It's been an exciting April, readers and fellow sleeper-princesses! It was my first RavenCon in Williamsburg, VA, and I loved meeting and reconnecting with friends and industry colleagues and discussing all topics writing and publishing! Thank you to the RavenCon staff, support, and volunteers as well as to my fellow panelists and all my readers and congoers-in-arms!
As usual with my con recaps, today I want to tackle a question I'm often asked:
Why don't you sell your books at cons?
My short answer? As much as I LOVE meeting readers new and old, I'd rather do that on panels, while leading workshops and helping other writers, or connecting without a desk between us and without any pressure on your part to buy anything.
(This is the part of the post where I mention that YMMV, and that, for every piece of advice any writer gives you, there's a very successful author who does the EXACT OPPOSITE, so take my experience with a grain of salt. It may resonate. It may not. And that's okay!)
Maybe it's the introvert in me, but I don't find selling at cons terribly effective unless you have a built-in readership that specifically attends to buy your books.
Why? Because building a readership isn't about selling. It's about making connections.
Being behind that table puts pressure on you to sell and on your readers to buy, and that pressure can easily overshadow and even harm the connection you're trying to make with the reader.
For me, cons are about making those genuine connections, and I can't do that effectively from behind a desk. I'd rather spend my time connecting meaningfully with industry pros and colleagues, friends, readers, and other congoers. I want to be an active part of the community I'm asking to support me, and that means being mobile, attentive, and interactive without the looming pressure to buy, buy, buy my books.
Now, of course, this isn't to say that authors who sell their books at cons are wrong, unsuccessful, or not part of the writing community. They certainly are! And I've seen at least a few authors who were masterful about making that instant connection with potential readers from behind a table.
Sadly, though, I've seen many, many more go right for the hard sell. This weekend, I had an author shove her book right in my face.
Reader, she's still alive.
But here's the thing: I'm never going to buy her book because the pressure was too high. Plus, she didn't give me any time to look at her book, read the back cover copy, or even interact with her.
The truth is: people do business with people they like, and if selling your books makes you unlikeable or pushy, then you're out of luck. In fact, you can even harm a potential reader relationship.
A good alternative to getting a table is to sign up for programming.
Being a guest panelist is a great way to get in front of a large number of people and promote yourself and your books. Plus, some cons will let you do a signing and/or reading where the people you've spent time connecting with during the con can hear you read, get a feel for you and your work, and buy your books.
And if you do try the table route, here are some suggestions from the many "bookseller recons" I've done:
1. Get out from behind the desk
As much as possible, remove the barrier between you and the people you're trying to interact with.
2. Be genuine and don't hard sell
Hard selling can really turn people off, and again, selling isn't the point. Ask your table's visitors how their con is going, compliment them on their costume or outfit, or connect via a shared fandom.
Make a true connection, and you may gain a reader for life.
3. In fact, let visitors choose how to interact with you
Cons are home to so many different types of diverse people. Some are extroverts, some aren't. Some just want to browse, look at your cover, and read a few pages. It's okay to say "Hi" and initiate conversation, but try a softer approach and be attentive to social cues and body language.
If you're bad at this, consider asking a friend to be your wingman. This will also let you take breaks from your table and do some more networking.
4. Business cards and bookmarks
Have some small printed items that readers can take with them--business cards, bookmarks, postcards. Make sure they have your cover art and DIRECT BUY LINKS (at least to Amazon) on them as well as your website.
5. Remind yourself that it's okay if they don't buy right now
Some readers only read e-books. Others want to "shop the con" before they buy. It's all right to remind people that, "No worries, I'm here till 5pm today," but being pushy/hard selling can chase off a potential reader.
Remember: it's not about gaining buyers. It's about gaining readers.
Best of luck!