What can I say about Gen Con that doesn’t start with WOW. First off the hall was huge, I’ve never seen so many stalls in one place. Even dashing around, getting a quick look at things took over an hour so I don’t know how long it took for people to get a real look. It was intimidating at first, very much so, but it became a lot of fun thanks to Scott Palter who helped me get past the initial ‘they aren’t buying’ feeling I was going through.
What I had to do was grasp the understanding that I am a no name and not on their must buy list. Once that was out of the way things became a lot easier. Plus they were running a scavenger hunt in the convention that Final Sword and Ad Astra were taking part in, that brought people to the stall that might not have been there otherwise and was a great sales aid for me. So having a gimmick that brings them to the stall helped a lot. Some, well a lot, were coming to the Ad Astra side of the stall because of Honor Harrington, but then I had the fun of getting them to stop and look at my books. I learned to watch eyes for the glaze effect very closely, some you could see the interest spark into life, others you knew no matter what it wasn’t their thing.
So taking that into account for a new author, no namer, first time at Gen Con, my sales were astounding and I will be going back next year.
I also was able to attend a dinner on Friday night held by an artists group. That I enjoyed a great deal and got to meet a lot of very talented men and women that I might otherwise have missed out on meeting.
It was a very long, tiring few days but at the same time was well worth it. Now would I advise others to try Gen Con, yes, but only if they keep in mind that this is high priced advertising and unless you are a name the odds of you covering the cost of the booth on your own are slim. It’s not cheap. Not by a long shot. However sharing a booth with other authors or companies is a good possibility.
If you plan on doing a convention there are some things to take into account.
Know you Convention. Some are great for book sales, others are not. Check it out from those who have been to that con. Is it primarily a gaming con, if so think twice unless your work is paired up with a game or can be. Origins for instance is not a convention for book sales. Check the web sites, information and double check before you commit to it.
How are you going to pitch the book to them? You have maybe 30 seconds to catch their attention IF they stop at the booth. What do you plan on saying, what are the high and low points of the book, do you have something that you can focus their attention on? It all helps.
Accept that no matter how big you get some people will simply not be interested. It’s nothing personal. It’s not a slight or attack on your work. It’s just not why they are there.
Are there panels? If so are there panels you can slip in on? It’s publicity, promotion and a lot of fun.
Cards and flyers. You need both. Sales will trickle in and make sure your flyers are eye catching and have the details you need. Don’t just throw them together, you need a hook on the flyers.
If you think you are only going to need 100 cards, take 200 with you. I handed out close to 150 cards and 500 flyers at Gen Con and my side of the booth wasn’t getting that much traffic even with the scavenger hunt.
Talk to people, they won’t bite! Go to other tables, have a look around, see how people are doing. Be nice, polite, a breath of fresh air. People will remember you. Swap cards. Yes a lot end up thrown in the bin but even if just a dozen come back to buy at a later date, or search for you on the net later it pays off.
Use a press release announcement service to let people know where you will be, when and doing what as well as having announcements on your lists, website and other places. It’s name recognition and pays off long term.
Make sure you have water, food bars and pain meds at hand. Odds are you will need both and having someone else around to watch the shop for 5 minutes whilst you dash to the restrooms is a must.
Above all have fun. If you don’t it shows.