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Setting up shop at book festivals, comic cons and genre-specific conventions can be a highly productive way for genre fiction authors to build their email lists, sell books, expand their brand and meet the readers that will become their biggest fans.
It’s the 21st century. We’ve got Twitter and Facebook and Goodreads. Why should authors set up shop at Conventions?
- To get out of the cave & get more interaction with readers!
- Often traditional venues are closed off or difficult for independent authors (i.e. signing at Barnes & Noble)
- Personal connections with readers can create lasting relationships. Often an author’s most ardent fans are the ones who have met the author personally.
Is exhibiting at comic cons, book festivals & genre specific cons for me?
- Are you passionate about your stories?
- Do you want the opportunity to share your passion for story, writing and reading with others?
- Are you able and willing to converse with folks?
- Are you a fan of pop culture? If you’d rather have your eye poked with a stick than be surrounded by superheroes and pop culture icons for three days, then comic cons are not for you.
- If you’d rather have a colonoscopy than spend three days in the company of other human beings, then exhibiting is probably not for you
Okay, you’ve convinced me to get out of my writing cave. How do I get started?
- First, attend a local event near you. Go first as a patron and see if you like the feel of the place and can see yourself there.
- Exhibit at a local event.
- Start small – a table, rather than a booth and events nearby.
- Invest in these key items: (1) a tablecloth (link below); (2) easels and/or a book display rack (links below); (3) bookmarks.
So all I have to do is throw some books on a table, right?
- Set up a creative display. Remember, this is your store. Think outside the box. Use your six feet by two feet of space work for you.
- **EMAIL LIST** Make sure everyone who visits your table/booth is given an opportunity to sign up for your email list.
- Business cards. Believe it or not, lots of people ask for them. Make sure you have plenty on hand.
- Go as vertical as you can with banners, etc.
- Have a freebie or two to give away. For example, if they buy one book perhaps the bookmark of the next book in the series. But if a customer buys your entire inventory, have some cool swag to give out to the best customers (i.e. key chains, magnets, a copy of a novella – be creative).
- Pass out a scene or chapter of your best book (and pick the best scene, not necessarily the first chapter). Put it in a plastic sleeve or bag along with your card and/or bookmarks, etc. Make sure the sample has a QR code that can be scanned to go get the book on Amazon.
- Branding: Remember that just like you’re doing online (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, your website, etc.), be aware of branding. Create a cohesive look to your display so that people can tell before they even speak to you what your “brand” is about.
I hate to sell things. Do I have to be salesy to be a success?
- Be conversational.
- Share your passion for your story.
You don’t have to be “salesy”, but you do have to sell.
- After you’ve given your “pitch” and the customer is interested in the book, close the sale by politely giving a “call to action.”
- You can say something like “Would you like to purchase a copy? I’ll sign it for you.” One author I know says “Would you like me to hook you up with a signed copy?” It needs to be in your style, but don’t forget that you often need to prompt them with a call to action.
- UPSELLING! Think about your pricing. I generally sell one book for $15. (This is for full-length novels (85,000-125,000 words. If your books are shorter (say under 65,000 words), you may very well want to sell them for less). But I sell two books for $25. And I currently have 5 novels and sell all 5 for $50. This is a great deal for the reader. Most often, if the person is interested in both of my series, they’ll buy all the books b/c it’s such a good deal. Think about your pricing. Don’t undersell your product, but do create incentives to buy quantity.
- Create a memorable experience. Be part of the fun of the event. If they buy several books from you, throw in some cool swag that will help them remember you by.
Great, I got all these new subscribers to my email list. Now what?
- Don’t make the mistake I made the first year I did events and not send to your list often enough. If you don’t already know about Tim Grahl, go buy his book “Your First 1000 Copies” right now! Tim will walk you through how to engage with your list.
- I segregate my festival/comic con fans in a separate email list and email them from time-to-time with stories and pics from events I attend AND reminders of where I’ll be next. This helps keep those fans engaged.
- Help others & they’ll help you
- Follow the rules of the con/festival
LINKS TO USEFUL THINGS:
Photographer Backdrops to Make You Look like a Pro!
- Backdrops Express: http://www.backdropexpress.com/
- Photographer Stands to Hold Banners and/or Backdrops:
- Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias=aps&field-keywords=photography+backdrop+stand
Nifty Swag to for Thank You Customers:
- Etsy Shops:
- Book Cards – Baseball Card Sized – Cover on the front, book description & your website, etc. on the back. These are great for cons – pocket-sized and can be easily put in a wallet. The only place I know to get these is an AZ company called Mountain Ink. Contact Casey at Mountain Ink and tell him I sent you – he’ll take your cover & back cover copy and make beautiful cards for you at a reasonable price.
- http://www.mountainink.net/ – !
- These small wire display work very well to display a single book or hold up a poster on foam core – many uses. Sold in pack of 12 – worth every penny.
Tabletop Display Racks:
- eBay – http://www.ebay.com/itm/Black-Wire-Literature-Display-6-Tier-Countertop-Retail-Rack-Counter-Books-DVD-CD-/191612107636?hash=item2c9cf8bb74:g:ci0AAOSwBLlVZgp9
- Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Fixturecraft-Popularity-Shelf-Display-C793/dp/B009EU2SDY/ref=pd_sim_sbs_229_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=51GNmSx3lpL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR160,160_&refRID=07S5N3F9VKJCNGRXFT5C
**Fixturecraft is a good brand. I’ve used my rack for many shows – it folds down for travel & storage and makes for a professional display.
- Tablecloths- http://www.amazon.com/LinenTablecloth-132-Inch-Rectangular-Polyester-Tablecloth/dp/B008TLJZXK?ie=UTF8&psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_search_detailpage