Con Game (Part 3)


In the first installment of The Con Game, we talked about the initial investment needed before you even apply for a booth. In the second installment, we covered the heartbreaking improbability of breaking even. With all that financial risk, why would you spend $500 to hang out for two days trying to sell Graveyard of the Damned at SuperSlasherFest when you could instead just attend the con for $35 and have a good time? Well, here are three reasons:

1.Gene Simmons of the rock band Kiss once said he didn’t want to build a rock and roll band, he wanted to build a rock and roll brand. That might be your goal, meeting people and building your personal author brand. You want to build a fan following over time. Word of mouth is the number one reason people make most purchases, and people who meet you at a con will tell others. I attended several HorrorHound cons over several years and had people I called “repeat offenders” who specifically came back to get my next book. This is playing the long game, and you’d better have more work in the pipeline.


Repeat offender Katie at a HorrorHound show.

2.  You want to provide that gateway drug that encourages further purchases of your work. This makes some sense if you have more than one title for sale. One sale here at a slight loss might mean multiple other sales at full revenue on Amazon. However, if you don’t have other books for that customer to buy, using your one book as a loss leader is a poor reason to do this con. By the time your next book comes out, the buyer will have moved on to someone more prolific, like the guy who wrote all those dinosaur porn novels. Remember that if you only sell at cons, you likely will never turn an overall profit.

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I like having multiple ways to generate future one-star reviews.

3. You want to have fun. Writing is a solitary passion. Hours of time alone, often in silence, working hard and wondering if what you are doing is any good. It is nice to interact with readers, whether they buy your book or not, and wonderful to talk to readers who did read your book and loved it. You would pay to go on a vacation somewhere. Maybe this is your vacation.  For me, there is an amazing recharging of the Muse that I get going to conventions. It’s exceptionally cool to have someone come up to your table and point out the works of yours she’s already read. It’s a reminder that something you wrote had an impact on someone else. You can’t put a price on that.

But in this example, it’s a little less than $500.

What you likely won’t get is a big ego massage. That long line of eager buyers will not be there. You’ll fight for every purchase. Most people will ignore you. Most people you talk to will not buy anything. But you’re a writer. You thrive on rejection: from agents, from publishers, from reviewers. Now you’ll get it from the general public. Face to face. Gird your loins and be prepared. It took several cons before I met people who had read something I’d written, and only once has someone brought me a battered copy they already owned for me to sign. It’s the nature of the event.

stoker books 2013

Also keep in mind much that is out of your control may conspire against you. Weather can dampen turnout. A major guest may cancel and all her fans might stay home. You could be assigned a location with low traffic, or worse a location with traffic so high that everyone rushes by without seeing your booth. Be prepared for any and all of that.

So you won’t walk away from this thing rich. Still interested? If so, check out the final installment, where we’ll cover some tips for making your con experience a success.