There are many kinds of conventions. The ones I’m most familiar with are comic cons (being a huge geek myself) and creator conventions where authors, artists, and craftsmen can share their work with others.
I have had tables and wonderful experiences at both for my writing for close to a decade now and have learned a lot about what works best, what to hope for, and what is considered a successful experience.
Here are 5 of my top tips for your next convention.
Bring too many books – you can always save them for next con.
I actually ran out of copies of the first book in my Incubus trilogy one year, not having prepared for how many I would sell. Whether you have inventory normally or purchase print-on-demand, order as many as you can the first time around, especially for a new con experience, and judge accordingly from there for future years based on sales.
You can still never be sure what new people might discover you and how many books you might sell, so always overprepare rather than under. Readers love getting author-signed copies.
Make it about the books, not swag.
I’ve tried having posters of my book covers, and I always have bookmarks and my business card, but whenever I consider adding imagery from my covers to other merchandise, I remind myself that if I want someone to buy something of mine, I want it to be one of my novels, not a T-shirt or something else to fill up their arms or bag at a convention.
Books take up enough space, so just like I think in all my marketing, keep your calls-to-action simple and singularly focused. I’m an author. I want to sell books, not swag.
Be friendly with your table neighbors.
This is just common sense and good manners, but there’s no reason to be rude or cold to the people who are going to be sitting near you for the next several hours (or days). Make friends wherever you can. We’re often all creators, whether of the same craft or not, and even other authors aren’t competition. We only compete with ourselves, because readers always want more stories to indulge in. Help each other. Be courteous. Offer to watch their things when they need to take a break or offer to grab a snack when you get up to get one for yourself. It just makes for a better overall experience.
Plus, we usually give each other vendor deals come the end of the con to clean out last minute merch, but you’re not getting any dollars off if you’re a jerk.
Have multiple payment options.
These days people almost expect that you’ll be able to take a card payment, even at smaller conventions, because it’s so easy to offer that. Some use Square, I use Paypal, and it’s no huge cost to sign up and get the card reader you need to do this.
On that note, also make sure to accept cash and therefore have a cashbox and plenty of change. That often means hitting the bank before a show to make sure you have enough $1s and $5s and coins. I only ever deposit large bills after a con and tend to keep the other cash in the box for next con.
Asking for tax depends, in my opinion. You will have to pay in sales tax to your state come the beginning of next year, so best if you usually collect it to save that money for when taxes are due, but there are situations where it might be more prudent to round up or even down to make a sale or just make it easier on the buyer to pay with a clean $20.
I don’t just mean in general, though I do hope you enjoy any conventions you attend, but you also need to look like you’re enjoying yourself. A smile goes a long way for making a sale. It helps you and your table look more inviting.
I tend to stand most of the time, and since I’m often at comic conventions, I also usually dress up as one of my favorite geeky characters. It reminds people that hey, I’m one of you too, I love this stuff, we can just talk about anything, and maybe if we have a lot in common, you might like one of my novels too.
It’s a community experience, and you should have fun, whether sitting chatting with a table partner, your neighbors, or whoever stops by your booth.
I hope these tips are useful for any new authors (or other creators) planning to attend conventions. My first one of 2019 is MSP SpringCon, May 18th and 19th, at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds. You can learn more HERE.