Working Comic Conventions

by Cat Rambo

Recently I worked Emerald City Comic Convention at the Bard’s Tower, a multi-author booth.  I don’t think I was prepared as I could’ve been, and one of the things I did while I was there was to jot down a series of notes that might be useful to people working a book booth for the first time.

Before the convention

  • Make sure you have a business card. This should have your contact information, your social media presence (you’ll see why in the at the convention tips) and at least one way to find your books. You will also use it for networking; make sure there is enough blank space on it for you to jot a note down on it before handing it to someone. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on cards but I would also suggest not cheaping out. The lowest rate cards are often flimsy and can look unprofessional.

  • Bookmarks may seem like a waste of money but people often ask for them if they want to find your work later on. If you can afford them, they’re worth the investment, and don’t have to consume a lot of money.

  • Have an answer for the people who will tell you that they read electronically or listen only to audiobooks. Is your work available that way and where can they get it? (If not, why not?)

  • If you have a newsletter, have a sign-up sheet as well as some electronic freebie to promise people who sign up.

  • Depending on your budget you may want to have some small item to give away, like a sticker or temporary tattoo. Make sure it’s got your website URL on it!

  • Make sure you have enough inventory, and pack a bag with your own essentials: phone charger, pens, food and water, a basic first aid kit, and anything else that you might need over the course of the day.

  • Make sure you have comfortable shoes.

While at the convention

  • This is not the time to be shy and unassuming. Smile at people as they pass, say hi, ask what they like to read. You’re there to sell books, and these are people who like books usually.

  • Pull people in for a conversation. If you see a costume or T-shirt you like, ask if you can take a picture. Check to find out if it’s okay to post it on social media, and if they say yes, give them your card so they can find it later on. (I told you that social media information would come in handy.)

  • Pitch other people’s books but be sincere and knowledgeable about it. Listen to the other authors pitch and learn how to describe their books. People who buy one book may decide to pick up more, and if you’re making good recommendations, they’ll listen to you.

  • Focus your energy outside the booth, not inside. Chat with the other authors but keep an eye on the passing crowd. If you’re checking your phone no one’s going to want to talk to you even if they’ve got a question about your book.

  • On panels? Remember to let people know where they can find you and your books if they want to look for them.

  • If you’re active on social media, by all means, use it during the convention! Take pictures of the booth, fellow authors, the merchandise, and above all the fans! Let people know when you arrive at the booth, particularly if you’re spending limited time there.

After the convention

  • Take some time to think about things. What went wrong and what went right? Did any of your fellow authors have a brilliant strategy that you want to copy in the future?

  • Follow up on your networking. Go through the pile business cards you become elated you’ve accumulated and follow up on emails and things you promised.

  • Remember to say thank you to the organizer! Putting together a booth is hard work.

•••

Cat Rambo is the president of  SFWA. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Tor.com. Her short story, “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. Her most recent book is the fantasy collection, Neither Here Nor There. For more about her, as well as links to her fiction, visit http://www.kittywumpus.net.

If you’re interested in learning more about writing, check out The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers for a list of courses and online course schedules.

One Response

  1. Lee French

    Beware with stickers. Some conventions, especially major ones, have express policies against sticker giveaways. If you they’re found on venue surfaces, you can be charged for their removal.

    Also, it can never be stressed enough that working a booth or table is, in fact, work! Eat and drink like you’re doing endurance exercise, because you are. And cut yourself some slack for the Monday after con. Plan on it being a rest day if you can.

    🙂

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