In the past I have attempted to boost sales through conventions, but I did so by hiring my friend Tracy to man tables or spread the word about my books. I’ve never attended a convention myself. This is because me and crowds are not on friendly terms. And me plus crowds plus travelling plus most likely rooming with someone to save on hotel costs…yeah that’s sort of a big leap.
And the notion of sending someone else in my stead still seems like a viable option, but while that was happening we were mainly experimenting with smaller conventions to get a sense of what might work. We decided that larger conventions, without a real game plan, would probably contain too much noise to get any sort of signal across.
It never occurred to me to look into the large conventions in my area…I had a bit of a blind spot there. I mean, why not buy tickets? I can attend from the safe jumping off point of my own apartment, so that’s a huge plus. I can bail if I start to feel overwhelmed by the crowd, which is an even bigger plus. And, frankly, tickets were way less expensive than I expected.
I only have two reservations about my ticket purchase.
First concerns the general nature of this entire experiment I’m running with my work. Everything I’m doing here: the plodding along with nonprofessional marketing, the DIY of every element, the constant stopping to reassess and examine, all of that is because my goal here is not just to break as an author, it’s to understand how it is that authors break. And the reason for that is because I want to be able to turn around to the author in line behind me and say, “Hey. So here’s what I did. Tiny step by tiny step. Here’s where I saw results. Here’s a decent game plan for you.”
I’m trying to build a mechanism.
So, why would I have reservations about branching out into conventions personally?
Because this is something I never would have done a few years ago. Hell, I’m not sure I’d have been ready for this one year ago (or this year). There’s a lot of psychology and history and whatever behind that statement, but I can sum it up like this: I didn’t start sitting down and writing three-hundred page books in utter solitude because I love being the center of attention. Quite the opposite.
And I imagine that many struggling authors out there feel the same way. If we loved crowds, we’d have become public speakers. If we could express what we wanted to express in social settings, we probably wouldn’t type so many stories with no one around.
Now, granted, there are plenty of authors out there with Rachael Ray-esque personalities. But that’s not who I’m trying to build my mechanism for. If you have the personality of Rachael Ray then you don’t need my help. You also probably will never write anything I’d want to read, though, either.
I’m trying to figure out how authors very similar to me can market books, and if attending a convention is something I, myself, would have a hard time doing, then it feels somehow wrong to incorporate it into the list of suggestions for other authors.
That being said, I am going to give it a shot, and I think that’s partly because over the last few years the audience I’ve built up has slowly begun to raise my level of confidence. So maybe it all fits together after all. Early steps are to find scraps of an audience. And a later step is to let that audience lead you to places where you’ll feel welcome. Or maybe I’ll step into the convention hall and immediately break into a cold sweat on the first day and never go back.
Point being, I would very much like any steps I take in marketing to be easily follow-able by authors similar to me. And that puts attending conventions in an odd gray area.
The second reservation I have is that this is a comic convention and my proven conversion rate so far has been with gamers. But I do think there’s enough overlap between those crowds for this to be worthwhile. I would draw a Venn Diagram but I can’t draw.
Plus, it’ll give me some sense of what even goes on at a convention. I have no idea if I’ll manage to hand out a single business card, but at some point this first time has to happen and I think I want to go and see what’s up.
So, I’m tentatively looking to be in attendance at the New York Comic Convention next month.
At least I know my t-shirts will fit in…