Valentin’s Day 2016. What was I doing? Spending the day with my lovely wife? Nope. Eating chocolates with my two girls? Uh-uh. Hanging with the geeks at the Comic Book Syndicon? Oh yeah!
Although not sure of the long term effects of doing so will have on my marriage, I can say the short term gain was great. Me and my friend-for-life, Ben Van Dongen, sold a whole bunch of copies of our new book No Light Tomorrow. In fact, Ben wrote a blog about his experience right here! https://benwltp.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/the-storm/#more-764
By my count, this was my 7th con as a vendor (although it may be 8…I really feel like I’m forgetting one) with two more in the very near future and I think I’m starting to get a handle on the ins-and-outs of the them.
Here are a few rules that I like to follow.
Get there late (let me explain). Unless you have a crap load of product, or a bunch of tables, there is no reason to get there as early as you’ll invariably be instructed to. If the con starts at 11am, then get there around 10:30am. The only reason to get there early is to get your shopping in before the doors open. That brings me though to my next point…
Don’t buy anything…at least not at first. Unless you’re looking for something specific, wait! The worst thing you can do is spend money before you make any. I’ve been to a few cons where I’ve just made enough to cover my table, if I’d have bought anything, I would have been in the red! Go around before the con opens, scout out what you want, wait until you’ve had some sales then go shopping.
Cosplay girls: Look, don’t touch! Yes, you will see several young ladies wearing almost nothing at all. And yes, you can look. But remember, they are probably younger than you think, and you could wind up in jail.
If things are going badly, bail! I don’t say this lightly. But the fact is, sometimes, you’re going to be at a con or fair or expo and it’s going to be very obvious that it is dead in the water. If there is still an hour left, and you’ve sold one book all day, cut your losses and leave.
Make contacts! This is a big one, and one I’m guilty of ignoring. You are in a room with a whole bunch of other people in your field. Walk around, talk, and exchange business cards. You will gain all sorts of future opportunities this way.
Deals! At the Syndicon, we had the luxury of having two books for sale, The Space Between Houses and No Light Tomorrow. This meant that we could do a package deal of 2 for $15 (they are normally $10 each). If somebody is already willing to drop $10 on one book, they will almost certainly be willing to throw in another $5 for the second one.
Now, with that stuff out of the way, I’m going to switch to the supplies I usually bring. Think of these as the con survival pack
Tylenol! If I bring nothing else, I better bring these. I get some wicked bad headaches at these things (readings and signings included). There’s nothing worse than trying to sell people on your work when your head is about to explode.
Water. At least one bottle. I usually bring something else like a bottle of Coke, or a Monster, but you need to have that back-up water for later in the day.
Pen and Paper. The first thing is rather obvious if you’re an author. You’re going to need a pen for signing. But the paper is almost as equally important. The amount of times that I had to write a person’s name on a separate piece of paper before actually scrawling it in their copy of my book, to make sure I got the spelling correct, is a lot.
Hand sanitizer. This is a new one for me. It’s not that I enjoy germs, it’s just not something I usually have. However it turns out that Ben has my back as he recently gave me a small bottle of sanitizer. You shake a lot of hands at cons and if you’ve ever seen the movie Mallrats, you’ll know that some people go out of their way to make their hands nasty.
Food. Cons all have one thing in common: over-priced food! Also, you want to have control over what you eat. Bacon Cheeseburger with extra onions? Not a great idea. A small, non-offensive sandwich you bring from home? Yep! I remember being at a con where I had gone for the former (minus the onions) and totally regretted it. Nothing worse than hastily pushing a messy burger aside, wiping ketchup from your hands and signing a book.
Gum. This kinda follows the above. You’re going to be talking to people all day. Make sure you have some gum.
Tape. You just never know when you’re going to need to MacGyver some stuff up.
Alright, I’ve laid down all kinds of stuff above, but the only thing you need to know…I mean really, the only thing you have to do at a con is talk. You have to talk to every. Single. Person. That walks by your table. Don’t be pushy, but if you don’t give people a reason to stop walking, and actually listen to your spiel, you ain’t gonna sell shit.