Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Things I learned at Archon 38

Last weekend, I attended Archon 38, the latest iteration of a cozy (but ever-growing) sci-fi/fantasy convention held in Collinsville, IL. I'd been to Archon before, but not in several years, and it was refreshing ot get back into the swing of things. More to the point, this was my first time with a dealer table at any convention EVER, so this was a prime opportunity to get a feel for the whole process. I had a lot of fun in the end, and I also learned a bunch of stuff in the process.

  1. Don't panic. When I got there with my two boxes of books and all the promotional materials I judged I would need, I was in a bit of a panic. I didn't know where to go, who to talk to, where my table was, or what would be expected of me. Fortunately, the convention staff were super helpful and made sure I got where I needed to go, especially when it came to pallet carts to schlep my stuff to the site.
  2. You will forget things anyway. I spent half the day Friday kicking myself because I left my phone charger and the envelope of cash I'd brought to make change in my hotel room. Bleh.
  3. You may accidentally meet famous people. As it turned out, my table was set up next to Tony Todd. I knew him as a horror actor in films like the Candyman series and all but one of the Final Destination movies. My roommate knew him as an occasional actor on various Star Trek series. Fortunately, he fell neatly into my mental category of Nicest Guys on the Planet and he helped me settle in.
  4. Make friends with Klingons. Boxes of books are astonishingly heavy, and I occasionally had trouble getting them in and out of my sales space. The Klingon cosplayers were super helpful in moving boxes for me.
  5. Don't expect a lot on day one. I discovered that Saturday is the busiest day of Archon, which may have something to do with the Grand Masquerade on Saturday night. On Friday and Sunday I sold two books each. On Saturday I sold about a dozen.
  6. There will always be people with more publicity stuff than you. This is especially true for indie authors who are just starting out and thus have to squeeze every microgram of usefulness out of every dollar they have. Your more experienced booksellers will often have some very useful advice for you if you ask.
    1. People love free bookmarks. Seriously, have a box of bookmarks printed up and give those things away like candy.
  7. People watching is fun. The hall costumes this year were awesome (as usual). I must have taken fifty pictures of people passing by on Saturday alone, including several that were later entered in the Grand Masquerade.
    1. Chocobos are adorable. One of the costumes that I saw all throughout the convention was an awesome chocobo with a noise-maker in the head to make the requisite "wark" noises. I think she won best in Novice Class at the Masquerade.
    2.  Steampunk will never die. I saw a lot of steampunk costumes this year, including Steampunk Green Lantern, Steampunk Wolverine, and Steampunk Batman.
  8. Cosplay is fun but hard. I dressed as Twilight Sparkle on Saturday. Because I'm thirty-five years old and I can dress like My Little Pony if I want, dammit. I had a wig (half hour of detangling Saturday morning), unicorn horn and ears (on elastic bands requiring a bunch of hairpins to hold in place) and a t-shirt with appropriate cutie mark (after searching the internet fruitlessly for a suitable one, I had it custom vinyl printed at Threads). I didn't use nearly enough hairpins, so my ears and wig kept trying to escape down the back of my head, and the elastic gave me a bit of a headache after a few hours, but I persisted all day. In the future I need to learn how to better manage my cranium accessories.
  9. Bronies are everywhere. Throughout Saturday five people under the age of ten and three people above the age of twenty ran up to my table yelling, "Twilight!" I think I got verbally glomped by one girl who simply ran up to my table, arms extended, and bellowed, "YES!" before running off. During the Grand Masquerade, one of the sound guys sent me a bro hoof via messenger.
  10. The final day will be hard. Seriously, it's the last day of the convention, and everyone's been geeking their asses off all weekend. In the end, though, I came in, complete with cosplay hangover from the previous day, and set my stuff up for one final day of "PLEASE BUY MY CRAP!" And you know what? People did. A bunch more took bookmarks and business cards for later reference, and I imagine I will have a fair number of digital sales coming down the pipe in the next few weeks (hope hope). Finally, I packed my things up, said my farewells to my neighbors on Bookseller's Row, and got ready for the drive home, satisfied with a modestly-successful first dealer-table experience.
As you can see, I learned a lot during Archon, and I feel more confident about the prospects of my next dealer table experience. I have ideas on how to improve my table presence. I hope that I'll do a lot better at my next convention (though I'll have to decide when that will be), but until then, I still have my local sales I can focus on.

And now for something completely different...

Here comes the expected update on book sale progress! I also have a book signing scheduled at Panera Bread this coming Saturday, so hopefully I'll sell a bunch more then.