Selling at Conventions Part Two

Take enough stock.

But, if it’s your first time, how do you know what’s enough?

My rule of thumb for most conventions is to take 20-30 copies for the first book in a series, and 10-15 of each subsequent book in the series. If I have anthologies, I don’t take more than 5 copies each; they aren’t huge sellers, but I’m surprised sometimes at how they do sell.

But your mileage on this may vary.

This is generally more than enough. Even at my best selling events, I haven’t sold out completely taking these numbers. I also have t-shirts and mugs that I sell with my book information/covers on them. Don’t invest into these until you’re versed in how your book inventory will do at different events.

While there’s a part of me that says it’s better to take too much than not to have enough, remember that books are heavy, and there’s only so much room in a vehicle. You also must leave room for yourself, any luggage, and any other bags you are bringing.

Don’t forget as well to leave room for a table buddy to join you. Life is a whole lot easier if you have a buddy going with you to help watch the table so you can get a pee break. If you’re taking a buddy, you must also leave room for the buddy’s luggage. You SHOULD provide transportation, badge, and lodging for your buddy for helping you…but it’s okay to share the hotel room you’re already paying for anyway. (Part of why my husband is my favorite table buddy. He works in retail/sales anyway, so he’s got an eye for this kind of stuff for set up and marketing, and well, I get to go on weekends out of town with my best friend and other half, while deducting the expenses on my taxes. Win/win, that’s for me.)

And it is not worth renting a uhaul or trailer for books unless you’re Patrick Rothfuss or someone with a big online store that has more than just book merchandise. Seriously. His store is wicked awesome. It’s here. But Pat’s not setting up in Artist Alley…he’s setting up a full blown vendor booth. It makes a difference.

It’s hard to find a happy medium.

BUT if you’re new to this scene, and you’ve taken more than two large plastic totes full of books, you’ve probably taken too much. (FYI…that’s just books, there’s also a big tote full of other supplies plus signage, plus my t-shirts and other materials). I drive a Ford Focus. I can pack all of my display materials, books, and miscellaneous supplies as well as my suitcase and a small cooler in my car. It’s tight, but I can and have done it. It’s a whole lot easier in my husband’s crossover vehicle, so we take his car when we are both going.

FUN TIP…Invest in some decent plastic totes or bins. Outdoor events can get soggy, which aren’t good for books. And cardboard boxes fall apart with heavy books sometimes.

FUN TIP 2…make sure you have signage of some kind, with your name at the very least.

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Selling at Conventions Part One

I’ve had a few new authors ask over the last few years…what do I need to put together to sell from a table at a convention, book event, author fair, or other non-bookstore event? What do I need to prepare? I say non-bookstore event, because bookstores are awesome. Most of the time for a bookstore, you just have to show up with your favorite signing pen. For an independent bookstore, you might want to bring your own banner, and might need to bring your own stock, but they provide the table, and probably have it set up the way that works for them. Don’t dictate to a bookstore, but ask lots of questions to make sure you’re on the same page.

For comic cons, book fairs, art events, and other non-bookstore events, here’s where to start…

  • Do your research. In more ways than one…

Talk to authors and see what conventions or events give the best bang for your buck. There might even be a Facebook group in your area of writers who share this kind of information; ask.

You’ll, in most cases, have to pay for your table. Some events offer free tables to authors. Some events are reasonable, and some are wicked expensive. Some are just not worth it. Be smart and ask around before you plunk down the money for a table.

My rule of thumb is that I’ll try just about anything I can afford. My first year at an event I need to have enough in sales (not profit, but sales) to cover my table cost. The next year, I better sell more. If I’m not bringing in that much, the event isn’t a do again. You’re NOT going to make back your costs for your expenses by selling at conventions. It’s a promotional expense. You are, however, going to be getting your name out there, selling books, and giving out bookmarks and promotional material. You may see a sales bump after the convention. If you do, your marketing efforts are working.

Over the course of the year, I have some free or low cost events, I have some local events with little or no travel costs, and I have some with hotel fees, expensive tables, and also the potential for new readers. If I make enough in profit to cover all of my expenses, I’m ecstatic. I normally do 10-12 events per year. Remember that the profit at the low cost, local events will make up for some of the losses at the bigger, expensive events, but the bigger events further from your home help get word further out about your books. I do a mix to cover all of my bases.

Is this a juried show? Do you need to be approved? Start the application process early; don’t wait until the last minute, as last minute might cause issues if they are full, and getting a last minute no means there isn’t enough time to look for another event to fill the weekend.

Once you’ve signed up, you also need to figure out what you need to do to report/pay sales tax and/or have a vendor’s license. The convention should have someone you can ask about this.

Get a credit card reader. I spent the money to get a chip card reader because I do enough of these events to justify the cost and minimize the exposure; that’s a decision that you’ve got to make on your own. PayPal and Square are the ones I see most often. I use PayPal, because I also have a PayPal business debit card tied to the account that can help with travel emergencies. I also run some of my writing income through PayPal, so it makes sense to have all if it in one account, but your mileage may vary.

Plan ahead. Understand the Load-In and Load-Out policies and ask questions. No question is stupid if you’re new to this.

 

 

The Pursuit of Busyness

It’s a little weird right now not to have a contracted deadline. But that’s probably a good thing.

I took a bunch of time off from having book events and such in the last half of pregnancy, and after The Girl was born, and for the first year of her life, I didn’t do anything that involved tons of travel.

This year will be different. I’m doing more travel. The Husband is going with me to some events; and will stay home with the Kidlings for some events. I’m actually branching back out to some of my previous haunts, to Cleveland, to Indianapolis, to Louisville, and actually getting some travel time outside of a one hour radius from my house. I’m looking forward to it, and to be honest, I think the Husband is, as well. We haven’t had a weekend out of town together since well before The Girl was born. We will be using some of my book events to get some time for just us.

I’m also way behind where I wanted to be on the DEMON book. Mea culpa. This is the first night in a long time that I’ve had the Kidlings in bed, the Husband otherwise occupied (he’s working late some nights, working on some projects for sidework…even if he’s in the house, he’s occupied), and not ready to drop from exhaustion myself or working on deadlines for the side job. I did get a short story out, and it will be published in June.

IT IS RELATED TO THE DEMON BOOK.

If you’ve read my short story, “Welcome to New York”, you’ve heard of Andrew and Gregory. They are two characters in that short story, and they are also secondary characters in the DEMON book. In both that short story and the novel, they are adults, with careers and a propensity to get involved in demon fighting. (“Welcome to New York” has appeared in two different anthologies, please click on BIBLIOGRAPHY above to get the links).

The short story coming out, “The Dragon Made Me Do It” will be published in the Origins Game Fair anthology, entitled DRAGONS! on Father’s Day weekend. It’s a wicked fun story about Andrew and Gregory as pre-teen altar boys dealing with a demonic presence that takes the form of a dragon.

LOCAL PEEPS…YES it does take place in Urbana. I didn’t make it obvious in the short story. But it is Urbana, Ohio. AND THAT’S WHERE THE DEMON BOOK IS SET. If I ever get it done. And I plan to. It’s turning out awesome. No, seriously…I’m in what writers normally refer to as the saggy, soggy, middle of the novel, the point at which most writers think anything they are working on sucks…and I still think it seriously rocks. That’s weird. Most of my writer friends will totally get what I’m saying. I cannot wait to share it with you. But first I gotta finish it. And then I gotta sell it.

And the brain worms for the project I have AFTER that are also intruding. I always have a million and one ideas…but this one is starting to get insistent. Better get the DEMON book done, so I can write the CARAVAN book (Working title, THE CORPSE BEHIND THE CARAVAN).

So…even though you haven’t heard much from me because I’ve been in the sleep-deprived new mom stage, doesn’t mean that the wheels aren’t turning. The problem hasn’t been the ideas. It’s been the time, and the exhaustion level. But The Girl is now sleeping through the night (and she’s turning into a big fan of books, but more on the GOODNIGHT MOON level than on Mum Mum’s books level), which means that I get to be Writer Girl again from time to time.

On Productivity

How much time does it take you to write a book?

I get this question on a regular basis, and it’s not always easy to answer.

A novel of mine generally runs somewhere around 90,000 words.

I can comfortably write 2000 words a day while working the day job, the part time job, and keeping up with the kids. If I’m working, I can get 1000 of that on my lunch hour from time to time. If I’m chasing a deadline, I’ve done as much as 3000-10000 per day, depending on the day and how the story is cooking.

But this assumes you’re talking about the rough draft. I can have an entire rough draft done in 30 days if I really push myself; I’ve done it before. That doesn’t mean it’s polished and ready to turn in, and my brain is truly mush at the end of that time. Which means, of course, that no writing will happen for a couple of weeks after that, because the brain cells need time to recharge. And, if I’ve been pushing that hard, I’ve been spending evenings typing instead of paying attention to the family, and it’s their turn for my attention.

I try not to schedule myself to turn in more than a single novel and a couple of short stories in a year. If I get more than that done, it’s gravy.

But remember, too, that I can’t always write on a daily basis. If The Boy has a soccer game that’s an hour drive away in the evening, I can’t write that night, because we won’t get home until late and will still need to feed everyone. If I have work from my part time job, that has a deadline, that takes precedence. Obviously holidays don’t work, either, and we do have a house with constant, ongoing renovation going on, so work needs done on that, as well.

The short answer? I can write a novel in a month. If it’s to be a good novel, I need a bit longer than that, and that timeline can vary if real life jumps up and bites me.

 

This Year

Okay, so most of you know that I had a baby in January. I go back to work for the day job here in a couple of weeks, and I’ve been struggling to schedule author events and balance the day job, the part time job, The Boy’s activities and keeping in mind a baby (who will be known here as The Girl) who is still technically a newborn.

IMG_0684The Girl, contemplating another nap…

So I will say that I’m not scheduling much in the way of travel this year, and what is scheduled will likely not be terribly far from home, and will likely not start happening until June or so.

So far, I’m planning the following…

Origins                                       Columbus, Ohio            June 15-19, 2016

Art Affair on The Square      Urbana, Ohio                  July 16, 2016

Art on the Beach                     Indian Lake, Ohio         August 6-7, 2016

World Fantasy                         Columbus, Ohio            October 27-30, 2016

There are more on my list that might get added, but these are the ones I’ve committed to so far. I may (or may not) have The Girl with me; the Husband and The Boy may make appearances as well, as we do tend to combine writing events with family events when possible.

I may also be planning a couple of giveaways in the next year, so stay tuned for more information.

As for the writing?

Are you a fan of Bert, Janie, Aiden, Mia, Jonah and the rest? Book Five is headed for the publisher soon, wrapping up the series.

I will be diving into two projects when that is complete, the sequel to Shades of Gray and Girl versus Demon; Demon Deadly Sins. Both have been on the back burner for a while, and will be headed toward the front burner for completion this year.

I do have a short story coming out in the Origins conference anthology entitled “The Stupidest Robot”. It’s really cute, and I hope you check it out!

 

 

Guest Blog; Terry W. Ervin, II

So, I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus lately while real world and real life stuff has been taking over. If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I’ve given birth to a daughter, Olivia, and am home on maternity leave. I’m learning how to blog and type with a highly cranky infant glued to my chest (and I don’t mean just to eat, but wanting Mommy All.The.Time.) 

While I’m getting settled into the new reality of learning to be productive and a good mom (or at least a mom that gets some of it done and some of it right some of the time), I’ve got an interesting post for you from my friend, Terry Ervin. 

Terry and I live in the same area of West Central Ohio, just a few miles (about fifteen) apart, and we both enjoy science fiction and fantasy. In fact, we end up talking at different local book events all of the time about the genre, about publishing, and about a whole lot of other things. It was interesting to see his take on this topic, one we’ve discussed before. Also, Terry’s got a new book out there, so go check it out and see what he’s up to. Here’s Terry…

 

Fantasy and Science Fiction: Good for Movies but Not So Much for Books?

What got me thinking about this topic? Talking to teen readers I’ve met at libraries, book festivals and similar events.

It started a while back with conversations similar to this:

Me: “Do you like fantasy?”

Teen: Shrugs. “I liked the Lord of the Rings movies. Did you see them?”

Me: “Yes, They were pretty neat.” Smiling, I continue. “I’m an author, so I have to ask, did you read the trilogy?”

Teen: With a shake of the head, frowns. “I tried reading the first book. I couldn’t get into it. I don’t like reading fantasy.”

To tell the truth, I’ve read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There were parts that were difficult to get through. They were written for another time, possibly a different audience.

The conversation continues:

Me: “What do you think of science fiction?”

Teen: A small grin. “I like Battlestar Galactica.”

Me: “The new one, right? Not the one from the 70s.”

Teen: “Yeah, but I don’t like reading science fiction either.”

Me: “Maybe fantasy and science fiction aren’t for you. Or maybe you’ve tried the wrong books?”

Sure, fantasy has elves and orcs, dragons and wizards. But fantasy also has vampires and fairies…and superheroes and ghosts, and more. My novels? They have earth wizards battling panzers, and Stukas engaged in aerial combat with fire breathing dragons. (Yes, I’m sort of a World War II history buff)

Science fiction? It’s as varied as fantasy, if not more. It has space ships and wormholes, aliens and androids, time travel and pandemic viral diseases, dinosaurs and, well, the sky…or the rim of the galaxy is the limit. My SF novels? They have brass knuckles and shotguns mixed with magnetic pulse pistols and taskforce sized space battles, and alien species like the Umbelgarri, Chicher, Crax and V’gun.

Are you interested in reading but not sure about Fantasy and SF? Like any other novel, they can have humor and romance, mystery and revenge, horror, hate and redemption, heroines, heroes and villains, average guys and gals, treachery and…well, you name it, even talking frog princes. (aside from Addie…yes, they can! wink, wink).

My first serious dip into SF was in grade school and Jr. High, where I read “A Pail of Air” by Fritz Leiber and “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury. Through them my mind began asking questions, about the survival of humanity, and the consequences of traveling back in time.

Then, I read The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. Some might say it’s sort of like ‘Lord of the Rings light.’ That opened the door to Lord Foul’s Bane and the rest of the Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever books by Stephen R. Donaldson.

Those titles just rang for me. Does that mean they’re right for you? Maybe. And maybe not. Just like The Lord of the Rings trilogy…they’re good books, ones that have withstood the test of time, but aren’t for everyone.

Teen: Holds up a copy of Flank Hawk. “So what movie is this book like?”

Me: “It’s like Lord of the Rings meets Gettysburg, meets Saving Private Ryan.”

Teen: Points to a copy of Relic Tech. “And this one?”

Me:Babylon 5 meets Starship Troopers, meets The Rockford Files.” I smile. “You might have to look a few of those shows up. They’re good…almost as good as my novel.”

My advice? Don’t automatically turn away from fantasy and science fiction. Take a look at the cover, and read the back of the book, and maybe a few pages. Look up reviews if you’re so inclined. With the vast variety of stories fantasy and SF encompass, there’s certain to be something in there for you, something to challenge you…capture your imagination like nothing ever has before.

 

Terry W. Ervin II is an English and science teacher who enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction. His First Civilization’s Legacy Series (fantasy) includes Flank Hawk, Blood Sword, and Soul Forge.

The Crax War Chronicles, his science fiction series, includes Relic Tech and Relic Hunted (his most recent release from Gryphonwood Press).

In addition to writing novels, Terry’s short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies, magazines and ezines. Genre Shotgun is a collection containing all of his previously published short stories.

To contact Terry or learn more about his writing endeavors, visit his website at www.ervin-author.com and his blog, Up Around the Corner at uparoundthecorner.blogspot.com

Upcoming Appearance at Origins Game Fair!

SO very looking forward to going back to Origins this year! I love going to this convention, and can’t wait to see what all is coming out new…what all is going on in the gaming world and meeting new readers and old…as well as writer friends!

My schedule is as follows;

THURSDAY JUNE 4

10 am Time Management and the Author

12 pm A Writer’s Group is not Just a Group of Writers

1 pm More than Black Hats; Creating a Villain

6 pm Story Hour (reading)

FRIDAY JUNE 5

1 pm Writing from a Feminist Perspective

SATURDAY JUNE 6

12 pm Learning to Tell Stories through RPGs

1 pm Social Media 101

4 pm Flash Fiction

SUNDAY JUNE 7

10 am Researching Your Story

11 am (Upgraded Game Play) Wordariffic!

1 pm Humor in Fiction

ALSO…there’s going to be a pretty darn cool giveaway in the Library for all who buy books from our authors…stop by and check it out in the Dealer’s Hall.

When I’m not on a panel or playing a game, I’m likely to be at a table in the Dealer’s Hall, selling books and talking to writers and readers. If the Dealer’s Hall is closed, I’m probably in a game or stuffing my face at North Market…Don’t be shy…come say hi!

Goal Progress Report after February

· Finish THE BUNYAN BARTER. DONE

· Edit SHADES OF GRAY; In progress. I’m about 50 pages into this re-edit.

· Finish GIRL VERSUS DEMON: DEMON DEADLY SINS. Am at the 1/3 mark, and full speed ahead.

· Research THE PERRAULT VOW. Ideas are percolating! 😉 Research fun is started.

· SEKRIT PLAN #1 Still working on this.

· Blog at least once a week Okay, so I’ve totally fallen down on this one with life going crazy and the newest publishing hiccup. Will be trying to get back on this horse.

· Work out on a regular basis Does loading and unloading for a convention count? Haven’t done as much as I’d like; some of this is due to the bitter cold weather we’ve had here lately.

· Bathroom remodel Hubby and I are earmarking funds for the tub and shower surround; our goal is to have this bought in the next two or three weeks, so that we can actually start doing the work on all of this.

· Write at least two new short stories. Working on the ideas and doing research. And I might have had an incredibly awful idea for one…that is starting to scream at me to write it. Blame my Sister and Niece…they’ll know which one I mean…lol

· Plant some roses So not happening while the weather is like this!

· SEKRIT PLAN #2 On hold … waiting for both the bathroom remodel and Sekrit Plan #1 news to get started.

· SEKRIT PUBLISHING NEWS AND THE WORK BEHIND IT This was about the official print release from Musa Publishing for book one. I’m working on the next step on this series, will announce more when I know more.
NEW GOAL ADDED! Cuz I don’t actually have enough to do…Let’s add another. EAT HEALTHY 6 days a week, eat what I want 1 day a week. I’m doing a bit of calorie counting but at the same time, I don’t care if I go over my calorie count for the day as long as it’s healthy stuff…raw veggies, fruit, etc. I am trying to add in more of that.

Upcoming Appearance at Cleveland Concoction

I will be at Cleveland Concoction March 13-15, 2015, which is being held at the Sheraton hotel at the Airport in Cleveland.

This is my panel schedule… (I think they rather took me seriously when I said to use and abuse me on panels. Good thing I really like doing them!) I do have one or two meetings in between all of this, but those details are still getting finalized.)

Friday 2 pm Publishing Standards Q&A

Friday 3 pm Twisted Fairy Tales

Friday 7 pm Autographing Session

Friday 10 pm Crafting Villains Readers Love to Hate

Saturday 1 pm There are No Saints in Fiction

Saturday 4 pm Writing for YA versus Adults

Saturday 9 pm Humor in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Saturday 10 pm The 10 volume Trilogy

Sunday 9:30 am Author’s Breakfast

Sunday noon Reading/Author Showcase

While I’m in Cleveland, I will be handing out promotional GOT FROG? Buttons, bookmarks, and other swag-a-licious stuff…and this sounds like a truly wonderful conference. I’m so looking forward to it! If you’re into books or writing or publishing at all, you should really considering attending.

ALSO stay tuned….publishing news coming soon with regard to THE GRIMM LEGACY series…but it’s not finalized yet, so I don’t want to start celebrating just yet.

Doors and Windows

There’s a saying out there about “when one door closes, another opens”, or a “door closing and a window opening.”

That’s scant consolation when one is at a crossroads and trying to make decisions on what to do next.

My publisher, or rather, one of my publishers, Musa Publishing, announced last week that they would be closing their doors as of February 28, 2015.

To say that I was surprised is an understatement. I’d just recently gotten word that they were going to start releasing books in print, and so I hadn’t expected this kind of news.

There are some who might speculate as to why they are closing, and I’ll say here that I have no idea what the true, underlying reason is. I know some of the issues that have been cited to the authors, I can guess at others, but it’s not my business to guess as to why others make the business decisions they make. I’m not their lawyer, their business manager, or their accountant, and so I don’t have firsthand knowledge of any of those things. If I was, I wouldn’t be able to share them for confidentiality reasons.

Meanwhile THE GRIMM LEGACY, THE ANDERSEN ANCESTRY and THE WONDERLAND WOES are all for sale for readers through the end of the week. If you click on “Bibliography” at the top of the page, you’ll find buy links for all of my Musa books. If you buy them through the publisher’s website, (click on “Musa” link) you’ll find them at major discounts that will last until February 28, 2015.

As for me, I do not plan to have these books die. And I do not plan on leaving the series hanging. I’m still planning to edit THE BUNYAN BARTER (which is already written) and planning to write THE PERRAULT VOW (which would finish the series.)

There may be a time where they are not up for sale on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all the other sites, but please keep in mind that I am looking for a home for the books. That home may end up being self-publishing. It may be with another publisher. Please know that I am exploring options and will report more when things become more settled. I hesitate to post any plans here, because I am still working through all of that. I’m hoping that I have answers for you sooner rather than later, but I’m not going to provide answers I don’t have.

I am planning to be at all currently scheduled appearances, and have not changed those plans AT ALL.

I have to say that regardless of the reasons, I have enjoyed working with the Musa staff and employees, and have to say that they have been very responsive to all questions, concerns, and ideas I’ve had come up, not just in the last few days, but also throughout my tenure with them. I wish all of them well, and hold no ill will toward any of them. Maybe someday I will be lucky enough to cross paths with any (or all) of them again, and will happily see if our publishing interests again intersect. I am grateful for all that I have learned with the company, and I cheer them for their ethical and moral stand on transparency and responsibility to their authors.