Category Archives: Interacting With Professionals

Working the floor…

This month I’m afraid I don’t have much experience to draw on for my blog post. I’ve attended exactly one writing related convention in my life. And that was Denver ComicCon in 2015. I was invited to participate because of my Superstars Writing Seminars attendance in February of 2015, and at the time I was living on a separation package from being laid off, so I had time to kill. I agreed, even though I had no books to sell and would mostly be doing the grunt work of hauling books, selling other author’s books and trying to get the public to buy books.

It was also a chance to network with some actual published authors, which is valuable in itself.

There is some work to do pre-convention to set up the booth, but that’s about as interesting as it sounds. So I’ll focus instead on the activities on the actual convention floor.

The first thing I was asked to do was to distribute leaflets directing people to the booth itself. The meant walking the line of incoming attendees as they waited to get inside, and handing out the leaflets. For a natural introvert like me, that was stressful enough, but I managed to get through it.

Then I was back behind the booth, using an iPad with a card-reading device to take orders. That wasn’t too bad either. Then I was asked if I would be willing to “work the floor.” Which meant moving out from behind the booth, into the milling mass of feverish fandom. Right there with the cosplayers and the hardcore fan base.

So I waded in. Again, my natural introversion makes this sort of thing very difficult for me. On top of that, I tend to dislike being approached myself in such situations, so I felt more than a little hypocritical even attempting to engage with the public.

But I try my best to fulfill my obligations, so I buckled down and did my best.

“Excuse me, ma’am, I couldn’t help but notice your Star Wars T-shirt. Are you a fan? You are? That’s great, I remember standing in line for the first one back in 1977. Say, if you like Star Wars, you would probably really enjoy these books set in the Star Wars universe…”

Or

“Hi there, that’s an awesome steampunk outfit you’ve got there. Do you like steampunk novels? You do? Well, come on over here, because I think you’ll like this.”

Over and over, for hours. Sometimes you get the cold shoulder. Sometimes you get the “are you flirting with me” gaze, but mostly people are willing to check things out and over time, the sales accumulated. It was amazing to see how well it worked. But that’s mostly because the product I was selling, was a solid product. In many cases the author of the books I was directing people toward were behind the booth, so I could increase the effectiveness of the pitch with:

“Oh, you like the look of this one? Well, if you have any questions, the author happens to be right here, and I’ll be glad to introduce you.”

That leads to signed versions of books being sold, and that usually makes everyone happier.

I’d like to do more convention work. I’d like to sell my own books at a convention. Unfortunately I still haven’t been able to get away from the reality of a day job that is still paying the bills.

But someday. Hopefully soon. 🙂

Tampa Bay Comic Con

 

Tampa Bay Comic Con (TBCC) is a family-friendly convention held in the Tampa Convention Center the first weekend in August. If you like your Cons sweaty, this one’s the fandom sauna for you. All joking aside, TBCC is hot when you’re standing in line, but you get to cool off inside the Convention Center. It’s got a strong vendor presence and attracts top-notch celebrity guests (including best-selling authors like Kevin J. Anderson, Terry Brooks, and R.A. Salvatore). The panel schedule is crammed with celebrity appearances, fandom-specific topics, and even quite a few writing panels. Let’s talk about the whole panel thing in a little more detail.

I’ve hosted and participate on TBCC panels for several years. The process to get into TBCC programming hasn’t been very hard. They start taking panel submissions in the Fall and make decisions during the year to fill out their three-day schedule. The key is to have a compelling, popular topic, and a description that will grab an audience. Watch the website for details and submit early.

As I stated before, the Con is family-friendly with guest ages spanning eight months to eighty years. I’ve always found the crowd pleasant, if not a bit snarky (not that I bring that out in people. At all. Ever.) and welcoming. The vendors I’ve worked with, both at my own table in the Artist Alley and while volunteering in the WordFire Press booth have been easy to work with, always willing to watch your table when you need a bio break.

Parking can be a bit of an issue, but you’re all set if you get there early. As a vendor, you can enter the Vendor Room an hour before show opening, so grab some coffee, arrive early, and get a choice spot in the parking garage across the street or connive your way into the Marriott parking lot.

Book sales have been strong. I prefer to partner with a few other authors to have more titles on the table. The different, vibrant covers and multi-genre offerings draw more interest.

Overall, I love TBCC. It doesn’t hurt that it’s in my backyard, but it’s a solid, fun Con and I will continue going back as long as they’ll have me.

By the Numbers:

  • 2017 Attendance – Approx. 60k
  • 2018 Dates – Aug. 3-5

Cost:

  • 6’ Artist Alley Table – $250 + 3% Paypal fee (includes two entry badges)
  • 10’ x 10’ corner booth – $575 + 3% Paypal fee (includes badges, but not sure how many)
  • Parking (how much depends on where you find a spot)

The Importance of Conventions by T. Allen Diaz

I’m preparing this week for my first, I hope of many, Labor Day journeys to Dragon Con in Atlanta. Dragon Con is a huge convention and the largest venue I’ve ever attended. I’m lucky, now. I’ve snagged my first writing contract and WordFire Press and Bard’s Tower do most of the heavy logistics for me, but it wasn’t always that way. Only a few short years ago I was scraping together the money I needed to pay for a booth and buying stock to put on the shelves in the hope to make enough to at least pay for my room and meals. So, it’s a pretty good time for someone to ask me about the con circuit, whether or not it’s worth all the sacrifice, and to weigh its pros and cons. The conventions are amazing experiences that have been indispensable to my career and are too important not to do. I’m not just talking about the big shows. To paraphrase a favorite movie character “Judge them not by their size”. The commercial success I’ve had to-date can be traced directly to the smallest con in sales and attendance at which I’ve ever appeared. 

The 2015 Necronomicon here in Tampa only expected a paltry twelve hundred or so, but I was already experienced enough to know that every opportunity to get out and mingle among potential fans and colleagues was one to be taken, especially if it was affordable and meant no traveling. Every time I go to these things, great or small, I take something away: a business tip or story idea or that ever-elusive serial reader. So, I went to Necro with the same excitement with which I go to every con. I didn’t make a ton that weekend, though I do recall a vendor next to me that still likes my Facebook page and follows my work, but I did make the acquaintance of a certain You Tuber/author interviewing artists and other folks at the con. My interview was a short affair, just ten minutes or so, but this You Tuber/author and I really hit it off and became friends and mutual business contacts.  

Two months later, Garrett Pomichicter gave me a guest spot on his on-line interview with Alan Dean Foster. A month after that, he introduced me to this fantastic publishing company out of Colorado called WordFire Press. I volunteered for them and met the great Kevin J. Anderson, Dave Butler, and Alexi Vandenburg. I did as many shows as I could with them. I learned the importance of being a good salesman and how to pitch a book. I was able to pick their brains about the business and made some friends along the way. I also put my books in people’s hands. 

Today, one of those books, Lunatic City, is a WordFire Press release that sold out at its debut at Tampa Bay Comicon 2017. I’m working diligently on edits and rewrites for its sequel in the hopes of a 2018 release. One of my WordFire colleagues and friends, Dave Butler, talked me up to another publisher, Chris Kennedy of Seventh Seal Press, looking for military sci-fi writers interested in contributing to one of his Four Horsemen Anthologies. My ten-thousand word short story, Hero of Styx is unofficially slated to be released in a book titled The Good, the Bad, and the Merc later this year. And, I’m about to go to Dragon Con, one of the largest, most prestigious conventions in the Southeast. Who knows who I may meet or what opportunities await there? 

So, when fledgling writers ask me: “Is it really worth it to go to all those cons?” I ask them, “Can you afford not to go?” Cons are tough, they’re a lot of work, and, if you do it right, you go home sore, mentally exhausted, and without a voice. But, every handshake, every interview, every person you meet is an opportunity, an opportunity you will never get sequestered up waiting for someone to trip over your manuscript, no matter how good it is.

 

T. Allen Diaz is the author of speculative fiction, including the dark space epic series the Proceena Trilogy and his gritty, moon-based noir, Lunatic City. He lives in the Tampa Bay area with his wife and three kids where he has lived for his entire life. Follow him on Twitter as @Proceenawriter and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/T.AllenDiaz where you can stay up-to-date on all of his latest news and events. 

Amazon Link

September is Con-Fabulous!

Welcome to September on The Fictorians! This month is all about Cons, or Conventions to you non-Con-goers who don’t spreckidy the same lingidy as us cool kids. I love Cons. I love the noise. I love the topics. I love the vendors and celebrity guests and…I love the smell of Fandom in the morning, but not in the afternoon. As an author, I love working a table or booth and talking to people and books and writing and publishing and whatever. Bonus if they happen to be wearing a Queensryche t-shirt because then we talk about music too. For me, though, it’s not all about the sale. Sure, selling books is important. We writers need to cover the expense of the Con plus travel and hopefully walk away with a little extra.  

But beyond the sale, I want to connect with readers and I believe many other Con-attending/working writers will agree with me.  

As we near the end of the Con season, I thought it would helpful to run down some of the events we’ve attended this year to assist in planning for next year. The more information you have about an event, especially a new one you’re considering, the better.  

Now, we’re not just going to say, “Hey this Con was cool. You should go.” Oh no. I mean, we might use those words, but we’ll back them up with super neato factoids from a writer’s perspective. Cost and attendance are easy to look up on the Con’s website. What you won’t get from the site is the writer’s perspective on how the con “went”. How were sales? Were the attendees into books/reading? What was the atmosphere – cool and laid back, edgy, frenzied? How was the Con run? Was the Con staff friendly and supportive? Can Indy writers get on or host panels? Does the Con even allow panels on writing topics? You know, the good stuff…the stuff not typically covered in the marketing white-papers. We’re shooting for info that can help the writer decide if she wants to attend next year.  

Here’s an example. I found a new Con, SwampCon, that I thought of attending and asked a fellow writer about it since I’ve seen him post about it in the past. He said it was a nice Con, great people, but writing wasn’t a high priority topic. And, here’s the kicker, because SwampCon is hosted in Gainesville on the University of Florida campus, the campus bookstore is not too keen on anyone but them selling books. I know I said I wanted to connect with readers, but I at least want the chance to sell books. Glad I know and can take that into serious consideration for next year. 

As the month progresses, I hope you’ll walk away with some interesting new destinations for next year. In addition to the Cons, I believe you’ll find a few posts discussing major writing seminars and events that have proved amazing, transformational even, and should be seriously considered in your travel plans.  

Got it? Good. See you around the Blog this month.  

Have fun, 

Scott