Are you interested in selling books at a convention? You see crowds lining up at the doors, ready to spend money on everything and anything they can get their hands on.
You feel like this is a slam dunk.
You’d be wrong.
The Illusion of Convention Success
Many authors go to conventions and sell their books. Almost none of them are rich. New authors look at us and think, “Wow! I could do this! I could stand behind a booth, sell books to readers, and make a lot of money.”
First of all, if you’re writing to make money… you might want to rethink your career. Most writers write because they love it. We sacrifice monetary success to do what we love. Of course, some of us find monetary success along the way, but it’s a long, hard journey paved in blood, sweat, tears, and lots of nights crying into a bowl of ramen when you crave something more.
Conventions are not a get rich quick scheme. In nine months, I’ve attended 26 conventions. Talking with other authors and vendors, I attended more than many have attended over 5 years, cramming my experience into a brief passage of time. I began to notice many things that bring success at shows.
First, Do You Have More Than One Book?
If you only have one book, close your checkbook. Lock up your credit card. Don’t even think about doing a big show if you aren’t ready to lose money.
You will lose money.
I went into the shows knowing this. I started with two books—Fury and Revenge—barely making expenses on my booth, yet, I was selling more books than most authors. When many were happy to sell ten books, I was selling 30+. Now, I have Capture and Caged released. I’m hitting numbers of 60+ per show, and the shows are becoming profitable.
I’ve also added artwork to help when book sales are low, but since the release of Capture and Caged, sales have soared.
You need more than one book. Preferably a series, too. People are more likely to buy from you when you have a series they can read through. I’ve noticed they are more likely to buy when you hit that magical three to four book mark.
Second, Do You Have a Professional Cover?
You need an eye catching professional cover to succeed at a show. The cover must convey your genre, story, and be relevant to the reader.
When authors mention they are selling only a few books, I look over their table wondering, “What are they doing wrong?”
If they have more than one book, the cover is usually an issue. To save money, authors will create covers with generators, get help from a friend, or skimp, hiring a cheap designer.
You need to pay for a cover AND you need to pay professional rates to get professional work.
It can be expensive, but well worth it.
Need a cover? Check out 99Designs where you can run a contest, like I did for Fury, and vet multiple designers for the price of one. Afterwards, you can continue hiring your designer for other projects.
Third, Is Your Story Relevant and Exciting?
What do I mean by relevant and exciting? You want to go into the convention knowing your audience will be there. All those posts I write about building relationships, it’s just as important here. You need to know your audience and build relationships with them.
If you plan on attending a pop culture convention, your book should appeal to attendees of pop culture conventions. Typically, these are stories about superheroes, fantasy realms, science fiction, and other more speculative fiction works. If you’re writing a political memoir, a pop culture con probably isn’t the right place for you.
Before you book that vendor space, ask yourself, “Is my story relevant to these attendees?”
Then, ask yourself, “Do people want to read my story?”
Every author answers this with, “Yes, why not?” That’s because they wrote the story. It’s exciting to them. Before you spend money on shows, make sure you have solid feedback that your work does sell. Make sure you have good reviews, and readers love your work. You don’t want to spend $300 on a vendor table only to sell a couple books.
Really ask yourself those questions.
I’ve met authors with only one book. I’ve met authors with horrible, unattractive covers. I’ve met authors with stories that have no relevance.
It saddens me every time I hear how bad their day is going. I don’t want this for you. My goal is for you to go into conventions and shows knowing what to expect. That’s why I’ll continue to write about conventions, hopefully helping authors succeed along the way.
We succeed when we all succeed.
Until next time, happy writing!
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