Selling Books at Planet Comicon - Lessons Learned

Saturday at Comicon
On May 20-21, I participated in my very first Comicon as a vendor rather than a guest. It was an extremely valuable learning experience and I am so glad I went.

You will notice I called it a learning experience rather than "the best f-ing day of my life." There is a reason for this. I only sold three books over two days. You'll recall I sold five books when I did Books on the Bottoms. And that was for two hours. So five books in two hours at an antiques venue vs. three books in a combined 24 hours at a venue that specializes in sci-fi, fantasy, and nerd culture. So what in the world happened? Well I can break the cause down pretty easily. So for other book sellers planning on hawking your stories at an event like this, I thought I would share my wisdom.


1. Comicon is Big. Like, so big. And I don't just mean the 30,000 people who attended. I mean there were so many booths filling up Bartle Hall: Artists, Cosplayers, knick-knack vendors, graphic novels, regular novels, random weirdos, stretching farther than the human eye can see. Unless you're way up high. There is no way any person could get through all that. And even if they could...
Look at all the nerds

2. Comicon is Expensive. It costs $35 per person just to get into Comicon. So what you do with your remaining money once inside has to be targeted. Likely, you went there to get the autograph of a celebrity (costs vary depending on the celebrity). Maybe you want to take a picture with that celebrity (also varying costs, but always more expensive than the autograph). After that, you have to buy food, cuz you're starving from all that waiting in line and smiling at Kevin Smith. Enjoy paying $8 for a soda and another $10 for a hot dog. You wanted pizza, but they ran out of pizza after an hour. If you're lucky, you have about $20 left to spend. So what do you want to do with it? Buy a novel? Specifically a novel by an unknown writer that may or may not be good? Probably not. You want that Kylo Ren Lightsaber that actually lights up.



3. Introverts are Terrible at Selling. When I am a customer, I hate to be pestered by people. I want to read the back of the book and make an informed decision. I hate when book store personnel people come and talk to me. Or really when any person talks to me. Because I am a super-duper introvert. For those of you familiar with the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, I am an ISTJ. So the idea of hollering at random passersby to come and buy my book is a thoroughly nauseating idea. How vulgar. Passivity is not exactly a great sales tactic, but it's the only one I have. There was also the problem of the many people actually saying they didn't read books. What... what do you even say to that? I can't be sure, but I probably gave those people a disgusted sneer. Also not a good selling tactic.

ISTJ: We always look confused

4. Bigger is not Better. Watching so many people walk past your booth is very disheartening. The man at the booth next to us makes his whole living off his writing, so he goes to every Con he can. He offered no words of encouragement, just that it never gets easier to feel dismissed by a perspective reader. Likewise, the joy at making a sale never gets old.

I made three sales. One was to my senior drill instructor from Parris Island (1999). Who in the world could have predicted running into her? She was so proud that one of her girls went on to write a book that of course she had to buy one. The second book sale was to a friend of a friend. And the third sale was to a young woman I did not know. She was dressed as super girl and was the most magical person I have ever met. Her love of books was palpable. She bought my book. Then she bought all five of Dennis' books. Then she bought the book of the man at the table next to us. She did this because she loved discovering new worlds, and we were all new to her. She came to Comicon for books. All the books. And her visit to our table on Sunday evening was the best way possible to end my first Con experience.

Two Marines among the civilians


I can say with some certainty I will not be selling at next year's Planet Comicon. I will instead go as a customer. Dressed as Lady Kylo Ren. But I will be selling at KC Comicon this August. It is a smaller venue that focuses on creators. The celebrities who come are not actors; they are writers and artists and behind-the-scenes creators. I have no way to predict how many sales I will make, but I think it will be more in line with my personality, and I think the people who come will be more inclined to stop to read the back cover of Sunder. Preferably without me having to actually talk to them.

Comments

  1. Hi, Kristin! Great post. I confess, sometimes I think the worst part of being an author is publishing, mostly because publishing can't be uncoupled from marketing and selling our books.

    There's so much I could say to what you wrote here, but maybe we should just leave it for conversation the next time we get together. It's never easy to be on the selling side of that table, but with time & experience, you can develop strategies to manage the discomfort. Even start having fun. :)

    Hang in there. I know you'll do well at KC Comicon. Looking forward to it!

    ReplyDelete

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