Sometimes A Bad Experience Is A Good Teacher – A Guest Blog Post by Amanda Byrd

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your humble host

Gang we’ve talked before about doing author events and conferences, but it never hurts to get new perspectives.

And they aren’t always positive.

Friend of the blog Amanda Byrd told me about her bad experience at a recent event, and I asked her to share some details with you – not because I want to embarrass her or scare you, but because WE ALL make mistakes, and sometimes you’ll pick up a tip you might not have thought of otherwise.

 

Here’s Amanda.


 

Things I’ve Learned from Tabling My First Comic Con – Amanda Byrd

This is my first guest post, so bear with me.  I, like Dan, live in Tampa, FL.  I’m a 35 year old kid/nerd/geek (nerd and geek are not synonymous) and have published 6 books, including 3 novellas that are now rebranded and re-released with a 4th included.  I’ve been writing for about 2 years now.  The omnibus is urban fantasy/sci-fi and my new novel releasing January 5, 2018 is dark urban fantasy.

I decided to give MegaCon Tampa Bay a try this year to see how it went.

I ordered 20 copies of my now omnibus (it’s 4 novellas squeezed into one with a new cover and all that fun stuff).  Let me be the first to tell you: NO Artist Alley tables are cheap.  At ANY con.  Luckily, a friend and I had decided over a year ago to split the table.

There are a lot of catches to tabling cons. 

  • You have to pay extra for certain things like convention center WiFi ($20/day, NO),
  • parking (obviously),
  • extra exhibitor passes,
  • and the list goes on.

I found out by day 2 of the con that I should not have split a table with this friend because our genres are way too different.  Plus, I’m and Indie and he’s not anymore.  There were other factors I won’t get into here, that made it an undesirable experience.

I think the worst part was the lack of communication from the owners of the con.

I know it’s normal to get your booth assignment a week beforehand, but these guys gave it to us 3, yes 3, days before the first day.  Then they changed how we were supposed to enter, as exhibitors, twice.

Day 3 didn’t exist for me because I chose

due to those circumstances I won’t go into,

not to go.

I spent weeks preparing for this con.  Promo cards, stickers for sale, and a banner were all purchased as well.  We did NOT have anything to hang my normal (2×5) banner on.  No backdrop, nothing.  They wanted me to pay extra to have the designer set one up.  No.

So I’m going to put this in list form, to make it a bit easier.

  1. If you plan to split a table with someone, try to have that someone be of the same genre (or can assist you and teach you how to sell if you’re bad at selling yourself like I am).
  2. Bring your own foods, drinks, etc. As an exhibitor, security allows this.

  3. Make sure you know the past year’s attendance and the current celebrity lineup (celebs greatly affect attendance).
  4. Don’t overspend on promotional materials. I did and won’t do it again. I’m now giving away promo cards that have contact info and stickers with the purchase of a book.
  5. I’ve currently got 1 book available (Amazon currently says otherwise until I have that fixed). I take up about 3 feet of a 6 foot table.
  6. Have an email list sign up form on your table! Just because people don’t buy does NOT mean they don’t want to learn about or connect with you.  Email lists are a great way for readers and perspective readers to get to know you and your work.

  7. Cons last about 9 hours for a full day. Be prepared to wake up early for no other reason than to get a good parking spot close to the venue.  No one wants to haul 5-10 lbs of anything far distances.
  8. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. I cannot stress this enough.  Wear what you want to project as your “persona”, if you will.  I highly recommend sneakers because the floors are concrete and you will be in pain from your feet up.
  9. Ask other authors who have tabled the specific con how it was. I schmoozed with other vendors and authors during the con, too, which helped me feel better about doing so badly because they were too.  Sure, my friend sold a lot, but it was nice to know even the most popular comic book artists didn’t do so well.
  10. If you don’t sell, don’t blame yourself unless it really is your fault. Don’t be constantly on your phone/tablet/etc. because you lose the opportunity to talk to people.

  11. Solidify your elevator pitch and make sure anyone helping you has it down also. Nothing makes a potential reader walk away faster than someone stuttering their way through it or if you can’t quickly tease your work.
  12. People DO judge books by their cover, so make sure yours is on point with your book. I prefer illustrated covers and use them for my work.  Nothing turns me away from a book faster than a terrible cover (the Dexter series is the only exception because I love his character and Jeff Lindsay’s style of writing.  This also may stem from my adoration of R. A. Salvatore and his now former <insert hysterical crying fits here> cover artist, Todd Lockwood.  Thanks Hasbro.).

 

These are all the tips I can currently remember, but if you have any other questions, feel free to shoot me an email at amanda@amanda-byrd.com.  Last, a very, very special thanks to Dan for allowing me to guest post my experience and tips!  I hope I was able to help even one person.  Thanks for having me!!


And thanks for sharing your insights, Amanda!

Gang, I don’t pretend that every event I do goes well, but proper planning, realistic expectations, and a strict assessment after the fact of what worked and what didn’t will help any author do better with each passing event!

What have been some of YOUR experiences at an author event?

Got a tip for anyone getting ready to do one?

Post them below!

22 thoughts on “Sometimes A Bad Experience Is A Good Teacher – A Guest Blog Post by Amanda Byrd

  1. Reblogged this on Amanda Byrd, Bestselling Author and commented:
    Hey! Dan was kind enough to ask me to share my first con experience on his blog. Here it is, in all it’s scary glory. Please know that this is in NO WAY intended to scare anyone away from tabling a con, but try to give a little bit of perspective and tips on what you can and can’t expect or predict.

    Much love,
    Amanda

    Like

    • I think too often people are told one or two very thin benefits to going to a event without knowing the down sides. Then they find out the down sides and the think they are a failure. This post talks about things that happened and shares them so others won’t make the same mistakes, but on the same side of the coin you have to realize it’s a learning curve. I would do my table with a friend, and then maybe that turns out to be a mistake. But how are you gonna know until you do it?

      Nothing to be embarrassed about here unless you never do another event. Then the bad guys win.

      Instead, this took a lot of personal strength to come forward and say here are the mistakes I made, don’t make them yourself – and also I think it shows the resolve of dusting yourself off and getting right back in there.

      Great job!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks! I like to admit mistakes and use them as learning experiences. And sharing them on a larger platform then just mine helps people see that it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. I don’t feel like a failure and I didn’t that weekend. I’ve learned enough in this industry that nothing happens immediately ☺

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. It’s a great blog post and one day I might round up all the comments people have done about different events and put them together in one blog post linking to all the rest, so anybody who’s about to go do one will have five or six or 10 sources of things to do and things to avoid.

      Thank you very much for such a brave post that shows pluses and minuses. Not everybody comes forward admit when they made a mistake, and even fewer people dust themselves off and get back up. You did both and I really appreciate you sharing your insights! Great job.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve done a lot of in person events. My most hated was a coffee shop that offered to host an author’s afternoon. Six of us went and set up. They had space for everyone to have 3 feet of table. It was a great set up.
    The problem was the coffee shop was going under and this was part of their last ditch effort to get customers into their store. We didn’t know this upfront.
    NO ONE CAME INTO THE STORE THE ENTIRE AFTERNOON.
    I translated this into: do more research before you say yes to something that sounds like an easy win.

    Liked by 2 people

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