Monday, January 18, 2010

MarsCon Revisited


MarsCon was this last weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia—the first con of the new year. I hadn’t planned on going. I hadn’t planned on going to any more conventions, period.

At each of the conventions I attended last year which included Mars, Raven, Balti, and ConCarolina, I sold almost exactly thirty books at each—ten per day. I am told by my colleagues that this is actually good, but given the amount of time, effort and expense involved, it isn’t worth it. I can sell the same number (depending on the weather) at a typical book signing at a decent size Barnes and Noble, and I stopped doing those as well. The same amount of time spent promoting the books online produces much greater returns for far less effort and cost.

So, like I said, I had sworn off cons along with bookstores, so how did I end up there? It wasn’t to sell books, although I did managed to move my standard thirty, plus two.

As the con approached several people contacted us asking if we would be there. Not just fellow authors, but fans. So we ended up going to visit friends. You see, no one knew me last year as I stood there behind the little green clothed table with my one gold book looking lost among the glitz of tentacle sex and vampire erotica novels. Everyone who came close that year, stared at me and my little novel with suspicion and doubt. Robin was the one who did most of the selling. She’s better at it than I am, and honestly if I were them I’d rather talk to her then me, too. Still, it was a hard, uphill fight to get anyone interested.

This year was different.



We got our same table, next to our friend Marshall Thomas, a science fiction novelist, and wonderful guy. We had only just walked in and he was offering us homemade cookies his wife made. We barely had time to get books out of the boxes when people began to rush up.

“That’s it, that’s the one I want.” A woman pointed at Nyphron Rising.

“Oh great! You’re back! I got the first one last year and I was hoping you had the next in the seri—wow you’ve got two? Sweet!”

It wasn’t like we were having to call con staff to maintain order and form lines or anything, but it was a sharp contrast to the first year. We didn’t have to sell at all. The first year we stayed on our feet greeting each passerby—this time we sat and chatted with fellow authors and customers would interrupt us. Robin would usually hit me, “Hey! Think you might like to sell a book?”

“Sorry, I was lost in author-talk,” I told the young woman on the other side of the table.

“Oh-no,” the customer said. “I like listening.”

There was no displeasing these people. I would smile triumphantly at Robin, who gave me her best disapproving Marge Simpson smirk, to which I could only shrug meekly.

Leona Wisoker was there. I met her the previous year when she was an aspiring author and over the summer she informed me she had finally found a publisher and asked me to review an ARC of her book and provide a blurb. It is the first time I’ve ever been asked to do such an honor. I was apprehensive. I’ve read a lot of bad books and am not comfortable with lying, but I lucked out. Leona’s novel Secrets of the Sands is surprisingly good, and it was fun to congratulate her face-to-face.

Fans continued to visit us all weekend. Most came to get the Green Book, but others stopped by to talk about them. This made all the difference. As an author it isn’t fun to coax people to read your work, but it’s a blast to hear people tell you how much they loved it.

“I read your first book on the way to Disney, and Avempartha on the way back. I was ready to send you a very nasty email when I thought you’d killed Myron. He’s my favorite. Then I read a bit further and thought…whoa! You’re good.”

“I play a rogue so of course I love Royce. The very end of the book really caught me. I thought, that’s exactly what a rogue with his skills would do.”

Then there was the fella who bought 28 copies of the books to give to friends for Christmas. He was another of the big reasons I went. You just have to thank a guy like that in person. He’d read all three and of course launched a debate about who the heir is. People standing nearby were sold just on the conversations. Those who came also got a sneak preview at the cover of the next book, The Emerald Storm.

It was a much better experience than the first time, and has made me think that I should rethink the con situation. I’ll let you know what I decide.

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