Only have a minute? Here’s the quicky version:
Indie sci-fi and fantasy authors can have a great time selling at comic book conventions- if you are willing to have the right attitude, including:
1- Regarding comic cons as a unique opportunity.
2- Being focused on promotions instead of sales.
3- Being friendly and interested in convention-goers.
4- Being willing to identify yourself as a writer.
5- Finding a short, smart, interesting way to describe your book.
Okay, if you have a few extra minutes, the whole story about me and what I learned about selling books at Rhode Island Comic Con is down below the fold!
After VampCon was released, I had a publicity plan, but- honestly- comic cons were not part of it.
In fact, I had not planned on attending any conventions until author Don Franklin, publicist Kristina Gehring, and illustrator Jonathan Banchick invited me to share a table at Rhode Island Comic Con (RICC). They seemed pretty excited about it, so I went!
Truthfully, I found it all new and a bit unnerving. The hours were long. Sales were only fair, and by the end, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do it again. The funny thing is that now- two months later- I would love to do it again!
So what changed? What reversed my opinion? The answer is – now that there’s been time for the experience to sink in- I’ve come to realize that comic conventions may not be great for sales, but they are a great opportunity for promotion, and I just have to make sure that I have to have the right attitude going in:
So, based on my experiences at RICC, how should I adjust my attitude in regard to comic cons?
1- Comic-cons are a rare opportunity ! – Fantasy authors have a golden opportunity to connect with potential customers. Authors in other genres don’t have this chance! True, there are book conventions for writers of cowboy novels, murder mysteries, and romance novels, but these events tend to attract a huge number of writers and less ordinary customers. For comic cons, the ratio is reversed. You have a few writers and tons of people who are potential readers.
2- It’s about promotion, not sales! Sure, I want to sell books, but at the end of the day, my main goal is not to sell books, but to make people aware of my book, so when they are on Amazon or Goodreads, they’ll think: “Oh yeah, I got a flyer for that book called VampCon! Maybe I should check it out!”
In other words, for a small-time author like myself, the key is not selling a hundred of copies of VampCon, but instead having 400 people walk out of that convention holding a flyer (or bookmark) with my book’s name on it.
3- Be friendly, listen to people, take pictures of people in costumes, make jokes! I learned this from watching Don Franklin (author of Reaper’s Walk: Hellstone) who is so friendly and amiable. Don managed to have several real conversations (not just sales pitches) with con attendees. He is a natural communicator. Meanwhile Sam, Don’s son who had joined us, was making himself busy taking pictures of all the people in costume (what is referred to in the circuit as cosplay).
I have to admit that I’m not as much a people-person as Don, and I was a bit shy about taking pictures, but I feel like I’m ready for it next time. In other words, identifying myself as a fellow fan means that people might be more willing to talk to me and see me as a real and approachable person.
4- It’s a good idea to identify yourself as an author. For many of us writers, it feels weird to self-identify as an author. Being called an author (to me) seems very official and formal. So when I went to RICC, I wasn’t planning on mentioning that I wrote VampCon, unless someone asked me.
But Don (we were sharing a table) would just tell people. “Yes, I wrote this book!” Don is pretty awesome.
In response, most people said, “Whoa! That’s cool!” And I realized something important, that people are not put-off by talking to authors. Rather, they enjoy it, and some of them really like the idea of buying a signed copy directly from the writer. Holy revelations Batman! Next time, I’m definitely going to mention that I’m the guy who wrote the book.
5- Find a short, smart, interesting way to describe your book. This is tough. At various times, people at RICC asked me, “Oh, what’s VampCon about?” It was surprisingly hard to answer. I mean, of course I know what the book’s about (I wrote it!). But what I had never expected to do was try to verbally describe it in a succinct and compelling manner in everyday conversation.
It’s hard. If you don’t believe me, get a watch, and try it yourself! (see footnote 1 below). Some people call this an “elevator pitch” which means that you should be able to clearly describe your book to someone whose never heard of it within the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator.
I didn’t have an elevator pitch and had a hard time answering the question without rambling. To deal with this, I’m seriously considering memorizing an elevator pitch and maybe even printing out a small flyer that provides the gist of the story of VampCon (without giving away too many spoilers)!
footnote 1– Get a watch and try to describe a favorite book (like Harry Potter). Don’t ramble too much; be sure to mention the main idea of the story; and make it sound interesting. Oh, and time yourself for thirty seconds. I told you it’s not so easy.
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