I had the joy of attending my very first comic con as a vendor at the end of February this year. GalaxyFest 2017 was held in Colorado Springs for a weekend (plus a bit on the Friday before), and as I understand it they were expecting about 6,000 people to attend. I can’t speak for how many were actually in attendance, but there were definitely a lot of people there!
And the costumes? Seriously. I knew there would be people there in cosplay, but I had no idea the quality of what would be on display. These guys are pros. There’s a Flickr photostream if you want to see some of them, and one of the attendees made a video too. Just incredible!
But as this was my first con as a vendor, I thought I’d share some of my observations in case there are others of you going the comic con route for trying to move product off the shelves.
1. Prepare to extrovert.
The goal is to talk to people. If you don’t talk to people, what are you even doing there? Yes, you’re an introvert most likely, but you need to set that aside and be ready to talk to folks, especially if you’re in a new city.
But don’t burn yourself out. If you can find a hotel room or an AirBnB away from the craziness of the con so you can recharge before the next day, you’ll thank yourself.
2. Wear a real, recognizable costume.
I had planned to dress up, but I ran out of creativity and energy working on all the other aspects of the con (tax, travel, table design, etc.). So I just went as my quirky self, which is perfectly fine. But I do think I would have drawn more attention if I had been dressed up. It doesn’t mean you’ll get more sales, but you will get to talk to more people. And making connections and networking is really what a con is all about.
I spent the con sitting next to a fabulous Harley Quinn. My table neighbor J.L. Barnes is an extraordinary artist (and also an extraordinarily nice person). She dressed up as three different Harley Quinns throughout the three days of the con, and folks stopped to take her photo and chat about her work simply because she was in costume. Also because her art is so cool!
It might be fun to dress up as a character from your story, but unless it’s super detailed and really amazing, no one will recognize it. So if you’re aiming to attract attention, pick a costume you can realistically (and recognizably) pull off.
3. Bring food.
I wasn’t sure if there would be snacks or meals available, so I brought some random things to eat. And on the second day I discovered the concession stand, which served okayish chicken tenders and cold waffle fries. But there were a TON of them. So I ate that for lunch and dinner one day. But packing a lunch is a definite thing to do.
4. Let people come to you.
This may be a personality thing, but I’m not a hard sell type of promoter. I don’t like demanding that people pay attention or buy things from me. I’d rather have a good conversation and win them over with my random awkwardness.
This was pretty discouraging, frankly, because people would stop by, glance over my table, eat my candy, and then walk away without talking to me. Or when I tried to initiate conversation, they wouldn’t engage. That was the majority of my experience at this particular con, though (just being honest). No one was really interested in reading. And after talking to the other authors who attended, they had the same trouble.
But the one thing that I did notice is that the folks who I had good conversations with often came back to talk more, and in both cases, the two people who bought books from me had started with a conversation. Yes, I only sold books to two people. But those two people really engaged, and those are the kind of readers I want anyway.
But they didn’t buy right away. They waited until day three of the con. I just had to be patient and wait for them to make a decision.
5. Go local.
I think this is the most important lesson I learned. While it may be great to travel to different locations for cons, if you don’t have a presence in the local area, you aren’t going to make much of a splash (unless you have someone vouching for you or unless you’re speaking to a group).
If you’re traveling to a different city for a speaking gig, great. You’ll likely do very well. If you’re just going to a con to sit at a table and try to sell books? Honestly, don’t expect to move much inventory. (I may be wrong, but that’s my observation.) When it comes to art or jewelry, people can make a decision immediately about purchasing. When it comes to a book? Well, that’s a time investment. It’s a much bigger decision. And I totally get that. But I came to sell books, and if that isn’t happening, I need to rethink my strategy.
I had a great time at GalaxyFest, and I learned a ton. I came up with some awesome ideas for future promotions too. And the people I made connections with are folks I hope to work with in the future on some other projects.
How about you guys? Have you ever been to a con? What was your experience? Any tips or tricks you can offer?