Selling Yourself (and your work) at Conventions

Jeremy M. Gottwig

Jeremy M. Gottwig
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#1
I'm just starting to get into cons. Last year, I attended Balticon, Capclave, and a smaller con called Hallowread. At the time, I was just starting to put my work out there. Now that I've had some publishing success in short markets and a novel that's about 96% finished, I'm thinking that I need to engage.

This year, I'm planning on attending all of the above plus a few other cons.

Question... does anyone bring actual work to hand to publishers / editors / agents at these events? Is it better to just shake hands and introduce yourself? How do you like to interact with possible buyers of your work?
 

Jo Zebedee

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#2
I'm just starting to get into cons. Last year, I attended Balticon, Capclave, and a smaller con called Hallowread. At the time, I was just starting to put my work out there. Now that I've had some publishing success in short markets and a novel that's about 96% finished, I'm thinking that I need to engage.

This year, I'm planning on attending all of the above plus a few other cons.

Question... does anyone bring actual work to hand to publishers / editors / agents at these events? Is it better to just shake hands and introduce yourself? How do you like to interact with possible buyers of your work?
Oooh, good luck. No, don't bring a mss at all. They hate that. (Unless you've been asked to.) Get some nice business cards done up, go to the bar and chat to people. If you're lucky, you'll make contacts and they'll take a card and maybe ask to see something. If not, you'll have a blast anyway.

It is also possible to email in advance, and ask if they'd look, but I've invariably had more luck just being sociable, interested in what's happening, and taking the odd opportunity when it's presented to me.
 

ratsy

www.scifiexplorations.com
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#3
I am going to a conference this summer, and plan on having both Woodbridge cards and personal cards. There are going to be some great guest speakers there and I hope to meet Julie E. Czerneda, who happily agreed to do a review or blurb for Explorations when it's done. She is something of a Canadian SF legend.

Jeremy, I think it is about networking, meeting people, getting cards, connecting on social media and all of that to an extent. I really don't think that the publishers, agents, or editors, go there wanting people to say 'read my stuff!'
 

Jeremy M. Gottwig

Jeremy M. Gottwig
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#4
I've invariably had more luck just being sociable, interested in what's happening, and taking the odd opportunity when it's presented to me.
I like this approach, and it has been mine thus far. I have also come to love the morning Kaffeeklatsch sessions with the special guests. One of my problems is that I take these events as opportunities to write, which means that I'm not being sociable. Then again, I get a lot done.
 

Jeremy M. Gottwig

Jeremy M. Gottwig
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#5
I really don't think that the publishers, agents, or editors, go there wanting people to say 'read my stuff!'
Good. That just feels embarrassing.

At Capclave, I witnessed one guy walk in half-way through a session, make a few semi-related comments during Q&A, and try and sell his book to the panelists once it was over. I was like... ewww. I saw this as an extreme case, but I wasn't sure it was expected behavior.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#6
Good. That just feels embarrassing.

At Capclave, I witnessed one guy walk in half-way through a session, make a few semi-related comments during Q&A, and try and sell his book to the panelists once it was over. I was like... ewww. I saw this as an extreme case, but I wasn't sure it was expected behavior.
There is a legendary case of one agent being hounded in the ladies and handed a mss....
 

Teresa Edgerton

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#7
What everyone has said so far. Networking can be very effective. I've known authors who were able to turn a conversation with an editor into a contract in a surprisingly short time (not by handing them the manuscript, obviously, but by making the book sound interesting enough that the editor asks to see it). This is, of course, rare. But contacts you make could surprise you years or months later by proving to be valuable in ways you hadn't expected.

But once you have a published novel, contact the convention (well in advance) and volunteer to be on panels. If they say yes, it's a good way to meet other writers (sometimes editors, too, depending on the panel), promote your book to readers (or at least build a little name recognition), and possibly get a free membership.
 

Deep Space Nina

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#8
I would not bring printed material. Go there, have fun! If you come to talk to each other, you can still ask if this person would be interested in your novel. Rather send it later But in fact, any time I had success with networking at cons it was definitly not bluntly going to someone and offering my work. I had other situations like drinking beer with some fellow fans and suddenly got the offer to have a story translated and published in a zine from someone else sitting with them at the table. The best way is to talk to everyone. Ask people you know a bit if you can join them for dinner - a lot of them go in mixed groups of fans, author, publishers, translators, cover artists etc. and it is a great chance to get to know interesting persons. And don´t miss the parties! ;)

As for the novel, it is probably also too early to get into action. Overworking very often takes much longer than the actual writing. I know that you are certainly eager to get into action, but it is worth not to haste. The number of good publishers is in fact limited and once you have offered a manuscript that is not professional, you won´t get another chance with the same manuscript at the same publishing house.

(And in case you ask yourself: She is an author??? - Yes, but I am usually writing in German. :whistle: )
 

Denise Tanaka

Denise RobargeTanaka
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#9
does anyone bring actual work to hand to publishers / editors / agents at these events?
It also depends if the Con has a writer's workshop, then of course you'd bring a manuscript. Also, at Worldcon there was an opportunity to make appointments for a one-to-one meeting wit a literary agent. Their requirements were to send a synopsis and a sample chapters beforehand.
 

E.Maree

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#10
Definitely don't bring printed material unless you're planning on going to a a workshopping/editing/pitching panel. Business cards are great if you're confident enough to use them (personally I feel uncomfortable handing them out when I have no books to sell, haha).

I just chat to people, get to know them, collect their cards and social media handles. Writing Excuses had a great podcast just the other day about convention essentials.
 

Deep Space Nina

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#11
Definitely don't bring printed material unless you're planning on going to a a workshopping/editing/pitching panel. Business cards are great if you're confident enough to use them (personally I feel uncomfortable handing them out when I have no books to sell, haha).

I just chat to people, get to know them, collect their cards and social media handles. Writing Excuses had a great podcast just the other day about convention essentials.
Well, but there is the possibility to say something like: "Oh, I guess have taken some nice pictures of the event, if you want to see them, lets add each other on facebook ... the address of my profile is on my card ..." It is probably more comfortable saying that instead of: "I am an author, here is my business card and I expect you to write to me!"
Social media helps a lot. I hardly ever wrote an e-mail to someone I got to know at a con and hardly ever recieved any.
 
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#12
Just wondering, has anyone tried to sell your book at non-writing conventions, like trying to go to science fiction conventions to sell your science fiction book? Sorry if its a bit off topic.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#13
Just wondering, has anyone tried to sell your book at non-writing conventions, like trying to go to science fiction conventions to sell your science fiction book? Sorry if its a bit off topic.
I've done a few Comic Cons with a local bookchain and do okay - 20/30 sales of paperbacks and usually a nice spike in kindles after. But it's very hard work and only for those extroverts amongst us. Even I - who am pretty good in these circumstances - get a little daunted at the amount of flogging that needs to be done.
 
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#14
I've done a few Comic Cons with a local bookchain and do okay - 20/30 sales of paperbacks and usually a nice spike in kindles after. But it's very hard work and only for those extroverts amongst us. Even I - who am pretty good in these circumstances - get a little daunted at the amount of flogging that needs to be done.
Thank you, its something I have been wondering for months.
 

Toby Frost

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#15
I have done some selling at non-writing conventions. A lot seems to depend on the type of the event and what people go to it intending to do. The most books I’ve ever sold was at an event called Expo in London. Firstly, this was really big, and secondly, it was devoted to merchandise and buyable stuff, with about 90% of the stands there to sell things. It helped that I was with a larger steampunk group, and we were almost a small bazaar in itself. I think people go to this sort of event with a wad of saved-up money which they intend to spend on cool stuff. When you’re buying objects for £50 and more, spending £8 on a novel with a nice cover is pretty easy.

Where you are quite well-known in a circle (for me, that would require a local event or a UK one involving steampunk) you will sell until people have the copies that they want. Then you need to write something new. I suppose this means that a lot of people go to their friends’ events. I’m not knocking that, because I enjoy myself at those sorts of events, but I wouldn’t go there to make big money (comparatively. Nobody makes big money in SFF unless their initials are R.R.!).

Smaller conventions might be more fun and might introduce you to people you’ve not met yet. That could be pretty good. Last weekend I did an event in Didcot, Oxfordshire, which was really enjoyable and had a good combination of selling books and having real fun. It helped that all the other writers were really nice guys, but they usually are.

But as Jo says, it is for extroverts, and I’m certainly not one of them. I never know how to sell books. I’ve seen people try a hard sell, and seen it fall very flat. I think it will depend very much on what sort of person you are, as well as what the event is there to do.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#16
I got this review from someone at my last event, so I must be doing something right. (Mostly I smile a lot, chat and comment on people's cosplay or merchandise, cos I'm nosy.)

"I was fortunate enough to meet the author at a recent convention in Belfast. She was a very friendly, motivated woman, and I'm all for supporting local talent, so I felt I at least owed her an honest review.
This book isn't perfect, I'll admit. There are some formatting errors and inconsistencies (in the physical copy, at least), and I felt that some of the writing did come across a little clunky, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story once I got into it. The plot itself is very interesting and I found that I couldn't put the book down at times because I was eager to know what happened next. The characters were easy to get emotionally invested in (although a couple of their insults/swears get quite repetitive which made them seem slightly less three-dimensional to me) and the local setting was refreshing.
Overall, this is quite a unique book and well worth the read. Definitely a decent addition to the sci-fi genre!"

A nice, balanced four star review, and a goodreads rating. I can live with that as an outcome.
 
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#19
Then this promo approach isn't for you. But there are others - social media has opened the world of promo to anyone, anywhere. :)
There certain are more options now than we had on the past. But as useful as the social media are (and no convention can compare to the digital word in terms of numbers of readers reached) I would still suggest that JaeDarcy at least attend such a gathering and see what it's like. Not to openly self-promote, perhaps, since putting yourself on an uncomfortable spot can be counterproductive, but just to be there and get a feel for what the local/regional scifi community is like. In general, they tend to be good people. You might find working with such folk, once you know them, to be very helpful.
 

JaeDarcy

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#20
Oh, I'd suck it up and go. I think that's good advice for anyone.
I have to attend trade shows and speak a lot in my current line of work, and I find it helps to play the role of someone who enjoys that sort of self-promotion.

(I just loathe it.)
 
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