When an author first attends a show, they may have a terrible experience selling. Maybe they didn’t have a professional book cover. Maybe they didn’t have a series. What many often forget, is networking is worth more than those initial sales.
Instead of sitting behind your booth ignoring the world, you should be networking, reaching out to other authors and creators, as well as selling your books.
My first conventions barely made their tables back, yet, I was happy. It showed I could sell my series, and I was there for the networking opportunities more than the book sales. In time, we all need to sell books and make money. However, those losses lead to networking that can quickly accelerate your profits.
Meeting Other Authors Who Can Promote
When you meet other authors, you meet people with established followings. New authors may have a small following. Old authors should have a large following. By networking, you can meet people in your genre and later promote your books together. Whether that means joint promotions, contests, or newsletter swaps, it’s a huge benefit to meet those authors. They can accelerate the growth of your base.
As you get to the know them more, many authors and creators will team up. At some shows, splitting table costs reduces your overall expense. Unfortunately, I can’t split costs, because I sell a lot of artwork, too. If you only have a couple books, it’s a great idea to team up with others and share expenses on tables, hotels, and other travel related items. Anyway you can reduce your costs, means more money in your pocket after the show.
What Are Authors Doing Successfully?
Networking allows you to see what other authors are doing successful. There is no single path to success. What works for me, might not work for you, and vice-versa. Learn from creators who have been established for years. Follow their lead.
If it doesn’t work, try something else. I’ve implemented several ideas given to me by other authors. Some I’ve axed. Some I’ve kept.
My whole author business is based on my past experience building a freelance career AND extensive research into author marketing. That research is based on what others have done.
Don’t try and recreate the wheel from scratch. Start with what works and tweak it for your needs.
What Conventions Work?
Creators all complain about bad shows and praise good ones at events. The best shows, time and again, are recommendations from other creators. I like to talk with all the vendors—t-shirts, Funko pops, toys, books, artwork, crafts, etc. One vendor might say a show was great while another says it was horrible. When that happens, ask yourself, “What is different between those vendors?”
At some shows, only toys sell. Others draw people who want books. Others are celebrity heavy where mystery boxes and gimmicky items sell.
Vet the people you talk to. Not every show is the same for every vendor—even authors.
If an author says a show is horrible, “Why was it horrible?” Are they only selling one book? Do they have professional cover? Are they friendly?
I’ve had successful shows just because of my willingness to talk with readers. Authors complain about those same shows, but I’m often told, “I bought your book because you talked to me.”
There are a variety of reasons a show works for one creator vs another. Regardless of those reasons, networking with creators is the best way to find new shows and vet those shows.
Making Industry Contacts
It’s not uncommon for designers, publishers, editors, and other industry contacts to cruise show floors. They are interested in promoting themselves. The good ones, never mention who they are until after you’ve had a conversation. These contacts understand the value of a relationship vs a sales pitch.
I’ve met made many contacts in the industry. Being a self-published author, I simply tell them I’m not interested at this time, but I always keep their card. You never know who might need them in the future.
It’s important to be friendly and talkative at your table. Professional book covers and a professional display draw recruiters. I’ve been invited to many shows when others haven’t.
Just recently, a couple invited us to a show. We watched as they left, cherry picking which vendors they would talk to. They only stopped at the professional looking booths. The next day, I was on a break when they approached my partner. She told them we already talked and showed them the flyer we had been given.
They said, “You don’t understand. We REALLY want you at our show.”
Professionalism and kindness will bring you more opportunities as you continue to vend at shows.
Beware the Trickster
The biggest problem with networking is who I call the trickster. There are many people who network with the simple goal of selling more product. They’ll engage with you and suddenly they are pitching their service without a proper transition.
During the pitch, they make all kinds of claims. You seem to trust them because they’ve been friendly, courteous. They talk about how they will increase your sales with a new technique.
*cough* I’m talking about you publishers. *cough*
Before you commit to anything, do your research.
In November, I was pitched a way to sell ebooks. Ebooks are notoriously hard to sell, because people prefer to purchase direct from Amazon or their preferred retailer.
There is a trick.
You can sell a card with a code. By selling something physical, they are more likely to buy directly from you and save you those pesky royalty fees.
A publisher came up to me and pitched the card. His pitch was excellent. If I didn’t have my background, I probably would’ve signed up.
I told him I wasn’t interested. As soon as he left, I knew I had to jump online. What he was selling to authors for $15, we can make for 50 cents in the US. Granted, he was a publisher and trying to make a markup, but their retail price of $20 only gave the author $5.
When I sell an ebook, I want to sell it for the same price as Amazon. If I’m selling a book for $4 on Amazon, I’m selling it for $4 at a convention… not $19. The same goes for audiobooks.
And those publishers trying to sell you ebook and audio services on mini flash drives… we’re in the digital age. Save your money and deliver your files—ebook and audio—digitally to save time, money, and trash. It’s really easy to do. Services like BookFunnel help you with the technical side of things.
Do your research. Chances are you can get things done cheaper, with smaller to no royalties, and make more money.
Publishers will pitch products that don’t require you having a publishing contract. Don’t fall into the trap of paying expensive fees for something you can do with a few hours of research. And if you ever have questions, reach out to other authors. See what they think.
My email is always open.
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