Oftentimes, readers or other authors will ask me why I don’t frequent a lot of “big” book conventions. I have done some in the past and I plan to do more in the future, but I’m going to be honest here - I sell more books at intimate gatherings, like libraries and craft fairs.
“That’s impossible,” I’ve been told. “Go to the big conventions and be a national bestseller.” Well, here’s a few truths as I see them about those big ol’ book conventions.
- There can be hundreds, if not more, books for readers to choose from. It is overwhelming! At a smaller event, I might be the only author present selling books. While you might have a truly eye-catching cover, an awesome title, and a breath-taking blurb, so do most of the other authors at a convention.
- Conventions are held in big cities. This means you have to pay for travel and accommodations unless you’re lucky enough to live in or near that city. When you’re traveling, you can’t bring all of your swag and all of your books. Traveling on planes and trains limits the amount of luggage you can have. You also have to get everything to the convention. When I went to one in New York City, I brought along two extra suitcases. Luckily I had my parents with me to help me lug it all through the crowded streets. (On the plus side, being at a convention in a big city means you get to have an awesome time in a big city!)
- Most people who go to book conventions want free books. Someone would approach my table. I would smile and before I could start in on my spiel, he or she would hand me a business card for their blog, and ask for a free paperback in exchange for an honest review. While I am happy to work with bloggers, most of them don’t seem selective. They would ask for a free copy before even reading the back cover, and on a few business cards, I noted the blogger preferred genres in which I don’t write. Other authors wanted to exchange books. They were a tad more selective than the bloggers and actually wanted to engage in brief conversations. Regarding the bloggers, when I let them know I couldn’t afford to give out paperbacks but would be happy to provide an ebook once I got home, most of them moved on to the next table without even a goodbye.
- People love free stuff in general. I didn’t realize that at conventions, authors give away a lot of freebies. Pens, USB drives, bracelets… I had regular bookmarks to give away, but I also bought fancy keychains and fancy bookmarks to go with each purchase as a bit of an incentive. People would go from table to table grabbing everything in sight to throw into their bags. If you try to call out, “Wait, that comes with a purchase,” they don’t hear you because they’re already moving on to the next table. I was out of my fancy items before I had sold a single book. Now I save those special items for more intimate signings.
- Conventions are noisy. When someone wanted to engage me in a discussion about my books, oftentimes I would be yelling to be heard. One convention had a DJ. It heightened the excitement in the room, but it also made it difficult to think, let alone talk.
- Most of the time you have to share a table with a stranger. While I love meeting people, sometimes it is difficult to make it work seamlessly. I once shared a table with an erotica author. She had some interesting items and a male model posing in just his tidy-whities. I had a young adult fantasy. The customers who approached her weren’t interested in mine, and vice versa. Many of them would ask what I had, and when I explained, they would say, “I don’t read young adult.” Some parents ushered their children past the table quickly after seeing her swag and model.
“So you’re saying you hate conventions,” I’ve been told.
Not at all. I love any opportunity to get out into the world and share my novels. I’ve made some great new author friends at conventions. I’ve discovered new ways to display my merchandise and new ideas for swag.