Category Archives: Quincy Allen

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 ~

Goal Setting and the Metrics of Success and Failure

This month on the Fictorians, many of us are following up on posts we made back in January and July. We’ve given a great deal of thought over the past twelve months to setting goals, meeting them, and coping with the inevitable shortcomings and failures that are common with people managing their own destinies.

Like most careers, becoming a self-sustaining writer is not unlike climbing a mountain—but one that has no summit. It’s more a matter of reaching one plateau after another in a line of them that extends to the end of our days.

I use that analogy deliberately because of something I noticed recently on Amazon.com. Amazon—that mega, web-enabled shopping cart of doom—has become a mainstay for traditional, hybrid, and indie-pub authors alike. We ply our wares there, and many of us track the status of our success or lack thereof in a little place called Author Central. If you have books or stories of any kind, regardless of publisher, that are available on Amazon, then I would recommend you go through the exercise of setting up your Author Central Account and tying in all your available works back to that account.

Once you have this mechanism in place, you can track where you sit in the Amazon author rankings. I must add here that it may be a bit daunting at first. To give you an example, my data goes all the way back to September 28th, 2012. My rank started at 386,929. Between then and November 2nd of this year, I saw a low of 629,888 and a high of 35,451. It’s a jagged graph that seems to plot, at least partially, when the novel came out or was revamped in a new edition. It also seems to reflect when the anthologies I was in came out.

Then something happened. On the 2nd of November there was a sharp spike in my ranking. It jumped to 4,500 and then slid back down slightly to hover for the past month around 20k. That is the plateau I was talking about. The beauty of it is that I can track that spike to three separate releases that all occurred at roughly the same time. Essentially, One Horn to Rule Them All, Fantastic Holidays: The Gift of Stories, and The Best of Penny Dread Tales all hit the streets or had media spikes almost simultaneously, and this gave me a bit more “street cred” in Amazon’s ranking algorithms.

I mention this all because while goals are an important aspect of being a writer, tracking metrics on your successes and failures is the first step in truly managing your writing career. We all need to have an understanding of what a success is—beyond just finishing a story or getting it accepted somewhere. There is a bigger end-game that many of us work towards: namely, making our writing career a viable means of self-employment. You can’t steer your course unless you know where you are succeeding and failing. Author Central is just one mechanism to do this. Maybe what you are looking for are positive book reviews, or sales data, or invitations to conventions. The metric you use isn’t nearly as important as having the knowledge of where you are in your career path.

Be aware of these things. Set your goals, implement the tools to track your success, and consider each “failure” as a stepping-stone to the next success. I quote Thomas A. Edison who said, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” While it wouldn’t surprise me that Edison stole that quote from Tesla, the import of what he said is paramount to us. Failures are inevitable. We need to know each one intimately, so continue to have them, and use them as a foothold to the next success. And have a means of knowing when you’ve reached your goals. It’s always more than just finishing a story. In fact, finishing the story is just where the work begins.

Keep writing.

 

Q.

Of Lightning and Umbrellas

Imagine that fool on the hill dreamed up by the Beatles. Now, imagine him sitting up there in the rain, with storm clouds rolling over, thunder pressing down, and the ominous flash of lightning a strobe in the black tumult above.

He’s tired and alone, the rest of the world pointing fingers laughing at what they believe are hopeless dreams. Now imagine him atop that hill, in the rain and lightning, surrounded by a forest of steel-shafted umbrellas stuck in the ground and as many as he can hold clutched tightly in each hand.

He plants another umbrella and stares at the sky. And another. And another… hoping that lightning will strike.

 

That is what it’s like to be a writer, to be that hopeful soul chasing his or her dream regardless of the scorn, the derision, the laughter… and the torrent of rain that comes in the form of rejection after rejection.

And those umbrellas?

Each one is a tale—a short story or novel crafted in solitude—raised from the limitless depths of imagination in hopes that more than our loved ones will find some sort of connection within the words. It’s the very definition of madness. Truly. Doing the same thing over and over in hopes that there will eventually be a different result.

It was Lord Byron who wrote, “If I Don’t Write to Empty My Mind I Go Mad.” He understood. Most writers understand. Those who aren’t possessed with the compulsion to pour out our words couldn’t possibly comprehend what it’s like to have an army of characters, a galaxy of worlds, all crammed together inside one’s skull. And yet, the ones who can’t write are often the ones who, every once in a while, crave the creative fruits of those who can. And those of us who can, love it.

Perhaps part of it is ego. Every writer wants his or her writing to be savored and then craved, to have an audience that hangs on the next word, the next story, desperate for more. Writers hunger for such adulation, and will endure all manner of trial and travail to find it. But there is more to it than just ego. We write even when we’re certain no one will ever read a story. We write because that’s what is inside us. And in some respects, the accolades from being read, particularly oft-read, are a happy circumstance, an accidental result of our efforts.

I suppose there’s a contradiction there… that man on the hill with all his umbrellas… he would place them in the thunderstorm regardless of whether he got struck by lightning or not. And he would do it again the next day… and the next.

We are writers.

We understand.

 

Q

Weird Antho Angst

It’s not the waiting the kills… it’s the waste.

One of the more common ways of getting into the writing business and building “street-cred” is to peruse the calls for submissions on sites like Duotrope.com, Ralan.com, and Submission Grinder. Those sites are great for providing loads of opportunity. The problem is that many of the themes listed are pretty specific. Most of them run along the weird paths of cross-genre or niche topics that are hell-and-gone from the mainstream.

Sure, it can be fun writing a story about zombie porn or purple unicorns, but it’s also exceedingly risky. And yes, I have a buddy who is in a zombie porn antho called 50 Shades of Decay, and I just had a story come out in a purple unicorn anthology titled One Horn to Rule Them All. I can say with confidence that the quality of stories in these off-the-beaten-track collections is on par with mainstream fiction, and can be even better as a result of the topic.

The problem stems for the fact that once you write the story, you have to wait weeks or even months to hear back on whether you made the cut. That’s the same as with any short story submission, certainly, but with one of these, the bar is sometimes a bit higher than “normal” fiction. With regular fiction the bar is established and fairly well understood by the community. With non-traditional anthos, however, you not only have to write a good story, you must more accurately discern the tastes or intent of the editor or publication putting out the call for submission.

It can be like trying to hit a kangaroo from orbit with a drunken koala.

(Just let that visual sink in for a minute).

Now, if you make it in, great. But statistically speaking, the odds are that you won’t make the cut. That’s where the real pain comes in. If your story isn’t selected, you have one to six-thousand words that you’re going to play hell placing elsewhere. I mean, what are the odds that Asimov or Fantasy & Science Fiction want something that was written specifically for someplace else? It can be done, but those are pretty long odds, especially if the story wasn’t good enough to make the cut for the antho.

There are no easy roads into the business, and while weird anthos are one of them, you may want to go with the more mainstream topics when you’re first starting. Once your writing is cleaner and you’re placing stories more frequently, or even at will, then it’s time to hit the weird stuff.