Happy Monday all,
It was a long weekend for me (Victoria Day, or as we call it 24th of May) so I’m happy to have a shorter work week and am feeling fairly rested but onto the post! Last month I told you all about my experience attending conventions, this month will be my experience being a guest/vendor/author at conventions over the years.
My first time as a guest at a convention was at Sci-Fi on the Rock about 6 years ago. Back then I wasn’t an author but I was a huge geek and developed an interest in Klingons, more particularly how to speak Klingon. In high school I used to be really shy, while I had no problem speaking in front of a class (I knew all them after all), giving a talk in front of strangers terrified me. It took a whole degree and diploma at university and my girlfriend (who is now my wife) to finally get me out of my shell. Talking in front of a crowd still makes me nervous and have to rehearse for at least a week ahead of time. Being a teacher for a few years helped me a lot in this regard (I also have a Masters in Education) and I have observed plenty of other speeches by friends, strangers and acquaintances at conventions. I also got involved with this fan made Star Trek show called Star Trek Reliant, a friend of mine asked me to be in an episode and speak some Klingon. I did so and enjoyed it, I was in a few more episodes but eventually didn’t want to give up my Sunday’s, especially in the summer. It did lead me into an idea about turning my lines into a panel on how to speak basic Klingon.
After my Star Trek Reliant time ended I gave a little talk on how to speak basic Klingon phrases, it was fun and it got me into the convention for free. I changed my talk over the years and eventually included some audio clips and handouts. For those who don’t know me I am a lifelong Star Trek fan, I was president of a Star Trek society in University and even have a Star Trek tattoo, so it was a natural step for me. After doing this speech for a while (and having the experience of people walk out of my talk, always annoying) I got tired of it and moved onto my writing talk, “Adventures with Vampires and Publishing”.
The first year I was a vendor/artist at SFOTR I was very excited and happy. It was April of 2012 and my first book “The Newfoundland Vampire” had just been released and I had my first chance to interact with the public as an author. I gave out candy to get people at my table (I still do that now), had a gift basket (people could put their names down for free) and some bookmarks to hand out along with many copies of my book. I think I sold about 36 copies over the whole weekend and while I was happy with sales, I immediately learned a few things. I wasn’t charging enough for books (they cost me about $10 and I was selling them for $10!) and there was no good trying to push for a sale.
The following year book two hadn’t been released by I expanded my table with Magic cards and comic books for sale (and upped my prices). During that second year I had some wonderful experiences, people who had read my book came up to me to talk about it. Some young women asked me to sign them and even wanted a picture taken with me! My ego was through the roof and I had a great time, I don’t remember my exact sales, at this point I started to see that being an author wasn’t about the money but the memories and the people. I gave my talk again (changing the name to “Writing, vampires, and publishing oh my!”) and gave a sneak peek of book two (which came out in September of 2013, also from Penumbra Publishing).
You can see my table in the above picture. Being at a convention where you have a table does have its downsides though, I don’t get to see most of the guest, or go to any panels (besides my own). While Friday and Saturday are usually the busy days, by Sunday you can be sitting around for hours with no one coming to your table. I’ve also seen that any time you give something out for free there are always people who take advantage. As it’s just me (aside from family and friends who occasionally stop by), you have to get to know the people around you so you can leave your table for bathroom/food/water breaks. Since then I’m not with Distinguished Press (and I couldn’t be happier! They’re a great bunch of people) and for the sake of length you can read about my latest convention experience here.
Moving on another thing I really enjoyed was being invited to conventions in other places. First it was Atlanti-Con in Corner Brook (about 6 hours from where I live). The main guy, Jeff, knew me from Sci-fi on the Rock and invited me to come to his convention. This meant a free table and a great opportunity to promote my book and meet some new geeky people.
Sadly I couldn’t find a picture from that first year but the above gives you an idea. My book sold well the first two years (and I already knew some people who travel from St. John’s to Corner Brook as I do) and by year three my sales of comic books made up for declining book sales (I know places to get them cheap and had a large collection up to a few years ago). I also had the unique experience of doing a panel with another author (to increase attendance for both of us). I really, enjoyed that as it took pressure off me and let me have some fun with the other author (whom I’ve known for many years). Corner Brook is on the west coast of Newfoundland and has some amazing scenery here’s some of my favorite pics from nearby Gros Morne.
Yes in case you’re wondering the above is a moose, they are featured in my books (for reasons you’ll have to read to find out!), the others are several places around Gros Morne, a wonderful place to visit if you ever get a chance. As if being at a convention isn’t enough fun I found that as I drove people there (I believe in carpooling) I would get to know them and even hung out with one women during the convention (Jana, who is really nice and helped me do my book reading later in 2013). I went to a party at a bar where vendors,guests and organizers at Altanti-Con went and I have a wonderful time chatting with one of the actors. I was lucky enough to be staying in the same hotel as the guest and got a chance to have breakfast with one and drinks with another on other nights. The person I’ve really had a chance to connect with at Altanti-Con though is the always hilarious (and really nice) Fat Apollo. Who is he you may be wondering? You’ll have to check on the link to find out. Moving on (I’m nearing the end, promise!)
Everything to (what I thought) a climax in November of 2013, as I was an invited guest to a convention outside the province, in particular Nova Scotia and the city of Halifax. Hal-Con is a much larger convention that Sci-Fi on the Rock or Atlanti-con (I’d say actually bigger than both combined). For first convention my wife came with me and she also experienced the madness of that con. I’m not going to dwell on it but this was probably the worst convention I attended, they didn’t have a author badge for me, a table and it took several people to even find me on the list! Once I was set up I discovered almost no one wanted to buy a book from me and due to a mistake with tickets the fire marshal and even the police had to show up to stop too many people from coming on Saturday. (They sold tickets as any day, not expecting almost everyone to try and come on Saturday). I look on the bright side of things though and I did have some wonderful talks with the other vendors around me and I won some money at a casino nearby.
As you can see there were some amazing costumes and I always enjoy seeing those. I did also sell some of my more valuable comics (worth $50 each) and get to spend some time in Halifax (which is a cool city with some great restaurants and lovely hotels). I did also get to give my talk with the highest number of attendees (some of them asked some excellent questions that I had to work on for the following year) and had people buy my books right on the spot (which is always a feel good moment).
In the end I’m not sure what I enjoy more, attending conventions or being a guest. I certainly get to see and do more just attending, meet people I’ve admired for years, attend great panels but I don’t get the interaction with people and of course only spend money, not make any. They are both rewarding experiences and I’m certainly looking forward to another two conventions this year. Until next month everyone!
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