This past weekend, I worked my first comic convention. I met a lot of awesome people and had a lot of fun. Above all, I learned a lot. So, today I thought I would share with you what I learned in case there are other authors out there reading this and wanting to attempt to work a convention as well. Or, maybe you're just interested in what I learned. Either way, here are the 5 things I learned working my first convention.
5. Get to know your neighbors
A lot of authors are introverts and that's okay. I'm one of them. I'm not really a fan of public speaking or talking to strangers. However, conventions are long. This particular convention was only 2 days, Saturday and Sunday, but some can go from Thursday through Sunday. That's a long time to work around other people and not get talking to them. You never know what you might learn from those around you. Maybe you'll end up next to a seasoned veteran and they can give you tips to better your chances at making a sale. Plus, it's a lot more fun to chit chat with your neighbors when the con gets slow, and it will. When they did a costume contest, almost everyone cleared out and left the vendors alone. It was the perfect time to sit back and have a fun conversation with your fellow con workers.
4. Spend extra care on your booth/sales pitch
Like I mentioned above, a lot of authors are introverted. In order to sell books, you need to talk to people. You can't expect your book to sell itself, regardless of how good it might be. And I don't mean attack everyone who walks by and throw your speech at them. Not everyone is going to stop at your booth. But greet everyone who walks by. Say "Hi" or ask how they're doing. And when you do reel someone in, know what you're going to say to them. If you're selling multiple books in different genres, start by telling them what genres you write in and which one is their favorite. For example, I write mostly thriller, suspense, and horror. When someone responded that they loved thriller books, I would pick up Death Can Wait and hand it to them, explaining what the story is about. At the same time, it isn't just your sales pitch that's going to draw the crowd. You want them to notice you. Have a display that catches the eye, something different from the norm. I have the ammo crate I built and used it as the display case for my books. I received a few compliments on it saying the set up was original. If you can, go all out. Get a nice table cloth and a runner with your name on it. Get a large banner with original artwork behind you and plaster your name and website on it. You want people to see you from across the room.
3. Bring someone with you
Now, I know I told you to talk to your neighbors but you can't always rely on them. Maybe they're getting a lot of traffic and you're not. Maybe they've stepped away for a few minutes to use the bathroom and get a bite to eat. Either way, you'll want someone to talk to. If the con gets slow, it's easy to get bored. And on top of that, it's nice to have someone there to help you. Maybe you want to run around the convention hall and check out the vendors. If you leave your booth, how will you make money? What if a potential customer stops by? Will they move on and not come back? Having someone there, who has read your books and can pitch it, is essential. Make sure it's someone you can trust to help you. If your partner lets you down, it's going to be hard to recover. Especially if sales aren't going the way you planned. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Be prepared to fail
You might sell nothing the entire convention. You might sell out. There's no way to know for sure until after it's all over. But be prepared to fail and sell nothing. I won't lie, Sunday was brutal. The convention was quiet and there were hardly any patrons there. I didn't make a single sale on Sunday. The vendors around me didn't fare much better. The day was dead. And it was tough. It's too easy to give up and go home, upset that you wasted a whole day. Especially when you paid to be there. Trust me, I know because that's how I felt most of Sunday. It's heart wrenching. But you can't focus on that. You have to focus on what you learned from the experience. There's always something new to learn and things you could do better. And remember, selling might be important but so is networking. If you're not selling, hand out business cards or bookmarks or push your newsletter signup (which you should definitely have out on your table). You might not make a sale that day but someone may go home and buy your book on Nook or Kindle. And that's still a win.
1. Wear comfortable shoes
This might be obvious but wear something comfortable. Especially the shoes. You should be spending most of the day on your feet. Trust me, it helps. People find you more approachable if you're on your feet and engaging. If you're sitting there, looking bored, people won't approach you. Most conventions centers have concrete floors. So there's not a lot of support there. Your feet and your back will hurt by the end of the day. So, think carefully about what you're going to wear. I do recommend wearing cosplay which either matches the convention theme or your writing theme. It will bring people in to your booth. For example, I decked myself out with Agents of Shield items since this was a Marvel themed convention. But make sure you'll be comfortable. It's going to be a long day.
There were so many more things I learned than just these five but these are the ones most worth noting. Maybe if this blog post is well received, I'll write another one. And if you're an author who wants to sell at a convention and haven't, you should try. You won't know what will happen until you do. And if you have any questions or want any advice, feel free to reach out. I'm always happy to share whatever knowledge I have and help someone out!
To cover up his search history, Evan Bond is a thriller/suspense author. As an outdoor enthusiast and horror lover, Evan Bond enjoys writing stories where the two come together. He lives in Florida with his wife and two sons.