I just got back from PandoraCon where they had an amazing program designed specifically for authors. Instead of authors paying for a table they were then stuck behind forever, begging people to pay attention to them like a starving cat, authors were able to leave their books in the official bookstore, wander the con at their leisure, returning only for scheduled and posted signing slots, readings, and panels. It was an amazing opportunity that I took full advantage of.
It didn’t work. I don’t know how others did, but I sold a grand total of 2 books over the course of three days. No one was that interested in the signing table, the panels were poorly attended, and the only people at the panels were the other authors.
This was not the fault of the convention. I think the convention is amazing. What we authors agreed amongst ourselves is that the panels were targeted at aspiring writers, and there just weren’t many of those around. That, combined with conflicting scheduling, resulted in poor participation. I said we needed to target readers, instead of writers; people who would buy our books.
And then I came home and started thinking. I spent three days hanging out with writers, but also with musicians, organizers, attendees and participants. I did things that were fun, and even skipped one of my own signing slots to go to a goblin tea party. I’m glad I did; that tea party was the best thing ever.
What surprised me most, when thinking back on the convention, was that I didn’t like hanging out with the other authors. I’m independently published: I don’t want to hear tips about publishing or editing or agents. I’ve written six books: I don’t need advice on how to write or get noticed. I’m intelligent, I can figure this stuff out for myself. If I need help I can ask for it. If I want to network I’ll use the internet. But mostly authors are renowned for wanting to talk about their books, dissect their characters, and reminisce about every aspect of the publishing process. And what I realized after doing a panel about these guys is that nobody cares.
Just like no one cares about someone else’s dream, no one cares about someone else’s writing experience. The only authors who can get away with detailing their characters and processes are famous authors with a strong fan following. Authors at small conventions sitting at a table don’t have strong fan followings. So why do they act like they do? Basically, all our ideas about book marketing in person are wrong.
I don’t know what the right ideas are. I’m still working on that. I don’t know what tempts me to read a book, or enjoy it, or go chase down the authors signature. But I do know what keeps me interested and entertained at a convention, and tea parties are at the top of that list.
I’m still working on what my plan is the next time around, but here’s a few tips to keep in mind for your convention experience. You’re not a famous author, so stop doing what works for them. Focus on what works for you instead. Don’t target people who like your books; go for those who’ve never heard of it. What’s going to make them stop and pay attention? Make it fun. The only way to get someone to come pay attention to you instead of a party is to offer them something better. Don’t talk about yourself. No one cares. Find something people do care about and find a way to make that a part of your marketing strategy.
And most of all, never pass up an opportunity to have tea with a goblin. It will be the most fun you’ve ever had.