Monday, January 19, 2009
This past weekend my wife, Robin and I attended our first con event—MarsCon in Williamsburg, Virginia. I’ve worked tradeshows before. This was similar, but not quite. The venue was smaller than the tradeshows of my advertising past, which were held in convention halls. MarsCon took place throughout the body of a Holiday Inn, which formed a sort of labyrinth of chambers and corridors linking a dealer room, art room, various panel rooms and the larger ballroom where a stage was set up for the various comedy and musical acts. As an author I found myself in this last room stationed around the outside of the in what was termed the “Author’s Alley,” although we shared the space with a variety of vendors.
As I mentioned, this was my first convention and I had no real idea what to expect. People came dressed up in costumes. Star Wars Stormtroopers, Starbuck, from the original Battlestar Galactica (took me a while to place that costume,) but mostly they came dressed in Steampunk garb. Steampunk, I soon learned, is a subgenre of science fiction set in the era of steam power, hence at least part of the name. The outfits were then based on the Victorian era England fashions as in an eccentric version of the works of H. G. Wells or Jules Verne. So we are talking about corsets, long coats, tops hats and impossibly huge gun-like contraptions one might expect to see in the Hugh Jackman movie Van Helsing.
Robin and I set up our little green-clothed table between two other authors who displayed a plethora of titles. Both turned out to be writers of various sorts of erotica: Tentacle Erotica, Werewolf Homosexual, Hetero Sexual and Bi-erotica. Sandwiched in, it was a challenge to catch anyone’s eye to look at my single little gold book with its mundane declaration: They killed the king. They pinned it on two men. They chose poorly. A few did manage to see the sign we set up and spoke to us. No one ever heard of me, or my book. Most passed by.
A few appeared to purchase the book out of pity. Others had collections of author-signed books, and didn’t appear to care what the book was about. Nevertheless, we endeavored to explain the story. Actually, Robin did most of the talking. I’ve never been too comfortable selling my own work. It just feels arrogant and rude. Whenever someone did purchase, I requested that they try and read some of it, and if they were there the next day of the convention, that they stop back by and tell me if they liked it.
The next day I shifted down and set up beside Marshall Thomas the author of the “Legion” series of military sci-fi novels. He was much more my style. To my delight, a handful of those who purchased the day before returned. They had grins on their faces. “I started reading your book!” they would tell me. “Got to the point where they just got the job to steal the sword. It’s really good.” They always said this last part with a surprised tone. I got that a lot. One woman actually decided to purchase it after reading the first two pages and was stunned not to find a single spelling error. I began getting the impression that the bar was not set very high.
Those folks that read the book must have told others since on the second day sales picked up. People who passed me by before stopped and purchased. Then while I manned the table hoping to sign books, Robin took advantage of an open mic in the bar and read a portion of the book to a packed audience. Most of the time I stood or sat and watched the people mill about, listened to the bands or watching the jugglers. At night, we dragged ourselves to the little Comfort Inn, down the street. Next morning we’d eat breakfast at a little waffle café next door. It has been a long weekend. We sold quite a few books, not nearly as many as we’d hoped. Still, if some of those who took the time to read the story, liked it and told others, maybe…maybe next time.