Essentials to preparing for a great convention! Part 1

Alright folks, the trees are budding outside my condo and the birds are singing which can mean only one thing: convention season is about to start!

Here is Matt and me at ECCC 10 (I am dressed as an elf for the debut of Faminelands #2)

First of all, until you have actually exhibited at a convention, you do not understand the stress factor. There is a major difference between attending a con and exhibiting at one. If you are an Exhibitor at a major con, you probably filled in your paperwork six months to a year prior. You are probably nervous, excited. Part 1 is going to go over mental preparation of being an Exhibitor, next week in Part 2 I will write out how to pack for a con.

Here is free extra tip: At most cons, you get 2-4 free badges for the con (at Norwescon I only get one!) Friends and family assume that you get as many as you want  or free or discounted parking …be clear with people. You can not just bring in random people. It gets really expensive really fast.

Ok, so here we go:

1) Goals. People have different equations to come up with a good sales goal. Here is a really basic one: The cost of the con (including travel expenses) X days the sales floor is open = sales goal. Hopefully your inventory is priced fairly enough to sell, but high enough for you to turn a profit, by using a basic formula for sales goal.

Another formula is 5% of estimated attendance X the average cost of your product line.

While for all our cons we have a sales goal, generally Maria and I also try to look at it also as a marketing vehicle. So we also have marketing goals. This year we will be having out sample chapters of Other Systems. I need to hand out to prospective readers–not just every random passing stranger. We hope this will lead to sales, but I won’t really know until I get my first royalty check.  Still I am going to try to hand out 1500 sample chapters over Emerald City Comicon and Norwescon to science fiction fans.

2) Preparation for soul crushing and uplifting comments.

Prepare for positive and negative comments.  I will never understand why anyone who has no interest in what I am doing approaches my booth, but they do. There will be snotty jerks who think what I am doing is completely redundant and derivative because Famine Lands is about elves. It sucks when I have to hear why my artwork is all wrong or I am no talent hack–but that’s part of the gig. When someone says something rude, have a few polite comments ready.

If I can throw in a joke and still come off classy I might, but most of the time I just say “Well, art is subjective, perhaps you might enjoy Wayfarer’s Moon. They do a fantasy comic which has highly detailed realistic artwork. Almost a European Style” (Or pick out another comic that the person might like. Usually it’s one of my friends created–since this person is obviously not going to buy from me maybe I can help a friend get a sale.)

Another part of the gig which ends up just as soul crushing is sometimes people will tell me that “oh I borrowed [insert one of my titles] from their brother-in-law and I really like it.” They will spend twenty minutes at my booth telling me how much they loved Famine Lands, but  no they are not interested in Lure or Out For Souls and Cookies–or even the next issue of Faminelands.  I know people mean well, but it deflates the ego pretty quickly after spending all this time with someone and realizing they have probably really not read your book. They were just bored and wanted to kill a few minutes before the next panel.

On the bright side, prepare for people to love your work. Some of those folks can’t afford it, but will give you a nice complement anyway. Some will probably purchase your work. When people give you a compliment learn to look them in the eyes and say, “Thank you, I really appreciate that.”

3) Preparation for on the spot interviews

More than once, I got an interview specifically I said yes and I am ready now. Have some stock answers about the kinds of writing/artwork you do. Inspirations. Basic bio. Practice with a mirror or with a webcam.

4) Basic Rules for your booth space.

Here is Maria at Emerald City 2011. See how happy she is? She knows I am going to buy her breakfast, lunch and dinner over the next three days.

Your helper buddies might think you are going over the top by having booth rules. More than one of my friends backed out once they realized I looked at this as work. More than one backed out once they realized this was hard core sales for three days. However I also have had plenty of people who were happy that I laid down a few ground rules.

Here are a few examples of some of the rules in my booth: No Swearing in the Booth.

No Complaining. (When you get frustrated, just let me know and you can take a break)

Always try to make eye contact and smile with the customers.

Learn the basic pitch for each book and if someone asks a question that you don’t know the answer to, please just reply. “I don’t know, let me get Elizabeth.”

On the same token: do something nice for your helper buddies. The ones that work hard are worth their weight in gold.

5) Prepare a basic Pitch for each title. Now some people complain that having a pitch means  I am “selling” my book. You are correct. I am selling my books. There is no purpose to spend $800 on a booth at a con, if we aren’t going to try to sell. I also consider the pitch a basic took of informing the customer what the book is about. I know within fifteen seconds if they are interested in hearing more or not.  More than once as soon as I uttered the word “demon” for Out for Souls&Cookies, we have had people frown and move away. We also have had people laugh or make a joke when I finish with “As you may or may not be aware, Hell has no retirement plan.” If they are interested, I will finish my pitch, if not, I will ask if they what kind of comics they like and either suggest something else on my table or suggest a friend’s comic that might be to their taste. If they try to run, I let them go. If they try to steal a book once my back is turned, Maria chases them down. (Yes, this has happened.)

 Next week, I’ll discuss what to have in your booth for a weekend convention…

2 responses to this post.

  1. You sure are a trooper!


  2. Posted by Mariann Krizsan on February 29, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Now I want to here all your pitches!


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