#InConIndy breakdown: the longer version

CJJ_tcPWgAAwwaK.jpg-largeThis is likely– nay, guaranteed– to be long and rambly because i’m gonna try and stuff everything into one post, rather than spreading them out forever.  I may do a separate post for shout-outs and links because some folk really do deserve some recognition and I haven’t unpacked my business cards, but I’m gonna try to make that it.

I have just started four different sentences with the words “Let’s start with” and then deleted them.

Hmm.

Let’s start with the picture, actually.  The dude in the Hulk costume is deceptively huge– notice where his feet are.  His center of balance is well behind mine and he’s leaning forward and he’s still taller than me.  I have no idea what this guy actually looks like, and this is the least impressive of the four or five costumes he made appearances in during the con, but I could not pass up a chance to get a picture with the Hulk and expect my son to still love me.  I’ll link him up later– his Baron Zemo and colonial Captain America costumes are probably my favorites.

Biggest regret of the convention: I should have gotten a picture with Timothy Zahn.  I had a couple of brief conversations with him on Sunday, and he actually came over to to the booth of the guy next to me– turns out Zahn is a huge Dr. Who fan, and the guy was cosplaying one of the Doctors, and Zahn wanted to show him a Dr. Who shirt he had.

Yeah.  That happened.  (Five years from now, I’ll have found a way to make this into “Timothy Zahn came to my table,” but for now I’ll tell the truth.)  A vaguely reassuring fact: dude was sweating and hauling his books just like all the rest of us, and I kept myself sane during the zero-sale first day of the convention by noticing that he looked bored every time I left and went to the bathroom.

A moment for data: Zero sales on Friday, although I did give two of my books to a book blogger.  Seven sales on Saturday, nine on Sunday, confirming my theory that people were sitting on their wallets on Friday.  I haven’t counted my remaining bookmarks yet, but I’ll guess I gave out at least fifty of those.  Now, interestingly, online sales spiked a bit.  If I include online sales, I sold eight books Friday, nineteen on Saturday, and sixteen on Sunday.  Those are all good days, and 19 and 16 are spectacular for me.  I’m attributing those directly to the bookmarks, especially since one of the Amazon sales came when I was asleep, which never happens– I’m guessing someone got back to their hotel room and went through the stuff they’d picked up during the day.  So it’ll be interesting to see how much of a “tail” the con seems to have.  Also, I’ve picked up four Facebook likes since the con started, after several weeks without any.  That’s either bookmark people or, more likely, the product of networking.  For comparison purposes, I’ve moved more books in the first six days of July than I did in all of January or March.

One way or another: I will be back at this con next year, unless something prevents me from doing so.  Attendance was lower than usual because the Fourth was on Saturday, which is the biggest day of the con, and all the vendors felt like they’d gotten shellacked a bit.  I’m far from alone there.  I’ll give it at least one more year (the 4th is on Monday next year) to see how sales go on a regular year.

I will also be spending some time this week figuring out what the next con is.  It’s probably too late to do another one this summer, so I’ll be looking around Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We’ll see what happens.

So.  Things I learned.  Authors, pay attention to this part, because cons are good and fun and you should do them but it’s best to learn from what other people have screwed up.  There will also be some other mini-observations sprinkled in here because shut up it’s my blog and I don’t have to be organized:

  • Dreece told me after the first day to make sure to put one copy of each book face-down on the table so that people could read the back without picking a book up.  This was absolutely the right move and I will never not do it again.
  • I need something to catch people’s attention a bit better and bring them my way.  My banner really helped, but one thing I definitely picked up on is that my neighbor was getting a lot of attention simply by being dressed as Dr. Who– and he knows that he’s pulling people who are interested in his work by dressing like that.  Problem is, nothing about Skylights or Benevolence Archives leads itself to cosplay even if I was into that.  More thought needed here.
  • Not one person “got” Prostetnic Publications.  Which was deeply disappointing.
  • Plan for next year: Make sure there are emails ready to be forwarded on my iPad that have .pdf, .mobi and .epub versions of all my books attached to them.  Sell those emails for $4.  Now, granted, I had the bookmarks, and I made sure to point out to the ebook people how to get digital versions of my books, and furthermore I think it worked to some extent.  But being able to respond “Okay, I can do that” to the people who don’t do print books anymore for whatever reason seems like a good and necessary thing.
  • Speaking of the bookmarks: I said this already, but: yeah, that was a good decision.  Something to hand everyone who comes by is a good thing.
  • I need a horizontal banner for the front of my table.  Probably a PP banner to keep it simple, but it looked bare compared to the folks near me.
  • Engage engage engage.  I tried my damnedest to keep my phone out of my hand and to avoid even checking sales on my iPad, because if I’m looking down I’m not seeing people walking past me.  There was a guy around the corner who spent most of the con with his head down drawing and he missed tons of people who glanced at his stuff and then walked away.  If I can make it through six hours of my first con selling nothing and still have a smile on my face at the end of the day anyone should be able to do it.
  • Now, regarding my announcement yesterday:  I’ve already mused about how I don’t quite know how to sell The Sanctum of the Sphere to people.  And at this con, I had bookmarks with the cover of BA vol. 1 on them.  People were reaching for that, then looking around and wondering where that book was, because the cover was so striking.  And I’d have to explain.  I can elevator-pitch Skylights lot faster and more effectively than I can Sanctum.  So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to go ahead and do a print edition of BA 1, but I’m also going to keep the print edition of vol. 2 an omnibus.  That way it’s the best of both worlds.  If you’ve read the ebooks and you want both, you can buy Sanctum.  If you want a low-cost entry point into the series and you’re standing in front of me, I’ll price BA 1 as low as I can to give folks an easy hook.  If I can get you to spend $4 on a novella on day one of the con, maybe you’ll come back on day 3 and spend $12 on something else, y’know?  So that’s happening.  Soon.

Okay.  Maybe one more post later today, because I have a handful of stories that don’t quite fit into this post.  But this is a good start.  We’ll see if I get fiction written today.  🙂

9 thoughts on “#InConIndy breakdown: the longer version

  1. Adam Dreece

    The art of the con is a damn hard thing, and it’s those lessons learned that are absolutely critical. Way to go on your first! By the way, what was the attendance numbers for the con, I’m curious.

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      1. Adam Dreece

        CalgaryExpo was 100k, EdmontonExpo is 32k, Prince George & SaskExpo are ~10k attendance.

        % of attendance wise, I think you sold well given the population of the con.

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  2. Interesting about having copies face-down to read the back. People are hesitant to touch things that they aren’t sure they want to buy, so I think that’s a great idea.

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  3. My husband was at Origins in Columbus this year, and casually mentioned to me that he’d heard Zahn was there, too, and I kinda freaked out. I totally would have gone if I’d known meeting him was a possibility.

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