Introvert: Broken

The con broke me.

So last week I helped my friend and author extraordinaire Lydia Sherrer table at the Cincinnati Comic Expo. She continues to be insanely gracious in teaching and allowing me to learn at her feet. Next year I’m hoping to table myself with Madelyn of the Sky.

But now it’s time for a debrief. It’s time to figure out what lessons I learned and how to apply them.

And the first thing I need to mention is that the con broke me.

I’m an introvert. You put me with people for too long, and my depression strikes hard. I love people. I love being with people. However, I recharge by being alone. If I don’t have alone time, my energy reserves deplete and I crash. I just spent three days in close proximity to thousands of people having so many conversations that I lost my voice. I intentionally scheduled Monday to do nothing, figuring I probably wouldn’t be able to get out of bed.

Except… I’m fine. I’m physically tired, yes. My voice is still gone from so much talking over the con weekend. But depression isn’t poking me in the least. In fact, I can say that this last weekend was legit one of the best weekends of my life.

So… um… I’m not sure what to do with this. Like, I’m pretty sure I’m still an introvert. But not on a con weekend? I’m sure it would be different if I did this every single weekend, but today? No problems. The con broke my inner introvert? Spending a whole weekend with “my people” means I’m okay? No idea, except that I’m grateful.

That’s probably the most curious finding. However, I learned and experienced much more. In no particular order:

  • Find other writers. The writers here make a concerted effort to be a community. They talk each other up and spend time together. Saturday night after the con floor closes, many of the writers get together for supper. Even though I wasn’t tabling, I got a lot of good advice from these authors. We also laughed way, way too much. We talked about impostor syndrome (these successful authors get impostor syndrome?!) and how reading bad books helps alleviate some of that!
  • Be part of the community. As part of the community, the writers find out about each others books, buy them, and recommend them. For instance, I was helping sell cozy urban fantasy. Several congoers approached, looking for horror. We were able to point them to two other writers.
  • Not everyone wants to be part of the community. Some of the writers at the con wanted nothing to do with other writers. They were there to sell and only sell. We were competition, and they treated other authors as jerks. We let them be. I have no idea how they did for sales, but I can’t help but think that being part of the community only helped us.
  • Not everyone is your target audience. One person approached the table and asked if there was gay romance involved in the books. “We really don’t get into the characters’ sexuality,” was the answer. The person strutted away, horribly offended. Well, the book wasn’t for him, and that’s okay. We went on to sell to those who enjoy books about snarky talking cats.
  • Stand up. If you’re selling at a con, you can sit behind your table and wait for people to approach you. Some people will! However, you’ll get much more attention if you’re standing. Greet the people walking by! Interact with them! They’ll be much more interested in your product if you’re interested in them.
  • Freebies matter. We had a lot of bookmarks and quarter-sheet ads on cardstock that we’d give to people who were interested but weren’t buying. Yeah, most of those are just going to be thrown away. But for the price of them, if even one or two people end up buying online? It’s a win. Everyone walks away with something in their hand, and we get more advertisements into the wild. Those also matter for the many people who said they did audiobooks or ebooks. We didn’t sell those at our table, but we could direct them to the website.
  • Have the tagline down. Lydia and her husband had wordsmithed the tagline, so I wasn’t involved with designing it. However, you could see it work. We’d greet people, and ask them if they liked… Well, I’m not sure if I should share the tagline, as it’s not mine. But often, their eyes would light up. I heard, “This sounds like it was written for me!” so many times. That tagline got people interested enough we could talk and then sell the books.
  • Be a fan. I like Lydia’s books. Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus is a fantastic series. When talking to people, I could honestly say I ripped through the series. My excitement was contagious. This is going to be a lot harder for me when talking about my own books. I am excited for my books. I think they’re good! But how to be excited without sounding like a pompous fool? Well, something for me to work on.
  • Get emails! So Lydia has a monthly newsletter that’s a lot of fun. (I get it myself!) We had a tablet where people could sign up if they wanted. She was very clear that she doesn’t want to send emails to anyone who doesn’t want them. But for those who did want them, it’s a great way to stay in contact and let them know that more books are available! (And also get pics of Lydia’s adorable cats.)
  • Have a goal. Lydia’s series currently has seven books and four spinoffs, along with a game and other merch. While we had plenty of copies of every book, there were far more for books one and two. The idea was to sell a lot of the first few books so when people want to read the next, there’s a path for them to keep reading. Cons actually cost enough money that making a profit just there can be difficult, but if more people end up picking up the entire series? That’s a win.
  • Get organized with finances. Holy cow do I need to learn this better. I asked a lot of questions about how they set things up, how they tracked what sold and what didn’t. The financial end is something I’m just starting to wade into. How do you handle taxes at a con? How do you report those taxes? So many headaches.
  • Cons cost money. So, from an exhibitor’s standpoint, you purchase the space at the con. No problem. However, that basically gets you a square of floor, a table, and two chairs. If you show up with just your books to sell, you’re gonna look… not professional. So you need tablecloths. Some sort of backdrop to draw the eye; probably a banner of some kind. Oh, and a stand for the banner. You want something to make the books pop; at the very least some book stands so the covers are facing people. All that costs money.
  • Be pretty. For some of us, that’s really difficult. However, if you can make your table pretty, people will notice. More than a few people approached the table because the covers on the books are gorgeous, and they noticed. Make everything as attractive as possible. How are the books stacked? Do the covers pop? Are you wearing something appropriate for the con that hooks into the books? We wore shirts that have the title logo on them. Next door to us, the exhibitor cosplayed something that reflected her products.
  • Get organized for load in/ load out. Did you know that books are heavy? And if you’re selling hundreds of books at a con, well, you gotta carry all those in. And then you gotta carry out anything you don’t sell. Plus all the equipment to make your table look pretty! Lydia and her husband have got this down. They’ve got a hand cart that they bring with them that makes everything flow faster. It’s hard work carrying everything in, still, so be ready to move!
  • It hurts. The con was on a cement floor. As I mentioned earlier, you stand to get attention. You’re on your feet for a long time. It means we’ll need to invest in pads for the floor or better shoes. I also mentioned before that I lost my voice from all the talking. I drank plenty of water during the con, but apparently I’m going to have to drink more! I was plenty sore every night. By Monday I was mostly physically recovered, but it is still something to be aware of.
  • Know why you’re there. There were several guests at the con I would have loved to have seen. However, I saw none of them. I had a lot of fun while there, but that wasn’t my purpose. I was there to learn and to sell books, so that next year hopefully I can sell my own books. Even with that, I had a blast. I laughed so much. As I said before, legit one of the best weekends of my life, even though I was there to work.
  • Practice self control. Yeah. I really, really need to work on this one. I may have spent all my money in the first hour the con was open…
  • Take breaks. We had four people to man our table. That meant that except at peak hours, one of us could be gone exploring the con. That happened pretty often, actually. Yes, we’re there to sell, but we’re all fans of other things, too. One of the other people at our table is a huge Pokemon fan. She found a bunch of stuff to gift her kids, too. I may have spent way too much money on graphic novels. One person got cat items. All good!
  • Have fun. I had a blast. It wasn’t just selling books. I took pics of cosplayers (particularly Gravity Falls cosplayers). I commended people’s shirts. I laughed with people that didn’t buy and weren’t interested in reading at all. I got to be at the con, among my people, and it was worth it.

Okay… that’s a lot. I don’t know if it’ll help anyone besides be, but it is helpful for me! Huge thank-you to Lydia for allowing me to learn so much and building up my confidence to do this next year! Check out her books if you like magical adventure and snarky talking cats!

Published by Jon

Jon lives in Kentucky with his wife and an insanity of children. (A group of children is called an insanity. Trust me.)

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