I’ve waffled a lot on how I want to participate in “Cons” as an author.
As my writing career was taking off, I submitted to a lot of events. I applied for author alley tables, and I put my name in the running for panels. For every event around the Denver metro area, I was putting my name in.
Until this year I’d been trying to do both. Have a sales booth, and be on panels or signings/readings. I came into this just assuming I had to do both. That I needed to be seen in both aspects.
I think I was wrong.
Moving forward I’m leaning towards just having a booth. Here’s why.
So far at least, the cons I’ve participated in, I’ve mostly been put on self-publishing/author business panels (Sadly I had some awesome genre ones at COSine), and while they’ve all been fun, the audience was minuscule. Understandably, as most of these events are fan-oriented. The attendees (mostly) aren’t aspiring self-publishers. I’ve never been in an empty room, but the largest crowd was in the teens. The other panelists have always been awesome, and I’ve become at least online friends with a few people. I wouldn’t trade those experiences but I don’t think they’re actually valuable.
I realized that I don’t think being on author business panels, at fan-oriented events, is actually a huge win for my business.
This is in no way a knock against cons I’ve been to.
I was on a panel at 20books Vegas, which is an industry event, talking about business. I’ll probably do more of that if I can. It was fun to be surrounded by peers, especially those that know more than I.
One of me, two places.
Part of the problem above, is that while I’m in a room with a handful of people who either have an honest interest in the business or just needed a place to sit, I’m not at my booth. Panels and readings are always an hour or so. That’s a good-sized percentage of any given day, especially if you have more than one panel or reading that day.
When my booth is empty, my books aren’t selling.
Was I there to be on panels? or to sell books?
I want to Sell Books.
Selling books (or anything) in person, isn’t easy.
I’ve bought stand-up banners, table runners, bowls for candy (Pro-tip, candy brings ’em in), all with the goal of bringing someone to the booth. Getting them to slow down, just enough that I can say ‘hello’ and try to reel them in.
I’ve been working on improving my hand sales game. It’s tough, it’s exhausting. I’m looking forward to Starfest, so I can put some of my new tricks to use.
I look at cons as a marketing expense. Covering my costs is 100% a goal, but whether I do or not, so long as I moved some copies, which hopefully will move more copies later, it’s a win.
So, now what?
Well, luckily this mini-epiphany comes at a time when I don’t have a ton on my plate. Starfest is this May. I put in for MileHiCon, I’ve done it twice before and enjoyed it. I don’t know if I’ll try for Denver Comic Con or not. I got in, then COVID, then the organizers went belly-up. We’ll see.
Anyway, I don’t currently have any panel/signings/readings on the books, and likely won’t for at least 2022.