Attending Conventions for Fun and Profit.

Having just had a three week run of events Conventions are back on my mind. Recently I was asked about attending events by a traditionally published author so I thought I’d do a brief recap of the process of booking and running a table and also the benefits and opportunities that can crop up along the way.

So, you have a book or books and a wholesale supplier for stock and you want to get out there and sell it. First you have to find an event, usually bookings will open up months in advance and, while I have been lucky enough to get into an event a mere two weeks before the doors opened, I wouldn’t advise leaving it so close to try and book. The cost for a table can range from as little as £20 for a smaller convention to around £170/£200 for the bigger events but, sometimes there will be artist/writer dedicated tables for lower cost. Event organisers to look out for are GoGeek, ShowMasters, Ytterbium or maybe MCM (if you’re feeling particularly ambitious).

My books are fringe Sci-Fi/Fantasy so those are the events I tend to go to (as well as more general literary conventions) and I tend to think of them in slightly different ways. The Film and Comic shows I attend are places for fans to cosplay and buy merchandise from their favourite properties but these are the conventions where I tend to make more sales (being one of only few attending authors/book traders) and these shows are about sharing my enthusiasm for my stories with prospective readers. I don’t hard-sell, I’ve done sales and I hate the tactic so I simply outline the story and if it ‘clicks’ with the person I’m talking to that’s great. As much as it’s about getting the story out it’s about getting it to readers who will enjoy it.

The literary con’s are where I’m more likely to make contacts and find out about opportunities like open submissions to publishers or other smaller shows who might be looking for panelists and speakers. I haven’t gotten on to a panel so far but then I’ve been casting a wide net to fill out existing talks, down the line I’ll be proposing subjects to talk about based upon my experiences.

Once you’ve made a booking you’ll want a few things for your stall. A stock of books is a given, a price list is advisable (if a customer can’t see a price they’re quite likely to just walk away), a lockable cash box, notebook to record sales and expenses, some promotional items like a banner and business cards (the attendee’s might decide to buy at a later date and a small reminder will help them find you online). A table cloth is also a good move and, in some circumstances, you’ll need your own table and a chair. You’ll get a vendors packet detailing times and where to be, how to get there in the run-up to the event so don’t panic too much.

Check out my earlier post ‘A Series of Promotional Events’ for a more detailed run-down.

Again, besides actual sales, the reason to attend these events is to put yourself out there, make contacts and look for opportunities. Most conventions allow for a ‘helper’ to attend with you and that ought to give you the opportunity to take brief breaks and walk around the other stalls so chat to other authors, artists and vendors and you’ll be amazed what might spring up in conversation. As my readership grows I’m starting to consider merchandise as another means to draw people in. Pin badges are a good one, lots of fans collect them and they can be bought in bulk for relatively low cost and given away. Printed bookmarks are another, like a business card with a practical purpose and these are things you can learn about or find sources for at events. Besides that it’s fun and it can inspire you or rejuvenate you. I’ve talked about ‘Post Release Drop’ and the best way I’ve found to rekindle my creativity and enthusiasm is to attend a Convention.

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