Category Archives: Interacting With Fans

September 30th – The Wrap of Con

We’ve come to the end of our month of Cons. I was supposed to post this last night, but I’m attending MegaCon Tampa Bay and ran out of time. So far this Con has been…okay. Several authors and I banded together to claim two tables in Artist Alley. Thanks to my partners in Con—Maria DeVivo, T. Allen Diaz, and Michael J. Allen—the company has been stellar and we’ve talked to many great fans. Attendance has been light and sales slow. We expected today, Saturday, to be packed, and there were definitely more people in attendance today than yesterday, but nothing like we expected. Granted, this is only the second year the MegaCon brand has run a Tampa Con, but considering the monstrous size of MegaCon Orlando, which runs in May, we expected some of that splendor to carry over. In addition, they have several big-name celebrity guests (Stan Lee, William Shatner, John Barowman, and others) to pull in the fans and still no huge numbers. Oh well, we have tomorrow and we’re gonna rock it no matter what happens. Con!

Each Artist Alley table cost $230 and included 2 event badges.

Throughout this month we’ve seen reports on Cons and Events spanning the country and even stretching north into Canada. Several posts added Con advice and strategy for writers. Throughout them all, I hope we’ve provided some useful insight to help you plan your 2017 Con adventures.

See you later and have fun.

Thanks,

Scott

SLC Comicon – Partr 2 – As a Vendor

SLC ComiconEarlier this month, I talked about SLC comicon, which I have attended multiple times. In the past, I attended as one of the authors participating with the Bard’s Tower. Those experiences were awesome. I not only learned a ton about how to run a successful vendor booth, but I loved meeting and networking with all the other authors and cross-selling each others’ books.

I just returned from yet another SLC comicon, and for the first time I was an official vendor. I shared a booth with author and friend, Gama Ray Martinez. (check out his books – they’re great).

I had actually planned to just join the Bard’s Tower group again, but they’re so popular, they had too many authors already signed up. Gama mentioned that he was interested in going as a vendor, and it made a ton of sense to split the cost of a 10×10 booth, share the space, and sell our books there.

How did it go?

Extremely well. We both sold a lot of books, covered our booth costs, and had a great time. I can’t say I made a profit, but I came closer than ever before. Besides the direct booth expenses, I have to factor in the cost of the books, hotels for myself and my family (Yes, I brought my own minions to help out), gas, food, etc.

What worked well?

There are several benefits to sharing a booth. Besides the obvious benefit of splitting the cost, you’ve got someone to chat with, cross-sell with, and brainstorm the best way to make the booth work. We got more space on the table than we would have if we joined a larger group. Additionally, we were both panelists at the convention, and it was easy for one of us to cover the booth while the other one headed out to a panel. Or, if we needed a restroom or food break, we didn’t have to leave the booth unattended. All that stress was gone.

And of course the best benefit is getting to meet so many people. Here are a few who posed with one of my books. The Assassins always choose Memory Hunter because that series is described as Mission Impossible meets Assassin’s Creed. Fun stuff.

Memory Hunter Assassin 2 Memory Hunter Fairy Memory Hunter Assassin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What could have been a problem?

Gama and I didn’t have any major issues, but it’s important to recognize that there are potential hazards with sharing a booth like we did. Make sure you’re a good fit with your partner and that the agreement is clear.

  1. Money. How to collect and track sales? We could have each handled our sales separately, but what if someone wanted to buy books from both of us? This actually happened more than once. We decided that we would use Gama’s Square account. That way only one of us had to apply for a Utah state tax license and we could sell all of our books through the same account. That meant all sales had to be tracked, both cash and credit. Gama will pay the tax and send me my net profit. I have access to the account, so there’s no question of trustworthiness, not that I would ever doubt Gama, but this way there’s no chance for the problem to come up.
  2. Stealing each other’s sales. Our books target similar audiences, so we could have run into issues with each of us trying to sell over the other and in effect stealing the other’s sales. We didn’t have that problem because we both acted like professionals. We did have an instance where one of my over-eager kids interrupted Gama’s pitch to pitch one of my books too, but we discussed that and made sure everyone understood the importance of giving each of us the necessary space to work. We actually ended up cross-selling each other’s books quite a bit. The goal is always to find the book that best fits the reader’s tastes. We both made sales, and readers are happy. They’ll buy again.
  3. There are certainly other potential issues, like personality conflicts, issues with sharing the table space equally, etc, but we didn’t run into those. Most potential issues can be resolved with open communication and bilateral respect, but it’s important to consider them when considering a vendor partner.

Will I share a booth again?

Absolutely. Gama and I are already discussing next year’s SLC comicon. I might do something similar at other cons, although I’m still very happy to participate with Bard’s Tower again if a particular situation would work out better that way. Be flexible, and there are ways to work the conventions as a vendor without going broke.

Phoenix Comic Con

This year, I had the privilege of attending a few cons that I’ve never been to courtesy of Bard’s Tower. Much more than a traveling bookstore, Bard’s Tower is a celebrity author experience. All of the books at the booth for a particular show have their authors there selling, signing, taking photographs, and much more. It’s been a great experience with them this year at both Florida SuperCon and Phoenix Comic Con.

Out of all the shows and cons I went to this year, my favorite (to this point) was Phoenix. I used to live in the Phoenix area and I have many family and friends there, so in a sense going to Phoenix was like going home. Being back in the Valley of the Sun was outstanding, but the show itself taught me a lot of how successful conventions really operate. The staff took exceptional care of all the authors present, and there were some outstanding science fiction and fantasy authors present. The panels were well themed and always attended well. For me, it was my first real chance to get to know several authors I’ve been social media friends with for years and even to meet a few new ones. I have the opportunity to sit on a panel of military fiction authors including Jason M. Hough, Weston Ochse, Myke Cole, Alan Smale, and me. I can’t even begin to tell you how nervous I was at the start of the panel. We had a tremendous discussion and I left there with some incredible role models in how to be a great panelist. Everyone brought a unique perspective to the discussion and their professionalism was incredible.

At the booth, on the convention floor, was another area that completely astounded me. When I arrived, my books were placed next to the legendary Alan Dean Foster. I’d met Alan last year at WorldCon and we had several great discussions during our time at the booth. On the other side of me was Dan Wells. I seriously had imposter syndrome for about an hour until I heard Dan Wells pitch someone my novel SLEEPER PROTOCOL. At that point, I settled down and got to work. Meeting fans and potential readers is a great experience and Phoenix did not disappoint at all. Many of you might have heard of the security incident on Thursday that snarled up the entrances on Friday for a little while. Standing in a line anytime is frustrating – imagine doing it in near triple digit temperatures by 9am. The delays that fans experienced on Friday were quickly solved by the amazing uniformed security personnel and the con staff. More importantly, the fans took it in stride with more than I could count trading their cosplay weaponry for weapons made from cardboard. It was outstanding to see everyone working together to keep the con a great safe experience. I was completely impressed.

While there, I had the chance to hang out with my brother James A. Owen, my friends Mark Gardner and Christopher Ferguson, and I got to meet one of my comics idols from the 90s, artist Whilce Portacio. I got to talk with Chaos Comics founder Brian Pulido and his wife Francesca again (and again in Denver, too) and met too many readers and fans to count. Our Bard’s Tower booth was a pretty big hit anyway, with authors like Jim Butcher, Claudia Gray, and Sherrilyn Kenyon joining the others I’ve mentioned along with Kevin J. Anderson, Michelle Cori, S. Usher Evans, Quincy J. Allen, Neo Edmund, Ramon Terrell, LJ Hachmeister and Steve Diamond. The weekend was a whirlwind. Several fellow Superstars came by the booth, too – Jace Killian, Helen Savore, Holly Heisey, and Eva Eldridge. I barely sat down the entire time. During the convention, I sold more books that at any other convention I’d previously attended. It was amazing. Outside of the convention, I had drinks with amazing authors and got the chance to have one of my favorite Phoenix food experiences after a too long wait.

Will I return to Phoenix next year? Yes. I’m looking forward to it already. That’s the thing about good conventions that go the extra mile to take care of their guests and their fans. Sometimes a convention will choose one over the other and the effects are noticeable. Phoenix was never that way. Every day, at least one staff member stopped by and asked if they could help us in any way. The security personnel were amazing, too. To have a serious incident one day and be a smoothly ran machine by the end of the convention was incredible. I’m in awe of their effort.

If you’re in the Phoenix area next year, come to the convention. I guarantee you that you will not be disappointed.

Planet Comicon – Kansas City, Missouri

If you aren’t familiar with me, I’ve hit about 60 conventions in the past three and a half years. From coast to coast and north to south, I’ve hit most of the big ones and many of the medium-sized comic, genre, and media conventions across the country. I can honestly say that Planet Comicon is in my top five conventions of all time. I’ve been there for the past three years in a row, and I’ll keep going back so long as they have me.

I need to point out that my attendance has always been with either the Word Fire Press booth or Bard’s Tower. I’ve never attended it as an individual author. However, I can say that I have several indie authors who have, and they’ve all done well at the convention… if they were go-getters, anyway (more on what that means later).

Next season, Planet Comicon will be February 16th, 17th, and 18th in it’s usual location of Bartle Hall in beautiful downtown Kansas City. This is two months earlier than it’s normal April schedule, which puts it right before Pensacon, in Pensacola, Florida, and although I’m trying to avoid back-to-back conventions, I’ll probably still try and go, because I like it so much.

So, what is there to like about Planet Comicon?

Because it’s in the midwest, the prices for vendors and artists to get space is considerably lower than one would find at bigger conventions on the east or west coast. That can make your book sales and ROI propositions much easier to manage than in other places. They advertise the convention well, take care of their attendees, and have high repeat-attendance.

Another thing about this convention is that there are a lot of readers in the area, and not all shows do. No matter when I’ve been there, we’ve always had good sales numbers. The attendees are affable and open to being approached by new and established authors alike. The folks running the convention also take good care of the artists, actors, media personalities, and vendors. I’ve never heard of any issues, and I’ve seen most of the vendors there again and again over the years. This means there’s no reason for them to take their business elsewhere.

The key here, and this goes for any convention you attend as an indie author with a table, is that you must be a go-getter. You have to engage your target market actively and non-stop. If you’re the sort of author who sits behind the table, butt in chair, watching people walk by and hoping they stop to ask you about your book, you might as well give up the business now. Stay home, write more, and submit to the Big Five. If you want to sell books, however, and put your sales in the green and well above your costs, then you need to be standing up at the table and engaging as may of the attendees as you can. The convention circuit is not for shut-ins. The second you hit that vendor floor, you have to put on your salesman hat and talk to as many people as possible.

That’s the trick to earning a living as a convention-going author.

Working a convention floor is a lot like hawking your wares in an old Turkish marketplace. It’s about being noticed, chatting up the passers-by, making friends with them, and making sure they walk away with a book in their hands and their money in your pocket.

Kansas City is a great place to do that, and once you get rolling, you may find you have an appetite for it.

I’ll add that the downtown area is a nice place to just walk around. There are shops and restaurants and a public transit rail system that lets you see more of the area if you want to take the time. There’s also some KILLER BBQ to be had all over the place. Now, if you’re on a budget, there’s a nice little market not far from Bartle Hall that allows you to get really good food by the pound, with a selection of entrees, appetizers, salads, and whatnot. They also have some pretty good sushi, if you lean that way–which I do.

Planet Comicon is on my list of favorites, because it’s a great selling environment, has a delightful downtown area, and is a relatively low-cost city to stay in, if you can manage it.

If you are looking for a solid, larger-sized convention with a strong reading audience, I heartily recommend you add it to your list of conventions for the 2018 season.

Good luck, and KEEP WRITING!

Q ~