Convention Breakdown

Convention Breakdown

I’ve been in a bit of a funk the last few months. But yesterday I attended my first convention as a vendor, and sold my books at a little booth. And it was INVIGORATING!

Buy Something, Will Ya?!

This was my first convention as a vendor. I have attended 3 other conventions, and had a lot of notes for what I wanted my booth to look like.

Vague Goals:

  • Simple. I only have 3 published books to sell, so I don’t need clutter and rising platforms or anything.
  • Funny. If I don’t have one or two puns, then I’m not representing my brand well.
  • Something $5 or less, so people can buy something small.
  • Freebies. To draw people to the booth, and maybe hook them for something bigger.
  • Accept cards. A lot of people carry cash, but I figured it would be good to have a Square account and card reader just in case.

convention_plan.jpg Our planned setup, about 2-3 days beforehand.

Preparation:

  • Mythic Mortals and Bone Marshes are Print on Demand from Drivethru. I ordered 30 copies of each for about $350. Ouch.
  • Clink was already a print run, and I have about 30 copies laying around the house. (Thanks Ben!)
  • I needed a $5 item. Something small but fun. I hired Brian Ericson to update Kintsugi with a gorgeous pamphlet layout, and a local print shop made 200 of them for $50. I figured I can sell them for like $5.
  • Freebies. For my Patreon I take 200 word entries and spruce them up with layout and artwork. It didn’t feel right to sell them, but they make very pretty freebies.
    I got 4 different “explosions” printed on nice cardstock; 100 copies each for $130 total. That gives me 400 freebies to give away. I also decided that you get all FOUR freebies with any purchase. Might motivate people to buy the little $5 item.
  • Signage. My wife has beautiful handwriting and skill with fonts; she made all the gorgeous teasers and signs you see on display.
  • I fit one joke onto my business card, but that’s it. This was by far my biggest failing….
  • An extra chair, tablecloth, supplies, and the convention fees came to about $75 total.

convention_cardfront.jpg The front of my business card.

convention_cardback.jpg The back! I think I’m clever.

All in all I invested almost $600 on this convention setup and I was TERRIFIED! This is the biggest financial risk I’ve taken in my publishing career. Hopefully I can sell everything over the course of 3-4 conventions over the next few years. Or I can take them to some local bookstores.

Still though….I didn’t sleep much the night before the convention started.

How did it go?

It was a blast. The dynamic of a convention floor is way more laidback than a flea market or shopping mall. I don’t have to yell at people or harass them. I just sit back, and if someone is interested they’ll look at my stuff, approach the booth, and I’ll offer them a freebie to get the conversation started. I found it very comfortable and easy; but then again I’m also a very outgoing person. Your mileage may vary.

This was a new convention, in a small area, but the crowds were steady and had some decent foot traffic. I was there from 10am to 5pm on a rainy saturday.

Some notable interactions:

  • “I’ve always wanted to play D&D but never tried it. I think I’ll pick up the starter set tonight!” She walks away without buying anything.
  • While explaining my books to someone else I jokingly said that he’ll probably want all three of my books for the full experience. “Okay, I’ll take all three.” My jaw drops.
  • One guy took a freebie but didn’t seem very interested. He came back 2 hours later and bought one of my books after showing the freebie to his kids.
  • One girl bought a book just for the art. I tried to explain the game, but she had no interest in it; just liked the art. “I’m gonna cut these and put them in my collage.”

convention_plan.jpg The day of the convention! Sorry for the blur, I’m bad at phones.

I didn’t really pick up a pattern; some people had heard of D&D and wanted to try something like it, others already play, and still others just thought the idea of a storytelling game sounded novel. I wish I had a better handle on how to appeal to the audience the convention brought in.

Some numbers:

  • 25ish people took my business card without any other kind of engagement.
  • I probably gave away 100 freebies, including the ones packaged with purchases.
  • I sold about 15 books.

Lessons Learned

  • “Do you play DND?” should be there. I spent a lot of time explaining RPGs. I worry it might turn people away, but they probably wouldn’t be interested anyway?? I dunno. Still thinking.
  • Clarify my pitch. By the end of the day I had it down pat, but the first few hours I stumbled over my words and said something different every time. Next time I’ll have something memorized.
  • Less words on the table. I saw a lot of people’s eyes glaze over. The intention was to have the book pitches written down, but maybe I should have the books on the stands, and the descriptions underneath or something.
  • Change wording of the freebies. “5 games for $5” instead of “Buy the $5 pamphlet and get the 4 freebies with it.” Or something…
  • I brought WAY too many books with me. I brought my whole stock, which was like 3 heavy boxes. But I only sold about 5 copies of each book. Going to seriously tone it down next time.

All in all, I’m very happy with how things went. I made back about half of my costs. One more convention like this, and I’ll have broken even; then all sales are profit going forward.

More importantly, that experience gave me a much needed boost to my publisher brain. Begin personal ramble…

Little Baby David

For a long time video games were my primary joy and escape from reality. I wasn’t a depressed kid, but not a lot of activities interested me. And I tried a bunch. I played Trombone for 3 years, Tennis for 5, Soccer for 2, took a drawing class, wrote a few short stories, and even considered writing a poem once.

convention_trumpet.jpg I never did get the hang of the trombone….

I accepted the fact that I simply wasn’t a creative person, and took solace in the world of video games and my church community.

But then I played D&D. It was kind of a mediocre experience until our GM left and the group wanted me to be try being the GM.

I flourished.

It wasn’t long after that I started making my own game and publishing them. It’s been about 4 years since my first REAL game came out, and I’m addicted to this little hobby.

However 99% of all my gaming interactions have been online. My town is probably the nerdiest city in the entire state, but it still only has 2 brick and mortar gaming stores.

I always felt left behind when I saw pictures of convention booths, heard panel recordings, and listened to stories about incredible con experiences. It’s always been a dream of mine to sell my game at a big convention, to be “legit”. Not like an obsessive goal or anything, but always something that lurked in the back of my mind.

There’s been a dissatisfaction growing within me about my online interactions. I know people enjoy my games and buy them, but I don’t hear about it. Not often enough. Add to that the stress of running the 200 Word RPG challenge, and I’ve been in a bit of a funk for the past few months.

Well, this year we had TWO brand new conventions come to charleston, and a few others have really grown in popularity.

My time has come.

Seeing people handle my books, flip through them and get excited; it was nice. I need more of that. I signed up for another convention in November, and one in February. I can’t wait to improve my booth and add Lowcountry Crawl to my table.

Conventions aren’t for everyone, but for me, it’s been an exciting adventure that I feel I’ve only just begun. Maybe I’ll see you at the next one!

But if not I also sell my stuff online! Clink and Kintsugi print copies are FINALLY available for purchase again. BUY SOMETHING WILL YA?!