Last weekend was my first experience at Philcon, and unfortunately, it was like my experience at quite a few other cons lately.
For one of the countries longest-running cons it was pretty lightly attended, in part because of the location, outside of Philadelphia itself. A lot of city dwellers don’t have cars, so getting to a venue far removed from their usual routes is a bit of a problem. At least, I’m hoping that’s the reason. Multiply the light attendance with an increased reluctance to buy anything in the dealers room and you can see my problem. I think we did better than most there, simply because I learned long ago, at a con, that you can’t just sit there.
I was a guest at I-Con in Stony Brook, and had a turn at one of the author tables in the dealers room, on a Sunday when most people had either already spent their money and were getting ready to leave or had decided what they wanted to spend their money on. Experienced con guests will usually go through the dealers room several times over the course of the weekend, and only buy the things they want on the last day. This is because a) they don’t want to have to carry this stuff around, b) if they still want it on the third day they must really want it, and c) they get a chance to run the numbers and decide what they can afford. A new author like me, just showing up on their radar on the last day, didn’t have much of a chance.
But I learned from watching the author next to me what not to do. She put out a small stack of books, a stack of postcards (on a huge table), and then ignored everyone as she sat and talked to another author. What’s wrong with this picture?
I learned to a) stand up, so people will actually see you. B) face front and look at them, better yet, talk to them, call them over. They aren’t going to come up to you begging for the glorious opportunity to buy your books. If they talk to you and get some idea of how you talk and what you sound like they’ll be much more likely to get a book written by you (if they like what they hear, that is). It’s like these blog posts and tweets and whatnot. You read my glorious prose here, and immediately dash off to acquire everything I’ve ever written. Right?
Where was I? Oh yeah, c) display. I had only a few books and CDs, but I spread them out to cover a lot more room. I spread my little stack of bookmarks to cover half a table, and put my poster to one side. I owned that table. We’ve been doing this sort of thing ever since, and Philcon was no exception. We noticed several vendors who were very closed off from their customers, and surprise, they got few sales.
It also helps that we give away little rubber ducks. Never underestimate the power of the Duck Side of the Force.
The real problem we had with this con was the con itself. In addition to charging for the table they also require all dealers and their helpers to have memberships in the con. Which we never get a chance to use, because we’re dealers, in this room, at our tables. We never get to go to the panels, although access to the con suite is helpful at times. If I’d been able to stay I would have spent a lot of time there, schmoozing. I suppose it’s easier for them to just admit everyone with a badge, rather than have to screen the badges and exclude the dealers, but it’s a monster expense for us. I would have made a profit on the table except for that. Fortunately for me, I’m doing this mainly to get the books out there, not to make my living. Lots of dealers make their living this way and expenses like this are a deal-breaker.
On the plus side, I did meet Robert Quill again, and this time I decided to get an Author Guy image made. It was probably due to my lack of sleep, I’d driven home the night before and then driven back, so I’d had 6 hours of sleep. So my rational ‘Don’t spend money’ reflexes were down, and I wanted one. Go to his site, look at his work, and tell me you don’t want one too. So eventually I will get an Author Guy image, and then I’ll have to figure out what to do with it.
I also met a few fellow authors, most of whom spent a great deal of time regaling me with all the intimate details of their books. Yay. One, Russ Colchamiro, had a book called Finders Keepers, which looks like fun. I just went to his website and played the video there. One poor guy came to my table and asked if I had any books with demons. So I told him all about Origins, a book that will be coming out in February, about a vampire girl born of a demon and a witch, working with a government spook squad, when daddy decides to visit. And he’s like, “Oh crap, I was gonna write a book about a girl born of a demon and a human, who’s out to kill her father, but maybe I won’t now.” And I’m like, “Dude, write it anyway, every author tells a different story.” So then he asks me if I’d like to read his book about cows from outer space, trying to conquer Earth. I traded him a copy of Killer Cows, sitting right there on my table. Some days you just can’t win.
Have you been to any cons, as a guest or a dealer? What have your con experiences been like lately?