Okay, so I covered having stock, having a table buddy, having stuff on the table, and some basics for finding conventions, having a card reader, and in general being prepared. Here’s a few more thoughts.
1) Bring change. Remember to consider sales tax issues.
Not a joke. And especially if you aren’t using a card reader (which you really should), there’s nothing worse than losing a sale because you can’t make change. Remember that at the beginning of a con, everyone has freshly minted 20s from the ATM. If your stuff costs less than 20 bucks, and you don’t have change, you might lose that sale…and they might not make it back with cash in hand before the end of the weekend. My stuff is generally priced at 5,10,15,20,25 dollar increments, and I’ll pay the sales tax out of that price at a con…because it’s easier to give a slight discount than having to bring rolled coin to a con. If I take a credit card payment, I charge full price…because I also have to pay the credit card fee. Most people don’t care, but I’m up front about that.
Also consider what state your event is in and look into properly licensing yourself as a transient vendor and obtaining whatever permits you need, as well as actually reporting and paying tax timely. If you have questions, contact the convention; they probably have someone who knows this information for their vendors. If you aren’t sure, contact the state tax department where that convention is located.
2) Keep good sales records.
Tax purposes. Business records. Also if I’ve been at a con before, I can look back on the previous years sales to see if I’m up, down, or sideways and try to see if there’s a common denominator. I also use those records to determine which cons are ones to return to, or which ones might not have been worth the investment, and aren’t worth the money to attend in the future.
There’s an ongoing neuroses among authors at a con to compare sales numbers. I’m guilty as well. This can be tricky. Someone with a really off the wall and well received project that just released might not get the same sales numbers as those who might have books that have been out for a while (good or bad). Someone with ten titles on the table is going to have different numbers than someone who is there with their first book. And please don’t feel like low sales numbers when compared to someone with highly pushy sales tactics make you look bad. I don’t know about you, but I want readers…who like me, like my stuff, and go looking for my newest project, rather than someone who just gets that immediate sale. I’m good with sales numbers being slightly lower…because I may have hooked someone who will pick up the rest of the series…and start the next series…and tell people about my books and….you get the picture. It’s good to know if you’re the only one having a good/bad weekend, because you might want to mix up your approach, or not…but don’t obsess (easier said than done).
3) It’s not just about the immediate sale.
I said earlier that I don’t want just sales…I want readers. The kid out of money that picks up a sucker with my business card on it…and later checks out the sample chapter on my website, might then ask their parents for my book for their birthday, or Christmas…or might drag their parents back to pick up the book before the weekend is out.
I give out samples of my writing to hook people. Generally, it’s a first chapter that can give someone a flavor of what I do. If people want more, but don’t have a lot of money to drop, I might steer them towards a couple of short stories that I have on the table that I sell for five bucks each for a print version. If they like, they might be back, they might order online, they might check out more later.
My point? You go to conventions, not just to sell a certain number of copies, but also for the promotions aspect. I’ve had people come back to me at later conventions, who saw me…even in a different state…and remember me, my books…and buy. I have postcards, I have business cards, I have freebies, I have buttons and ribbons and mints and suckers and….and…and…because I want to be remembered.
Your mileage may vary. I do try to have fun with it. My GOT FROG? Buttons and ribbons or frog temporary tattoos are freebies that I give out. If kids come up to my table, I have something other than candy that they can take away (Kids always love candy, but some kids are diabetic, or hyperactive, or have other issues, so the mom in me always wants to be able to reach out to everyone). People collect buttons. Some conventions have fascination with badge ribbons. They aren’t crazy expensive, and they appeal to a lot of people. I’ve had people see the buttons walking around and see them on the table and come over to ask about the books (that’s kinda the point!).
3) Remember your own needs. Don’t ignore them.
I was the breastfeeding/pumping mom who set up alone for a convention and ran to the bathroom every two hours with a rolling cooler to pump. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have been able to do the convention…no way could I have brought a very active seven month old baby and set up and fed her and done what I needed to do for the books. I did what I had to do to keep myself going and not have issues. I’ve seen another mom who had to do this as well about a year later, and we spent some time commiserating.
My husband tries to stick to a very specific diet; and to be honest, packing a cooler for lunch when we go to a con means I eat healthier, too. Drinks at convention centers are expensive. Taking a water bottle and a few caffeinated drinks in a cooler is way cheaper. Make sure you take breaks when you need them. Stay hydrated. Don’t forget pee breaks.
That also goes for those who need medications, insulin injections, inhalers, etc. Be prepared. You will be taxing yourself. Wear comfortable shoes. If walking is an issue, bring what you need to get in and out. I’ve seen one author bring her own chair…because of ongoing back issues. I’m considering it.
4) Take some time if you’re traveling to a new city to do something outside of the con.
Look, I go to Columbus and Dayton all the time; probably wouldn’t fuss about being in and out there, because it’s not new to me. But if you’re traveling somewhere you haven’t been, find one thing that you can go do that’s neat for that city. My husband and I went to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade just before Wizard World Cleveland started one year, and went through the Soldiers and Sailors Monument before the parade started. We walked to Fountain Square in downtown Indianapolis one evening while in town for Indiana Comic Con. It’s a little sad to spend money for travel, even if it is for business, and realize that you haven’t seen anything of the town you’re in.
And enjoy yourself. Because cons, as crazy as they are, are still fun.