Thoughts on Conning

I really should have done this last night, but by the time I got home I quickly found myself running on fumes.  So, without further ado, here are some thoughts on Planet Comicon (KC-MO, 15 March 2014) from an author’s (as opposed to fan boy’s) perspective.  BLUF: It is worth it for an author to go to a Con, even if for only a day.  While I know I’m preaching to the choir with many of you, for those who may think going to a Con is a waste of time/money this was my experience:

1.) RE: Artists—You will seldom find a case where you have so many artists in one place.  In a matter of hours, I found at least 2 likely leads apiece for alternate history, dystopian future, and science-fiction covers.  More importantly, whereas most of the time you hear quotes of $4-500 for cover art, most of these artists are looking to be established—and thus gave me quotes of around $100-$200.  Given that almost every booth artist has examples of their work there for sale plus info to their website, it’s not like this is a case of agreeing to work sight unseen.  Is this more expensive than buying a stock photo?  Lords yes.  But you won’t end up having something happen like the idiocy that afflicted one of our fellow authors, i.e. someone claiming publicly on your Amazon reviews.  I’ll also say that, as someone who has commissioned some artwork lately and may need to buy some more, the $35 getting in the door will probably more than pay for itself down the road.

2.) Networking—In addition to meeting artists, Cons are good places to meet other folks who might make your life earlier or give you information.  For instance, I met another independent / small press author who was able to walk me through the process if I or a collection of other authors wanted to get a booth.  Would I have ever known a booth was reasonably priced ($400 as opposed to the $1000 or so I thought) or that he’d yet to have a case where he didn’t make his money back?  Or that the trick is to bring a gimmick item to catch people’s eyes? (His was stuffed dragons that, at least from my own observation, brought little kids (and thus the paying parents) like sharks to chum.)  No, I would not have, as I didn’t know anyone who had run a booth at Planet Comic Con before now.

2a.) Some things to go with networking.  First, have something that you can leave with the person which is memorable and distinctive.  In my case I have stickers and business cards.  Second, have an “elevator” speech (or speeches) for your book.  Mine came to me in a flash of inspiration while talking to the wife/business manager of an artist while he sketched.  Last (and this may be difficult for introverts), try to wear something memorable.  In my case, I had a Kaiju-class mecha patch put on the front of a long-sleeve T-shirt.  No other copy of this shirt exists, and minus the fact everyone kept thinking I was a Pacific Rim junkie, the shirt made me stand out.  (“Wait, James, it wasn’t the shirt.”  “Shut it.”)

2b.) Some networking occurs by happenstance.  For instance, I was walking by a booth and had a chance to do a podcast.  Now there’s no guarantee that podcast will ever see the light of day, but in the process I got to meet and make an impression on the two gentlemen who do interviews for the local Kansas City science fiction scene.  Does that happen while staying home?  No, and you best believe I’m dropping them a line offering to come onto the show at their convenience.  Similarly, I was told by multiple people that my current town did not have a science fiction club.  Who should I happen to meet with a booth at the Con?  That’s right, the local science fiction club.  Just two examples of why it’s worth it to go.

There’s much more, and I’ll be happy to answer any questions.  Just wanted to make sure I shared with anyone who might be pondering whether or not they wanted to go next year.

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