights. It's pretty amazing. Costs are making everything prohibitive. I think many of the top tier guests are expecting tons of money to show up.

Madeline: That's why many people sheepishly slide over, shoot me a quick smile of guilt, and then grab the candy before running off. They even KNOW what they're doing is not cool.

Christine Rains said...

That's just rude to come take candy without saying a word! The one thing that has kept me from having a table at a con is the cost. Not only do you have to pay for the table, but the expense of swag, books, promo items, hotel, etc. I don't make enough money for that. Cosplay is a great idea, though.

Pat Hatt said...

The costs have to get to many. Yeah, not sure I'd ever dress up haha candy thieves and butt showers abound, huh?

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I've never tried the candy thing at a book signing though I know lots of writers do. I would really love to go to a con but just to be there, not to sell books. Most of the writers I know who go have publishers paying for their tables. You look great, Captain.

Pat Dilloway said...

Sounds fun but not really profitable.

Sarah Foster said...

That's terrible about the candy! You'd think they'd at least look around for a second.

Jay Noel said...

Christine: I try to stay within driving distance. If I have to get a hotel, I just use that time a a mini vacation.

Patt: Big butt showers!

Susan: It's hard to fully enjoy yourself at these events as a vendor. I do miss just going for fun.

Pat: I've been very lucky. Only a few times have I ended up in the red, and those events were just 30 minutes from my house and low cost. So no biggie.

Sarah: I know! What's the deal with stealing candy without talking to me at least?

Jay Noel said...

Christine: I try to stay within driving distance. If I have to get a hotel, I just use that time a a mini vacation.

Patt: Big butt showers!

Susan: It's hard to fully enjoy yourself at these events as a vendor. I do miss just going for fun.

Pat: I've been very lucky. Only a few times have I ended up in the red, and those events were just 30 minutes from my house and low cost. So no biggie.

Sarah: I know! What's the deal with stealing candy without talking to me at least?

Emily R. King said...

I have never been to anything like this! The conventions I've gone to aren't nearly as exciting. Sounds like this would be a lot of fun!

Patricia Lynne said...

I've considered getting a bowl of candy when I do my small craft shows, but never get around to it. I wonder if it'd be any different because of different crowds compared to cons. Hmmm...

DEZMOND said...

boo and hiss on them candy stealers... I can't believe there are such people... hope they all poop themselves silly from each stolen candy

cleemckenzie said...

Didn't you get any of that candy for yourself? Shame on those candy-thieves. However, you look as if you had fun.

Chrys Fey said...

Try putting the candy at the back of the table so they have to reach over some books or something. That way they can't just grab some and walk by. As they reach for the bowl, you can say hello and make eye contact.

Lexa Cain said...

You're so cute as Capt Nemo! I'm not surprised you got stopped. I think Cosplay is so much fun. Back in the day (how embarrassing that sounds...) I was a member of a Medieval Society, and we made our own costumes, put on fairs, and had a huge convention in a farmer's field in PA called Pennsic Wars. All the guys made their own armor & weapons and "fought." I applaud you for working so hard on your marketing, and I think sharing with us is very generous. Don't give up. Maybe try things closer to home like book signings, libraries, newspaper & TV interviews. Wishing you all the best!

Jay Noel said...

Emily: Yeah, I guess our cons are pretty exciting.

Lee: I try not to indulge in too much candy. But I did pop a dum-dum or two in my mouth.

Chrys: Lol. And slap them in the face when they try to be all sneaky!

Lexa: Thanks!!! Of course, I didn't wear the beard this time. No need to get high off theatrical glue again.

Beth Ellyn Summer said...

I never knew what cosplay was till a few years ago..I don't think I'd have a lot of fun. Halloween is actually my least fav holiday. I never had good ones as a kid, something always went wrong!

Southpaw HR Sinclair said...

I would have never thought to have a backup for breaks. It's sad that you can't even break even at these events.

Julie Flanders said...

What a cute picture! You guys look great.
Couldn't agree more about the candy. And I cracked up about the woman with her butt hanging out. LOL it seems like common sense that wouldn't be a good idea but I guess some people are totally missing that.

Crystal Collier said...

Awesome thoughts. They're stored in my brain in case I ever get out to a con. Who knows? It could happen. (Being stuck at home with kids, it seems like it never will.)

Cherie Reich said...

Okay, no candy and do cosplay. :) I've always wanted to go to a con, but I've been nervous going by myself. Darn social anxiety. Maybe one of these days.

M Pax said...

Cool tips! I'm thinking of getting a costume and attending cons as an attendee with bookmarks and the like to pass out and books in my car. I've found selling in person to have no ROI. But I bet all that interacting is fun. I don't have the budget for it yet. All the nearby cons are at least 3 hours away.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I saw an amazing Black Widow cosplay at the Salt Lake City Comic Con.

Robin said...

I admire your persistence in the face of diminishing returns. I sure hope that turns around, but I can see from this post that a whole bunch of people are not making a profit at these things. I absolutely can see the benefit of help. I do NOT have an iron bladder!

David List said...

I kind of love conventions. People can act and dress however they want and no one judges. No one cool anyway.
I had a mobile booth at DragonCon shortly after my debut launched. I wasn't a vendor, didn't have a set location, wasn't able to sell. But at my 'booth' I brought a powerstrip and an extension cord.
Cell phones are a vaaaaaaluable commodity at cons, for pictures, maps, schedules, finding friends, etc... I capitalized on this by providing a charging hub. And while the phones of my visitors charged, we played Magic the Gathering and talked about books. The event didn't pay for itself, but the way I see it, I'm still paying my dues. The time to earn will come.

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