The Publishing Process: Marketing Part 4: Conventions
In today’s marketing piece, I’m going to speak on a promotional method that has become a large part of the writer’s resources- the convention. While think of cons as massive places to debut films, TV, and comic books, there are still many smaller cons that authors can use to show off their work and gain fans and notoriety. While the Internet and social media are incredibly important for building a fanbase, cons allow for personal connections that will help to strengthen your name and help to get your book across.
The Con- What it is, How to find It, and What to do
Conventions are large gatherings, usually built around popular media that take place across the country. The most well-known is the San Diego Comic-Con, which draws fans from around the world and has become the mecca for panels on upcoming films, TV, and comic books (I personally went a few years ago, and can truly say it lives up to the hype). However, you’re unlikely to start there. Many smaller conventions take place across the country, and it is easy for writers to check into cons that are happening in their area, which are usually advertised. The Internet is your best bet, but local papers and comic shops will also help, and the closer you are to a big city, the better your chances.
When you have found a con, the next step is to get a seat there. This usually involves calling the con and getting a booth to display your work, but this can be expensive for a first time writer. A better suggestion is to find a con with an Artist’s Alley, which showcases a group of local artists/authors and is far less costly. Once you are set, you will need to promote your area, usually with posters, a display of some kind, something that will bring attention to you and your work. Make sure your display is of good quality, so that it can be reused and save you money in the long run. And of course, you will need to order copies of your book to sell. However, remember that this is your first con, and you do not want to over order. Try to make a reasonable estimate given the size of the con and how many fans you feel you can attract.
This leads to the most important part of a con- being social. You will be standing at a booth all day, with people stopping by the whole time. These are your potential fans and buyers, so you must be ready for them. Answer their questions, be friendly and sociable, and do as much as you can to appeal to them without going into salesman mode, because that will drive fans away. Hopefully, you can find that balance and use it to promote your book efficiently. I can personally relate to this being effective; at Comic-Con, I was fortunate enough to meet Brent Maddock, one of the writers of Tremors. While I did pay for an autograph, he was gracious enough to speak to me for almost fifteen minutes about Tremors rumors and the state of horror movies today. When I got home, I almost immediately went out and bought the four Tremors movies and the short lived TV series.
While the Internet and social media are of far greater reach, cons offer that personal, one on one experience that bring you a greater connection with fans and help you to build your reputation as an approachable writer that fans will pay to see. And it can lead to some surprises, as I ended my day at Comic-Con playing guitar in an Irish pub with Lindsay Ellis, aka the Nostalgia Chick from ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com (I’ll post the photos after I finally get them on file). So look for cons that will work for you; be smart, be realistic, be frugal as needed, and above all, be social and friendly, and you will build a new army of fans (though some may be dressed as Megatron. Just roll with it).
• Special thanks to Derrick Fish, writer/artist of the Wellkeeper, artist for Lightrider, and con veteran, for his invaluable expertise in writing this piece.