Sunday, August 30, 2015

Don't Bring a Novel to a Comic Book Convention...

(Every Sunday is Self-Publishing Sunday, where we discuss tips, tricks and failures learned from self-publishing since 2012)

After all is said and done, you've written and self-published your novel, you need to sell it. At least, I assume you do. Some folks self-publish simply so they can say they have. Not I. I self-publish to create a product I can sell for money. Or barter. I'd consider bartering.

It's often not enough to simply self-publish your novel and have it for sale on Amazon, or iTunes, or Nook, or wherever. You're one of millions of novels. A small grain in a sea of endless sand. And, as the days pass after publishing, you get washed out, further and further from the New Release shore. Will readers wade in to find you, or will they stay high and dry on shore happily sifting their eyes through the dry, beachfront literary sand?

Comic book and scifi conventions might seem like a tempting venue to hawk your wares. They are more then plentiful these days. But before you dash off to Createspace and make that print edition, step back and look at things objectively. Don't act in desperation.

First, as with any product, determine who your buyers are. You aren't panhandling. Or at least, you shouldn't be. Waving a cup at passerby hoping they'll buy your book is foolish at best. You need to plan on selling. Kids don't erect Lemonade stands in the dead of winter for a reason. 

Knowing your audience/target demographic is key to not wasting your time. And, if you're like me, time is precious. Sitting in a booth all day, not selling anything is a crime against your craft. Far better to sit at home, actually writing all day, than frittering away your weekend--and spending money you won't recoup.

"But I meet all kinds of cool people at cons!" you might protest. That is true. But you could meet those same people merely by attending. Which is far cheaper, takes less time, and is more interesting than sitting in a booth. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Once you've determined who your novel will sell to, determine where they might be. And where they won't be.

Got a kid's book about Giraffes who can't scratch their nose and need a friend with stubby arms? Odds are you won't find many kids at the latest Horror Convention in town. Yes, some zombie cosplaying parents might be there, but they might want to bring up little Johnny in the same gothic lifestyle they embrace. Itchy Giraffe may not sell. 

From personal experience, I will tell you that people at comic book conventions aren't looking for novels to buy. Unless maybe they're super hero novels. No, comic book conventions are places people go to buy comic book-related items. Like comic books. T-shirts with favorite characters. 

I know, I know. There's a whole cottage industry of crap at every convention. Candles. Soaps. Mugs. But those are RELATED to the focus of the convention. Would I buy a Human Torch candle? Maybe. Would I buy a Punisher coffee mug? Absolutely. But would I buy a novel about two star-crossed lovers embracing passionately on the cover as a field of grain sways behind them. Hell no. I want ass KICKING, not kissing.

What's that? You do sell at comic conventions? Bored wives dragged along by their geek spouses snatch up your literary porn on a regular basis? Little Joannie loves your latest "Rainbow Ponies on Parade" picture book? Well that's just swell. I'm sure all five copies will net you sufficient profit to stop at McDonald's on the way home. And now you have five potential future readers, that might buy the next six books in your series, once you finish writing them a decade from now. Well done. 

However, let's recap your costs to get those possible future sales. Your booth probably ran you anywhere from $100.00 to $300.00 depending on the size of the show. You sat in it for one to three days, instead of writing "Diverse Donkeys in Delaware", the spinoff you've been thinking about starting. Not being at home, you couldn't run to the fridge for meals or call for delivery. And you didn't pack a cooler of food. So now you meals--unless you skipped them, sacrificing for your art--go on the ledger too. And don't forget travel time. Gas. Print costs--you know, those little bookmarks you had made, or spent two weeks laboriously cobbling together at home instead of you know, writing. 

All in all, by the end of the day, that Happy Meal you treated yourself to on the victorious drive home ended up costing you several hundred dollars--if you're lucky. You'd have been better off digging in the couch cushions for change or begging in a street corner. Bum cosplay has been around for decades, you know.

So, keep the kids books at home. And the epic Scifi. And the Murder mysteries and self-helps and thrillers... you get it. Comic book shows aren't the place to sell novels. Nor are Scifi Conventions--even if you have a scifi novel. 

People at conventions aren't looking for new properties. And they aren't going to stand there and read your book for several minutes to see if it's any good. That's the disadvantage we novelists have. People really can't judge our books by the covers. Any other product they can pick up and decide if it looks good in seconds. Particularly comic books that are filled with art. Or mugs. Or jewelry. Heck, they can even sniff the air of defeat and longing in those Bring Back Firefly candles. Novels are just page after page of letters. 

If you want to sell your novels, go where people are looking for novels. Like Book fairs. Or book conventions. Not farmer's markets. Not conventions for Cosplayers. You can still go to conventions. Jingle with fellow authors and fans, promote your work with logowear or a pocketful of business cards. But please, stop spending time and money on booths. It just doesn't pay off. 

Oh, and for the love of God, STOP TRYING TO SELL OTHER AUTHORS YOUR WORKS! Nothing is more defeating than to be pitching your novel to someone to interrupt you and begin talking about their novel. See, they got bored sitting in their booth, not selling anything, so they took a walk to stretch their legs. I know, I said I'd consider bartering, but I meant for good stuff, like collectibles, or chocolate. Not books. I have plenty of books. Stacks of books.

Want to buy one?