Last weekend I was at Kraken Con, a new comic, cartoons and anime convention in South San Francisco. My client, Davidson L. Haworth, was a Special Guest there so for me it was all about work but I can say I had fun, too.
Being at a convention is all about meeting new people, and Kraken Con was no difference. I was talking to an aspiring comics artist about promotion in the world of Sci-Fi/Fantasy and pop art, and thought I’d sum up and share parts of our conversation.
Sometimes people ask me, “Why go to conventions?” There are several reasons:
Targeted audience: It is one of the main reasons. Even if you are not an actor but a writer or an artist, and you do spend most of the time at home writing or drawing in complete isolation from the world, youneed to take you time and go meet people. They are your audience, after all!
Yes, you can meet people at different events, for example, at book signings. Are conventions better than book signings? I think so. I don’t urge you to stop doing book signing (I still book them for my clients, too) but think about it: how many people walking into your local book store are into fantasy? You don’t know. Maybe many, maybe none. Some might be just killing time before meeting friends for dinner at a nearby restaurant, some might be stopping by just to get their coffee from Starbucks, some are looking for a particular reference book they need for school.
People who go to book events look for books but not necessarily for books in your genre so they are just not your audience. If you write fantasy, go to Sci-Fi/Fantasy and comic conventions. Attendees might be not all readers, but they are all into superheroes, vampires, zombies etc so your chances of getting people interested in your books are much higher.
Speaking opportunities: All conventions run panels, and very often they ask for input from guests and attendees. They will be more than happy to give a floor to someone who is eager to speak and know what he is talking about. Even if you are not talking about your book for an hour but mention it a couple of times, it still works: people listen to you, ask questions and then say to themselves, “He seems to be an interesting guy. I want to check out his stuff”. Putting your name out there in any way – and especially free or low cost one – is always a good thing.
Sales: If you are going to a convention, try to get a table. You can either get as for a fee as an exhibitor or for free as a guest. The last is what you should be after. A free table at a convention is great – you pay nothing but you have a platform for the entire day (sometimes several days if it is a longer event) to meet people and sell your books. You also make money! Of course, not everybody who stops by your table buys your book or artwork that’s why have some free stuff with your name and contacts. Business cards are a must for everybody but you may not want to give it to everyone, and not everybody will want it – think of something fun. It might be a cool bookmark or a postcard, a pin, a poster – you are creative, you can think of something special.
Networking: Convention is a trade show for people in your industry not just fans. You never know whom you may meet. Maybe you find a new partner to work on a great new project, or a publisher, or a movie producer. Again, have your business cards on hand and your lift speech ready.
Media coverage: Conventions also attract lots of journalists of all ranks and bloggers so you may spot an interview. Even if it is an independent podcast, it still matters. Before the event look for local media people and let them know you will be at the event. Journalists love when you make their life easier. Suggest a few topics or ideas, invite them to your panel – and they will be more than happy to feature you.
Multimedia: Every convention gives you a great photo and video opportunity. Capture everything – your table, badge with your name on it, cool merchandise and awesome cosplayers. Bring a friend (as a guest you will get a couple of free tickets among other perks) and have him or her take pictures and record video while you are speaking and signing autographs. Make sure to post all this stuff on your website (you have one, right?) and across social media. The most exciting photos you have the better – show people you have it going on. Collect program books (if you are a guest, you will be in it), event flyers and so on.
The more events you go to – the more conventions want you. Just keep going.