Let’s Be Authors! Experiment #2: Conning A Con – Pretending To Be Special

Experiment #2 involves Salt Lake Comic Con, though I think this would apply with any convention. I tried to make this post as funny as possible, but sometimes, the truth is just not funny. What you will feel is the embarrassing reality of a small time author selling their soul for a reader to believe.

Before
After

Salt Lake Comic Con is in its 5th year in the Beehive state. It’s in my home town, practically my backyard, and for this home-grown nerdity that infects this valley like a petri dish, it’s one of the best attended Cons in the nation. I’m still exhausted from experiencing the con for the 5th time, and each one has been different. In reflecting on past vs. present, I thought I would share tips on how to “con” the Con.

Con Virginity

Like all of our first times, there was a lot of excitement and anticipation, anxiety, sweating, embarrassment, and fear of performing poorly and being disappointing.

My first con had all the anticipation and inappropriate sweating to prepare me for every eventuality that came with subsequent Cons.

…and I did EVERYTHING WRONG.

My help for my first con. Look, crappy banner, fabric, shirts, and cute girl dresses as Minnie Mouse

Money Pit

September 2013 – My first book, Vivatera, had been out for three months. The newness and hype had cooled, replaced with… okay, so now what? I mean, I had a book, wasn’t that enough? Hardly. SLC had drummed up the idea of a comic con. It was seriously cool news. Why the Hell not?

My sister somehow talked me into seizing the day and I purchased a booth, a very hefty sum for a nobody author. I didn’t have a discount of any sort, so the booth cost was completely out of my depth – over $700, a sum that I could NEVER recover with my first novel, and something I didn’t realize until during the con. I only had this one book and no author friends whatsoever. How was I going to fill an entire 10 x 10 booth?

By spending a lot of money, of course. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Shirts that did not sell – that I still have in my garage, if anyone wants one. They even glow in the dark.
  • Hours, and frankly, days making necklaces that reflected my series. This handcraftory took the possession of my kitchen table and a handful of Saturdays to get done. I still have several in a box in my garage, waiting for me to recover (4 years later) and finish. In the end I sold them for $5, and they did better than my book.
  • Cheap, colored scarves I could sell for $10, but they hardly moved.
  • Sheer fabric, for a wispy, mysterious effect.
  • Buttons that said “Vivatera” on them.
  • Temporary tattoos with the cool “Star” pattern. And I really loved these, but I gave them away.
  • Some business type cards that had a QR code for the ebook, for those ereaders. There are always a few. And I ordered WAY too many.
  • And a fat, expensive banner that said “VIVATERA” in bold letters. (Note: if doing an expensive banner, make sure it is timeless, as in, don’t change your branding and don’t plan on having more than one book. Mine aged very quickly and is now covered with paint in my garage.)
  • …and more things that I thought were necessary and weren’t.

Are you seeing the $$? It was embarrassing how much I put into this booth to try and make my one book sell. The scale of this is ridiculous.

ADVICE:

Don’t spend a ton of money on your first con. Get with some experienced authors (more later) and learn from them.

Don’t attempt to sell t-shirts unless they are as cute and as universal as those Tee Turtle or Teefury shirts (not affiliated with either, I’m just a big fan of both). Don’t kill yourself on unnecessary crap. A good, professional bookmark can do a whole lot for you, one with just enough information so they remember who you are and how to find you. Or just a good business card would work and are rather inexpensive. Spend money where you know it will be useful.

And please… Don’t pretend to be bigger than you are. The one thing I hate more than anything is shameless self-promotion. The effrontery of it offends the art of creating. Simplicity is elegant and still professional. Remember what you love and what you do, and that carries over to those you are talking to at the con. Let the creation of it shine through.

Selling Your Soul

People seem to be impressed any time you say that you are an author. It’s a big accomplishment to, first, finish writing a book, and second, seek to get it published, exposing your creative heart to rejection. I can’t really tell if people are impressed or if they just think it’s strange and don’t know how to reply. “Oh, you’re an author? That’s cool…” slowly backs away… huddles children close and talks about college…

Writing is a solitary activity, for the most part. No one can get into your head and explain what you see. Sometimes when you share with non-creative types, it’s hard for them to relate with why this story is so cool and why you need to believe in it.

It’s hard to explain.

Me with a fan

Many creative types are also very private, shy, introverted, and for us to be placed in a situation around thousands (tens of thousands) of people, forced from our cocooned life out into air, and made to talk not just about ourselves, but about our stories, can be hard. I can’t claim to be introverted, I was once shy, but that didn’t last long. However, when placed in an awkward situation, with strangers, asking about my book, I fumble with my words.

“It’s about a girl who discovers she has magic.”

That’s every other book on the shelf. What makes my book special?

And authors don’t know how to talk about our books. It’s nerve-racking that someone wants to know about your words, your heart, your creative dragon that took over your life for six-months or longer. It’s hard for us to come up with an elevator pitch. We know everything about the story. What part would interest them?

Some authors get so desperate if they haven’t sold, people notice the panic. I call this “Killing the Puppy” and the reasons are obvious.

My secret to keeping my puppy alive, is not really a secret at all. I’m just nice and friendly. I KNOW! My big secret to success. I’m nice. People suck some times, but I think everyone has a decent side. That’s my “glass half full” side. I learned at my first con that being nice was what I was most comfortable with, my best way to talk about my books.

Me being a fan. – with V.E. Schwab

Comic Con is full of creative types. Many are introverts and don’t know how to respond when a pretty girl talks to them, which I find adorable. (And which totally happened last con. This poor guy couldn’t speak after he first asked me a question. I really did want to know about your story.) But a lot, and I mean, A LOT are there to show off their cosplay. And if I recognize something is cool, I tell them it’s cool.

My other secret is sincerity. I truly do want to be nice and friendly. I DO like their cosplay. I recognize it and because I recognize it, they think I’m cool. A commonality. And because I’m cool, they want to know about me.

We really are the worst sales people. It’s something that I didn’t know came with the job as an author. Learning to sell your books is hard, but it’s not impossible.

Be kind to your authors. It’s not easy for us.

Partners In Crime

I mentioned getting together with other, experienced authors. I have done this a few times, each time differently. By the time I had a few cons down, I became the experienced author and started helping others out.

SLCC17 Boothmates: Marion G. Harmon, me in my Skeletor shirt, C.K. Johnson, Jessica Parker, and Christine Haggerty Photo courtesy of Instagram: @haggertychristine

Finding a loyal crew to work with can be hard some times, there is a lot of talent and some times their stuff sells better than yours. It is also very rewarding. It’s not as lonely when I share the ledge with others who understand my anxiety, my awkwardness, my trepidation, my fear of rejection. But the ledge is not as thick as I would like, and sometimes other authors need space. Sometimes, I don’t sell by other authors, because I feel the competition in the same genre. I get jealous by other creative works. I get jealous of others’ brains and ideas. It hurts, sometimes.

Boothmates: Another picture – George, Quinn, Jess, C.K. and me as Delilah Bard Photo courtesy of Purple Monkey Photography

Because I am printed through a small press publisher, I can work with them on marketing, and sell my own books. Some bigger publishers require an author to be licensed with a bookstore or distributor in order to do signings. This limits who can be in the booth (sorry Michael 🙁 ). I have been in a booth with my publisher before and I have been with other indie authors as well. What I’ve learned from both experiences – work with those who believe in you just as much as you believe in them.

Author Ben Ireland, me and author Sarah Seeley. Ben was another boothmate. Photo courtesy of Twitter: @SarahESeeley

It’s hard to know what the reader likes or what they would like to read. So, running a booth like a bookstore and having the reader’s interest at heart, is the best (and most fun) way, in my opinion, to run a booth. I usually ask authors that have a similar readership to mine, but different enough to direct them to what the reader would like.

My biggest advocacy as an author – it’s not all about you. These words might shock other authors. It should never be about you, it’s about THEM. Not everyone is going to like my book. Fantasy is not everyone’s cup-o-tea. Some people need the fairy tale, some need the horror and darker bits. And that is why I like community so much, and that is what I try to do within the booth. I’ve found that people are very receptive to this. It’s the success of everyone that’s really at heart. Separating feelings of jealousy is so important to have a successful con. It’s hard, but I promise, it is worth it.

Pretending To Be Special

SLCC17 MST3K: The Return Panel

Being a “Special Guest” over the past few cons has been a very cool experience, but it was not lightly earned and never abused. Being marked “Special” means I get to enter through a different entrance than everyone else, and I get to stand in a long line, oogling other “Special Guests” and contemplating what makes them special. I eavesdrop a lot. These people know each other or know of each other, and talk about very nerdy things or complain about green room entrance. It’s a rainbow of conversation. It’s another show that I feel privileged to witness. 

What does it really mean to be called a “Special Guest?” I don’t really know. I’m always too busy with my booth to enjoy it.

One year, my daughter cosplayed as Lapis Lazuli’s “Bob” character from Steven Universe, and I told her she could not bring the aluminum bat from home, it’s a weapon. She didn’t listen, as is the usual. She brought it anyway, and of course, she was denied access. I came to the rescue. They saw I was a “Special Guest” and let me take in the bat, no questions asked. That was a really strange power to be granted.

Me, moderating the Dr. Demento Panel. Very cool.

But I don’t feel more special than usual. The reason why I keep being asked to be a special guest, is not because I am cool or know better than anyone else, they just like my creativity in the ideas I suggest, and they like ME. I fake knowing more than the audience, unless it’s Sherlock, Futurama, or Blood Science. I try to be engaging and charming, and most of all, funny. It’s me, amplified. But it all goes back to my books. I’m here! Get to know me! And go, read my books, please!

Truth is, being an author is special. It ROCKS! It’s the best freaking job in the world, to make stuff up and get people to believe in it. But I gotta tell ya, it’s a very interesting and different life than I thought it would be. It’s more than just writing a book, it’s branding yourself. Cons are not something that I thought would be such a big, important part of my author experience. But, being at a con gets me one-on-one time with the readers, and I feel like an author there. It gets me respect from big audiences and that connection can’t be replaced. I never know who I will influence or who will be in my path.

Cons have brought me closer to other authors, bigger names than I. It jump-started me becoming an editor. Introduced me to influential people. It has given me a chance to talk with publishers, agents, people I just can’t get to, but are present at these kind of things. It’s a funny, interesting juxtaposition – the quiet, simplistic author being placed in spotlights. It’s odd, but wonderful. And as much anxiety that it may cause, I find I need it. It rejuvenates me and ignites the creativity. It is part of me now, and I carry the beast.

I’m no longer Conning a Con.

If you are interested in any of my boothmates and their books, please click on my last blog: Salt Lake Comic Con 2017 – 1001 Author Tales!

Find them! Read them! Love them!

Salt Lake Comic Con 2017 – 1001 Author Tales!

Ten days! Salt Lake Comic Con is in TEN DAYS! And we are in Booth 1001! I expect to see everyone there.

I’m anxious. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m… just… so many things I might burst!

Salt Lake Comic Con has kinda become home to me. The first year was insane. No one knew what to expect or do. Everyone was new at it, my newby-ness didn’t show so much. I completely winged it and learned on the fly. Now, I’m a professional (right?) and know exactly how it runs (right?), however, it still gives me butterflies putting on the face of the author I’m supposed to be.

Tada!

This year, like other years, I am surrounding myself with authors, both promoting their works and buoying their spirits. I’ve done a booth by myself at these things and it is hard, so hard, and very lonely. When I join with other authors, there is a valuable sense of commendatory, a deep-rooted understanding of the creative process that comes from creating a book, and most importantly, a security blanket, a safe place beyond the crowds and people, where we can be ourselves and share the author world and experience.

There are six other authors in our booth. Here is a snippet of each one and there creative works:


Christine Haggerty writes dark fantasy.She calls it darker than Grimm. Her little novellas are a hit for those fairy tale lovers that like a taste of the the macabre. Her stories are mature, intended for a more sophisticated teen and up.

The Grimm Chronicles Cinderella FINAL COVER 1800x2400

Pre-Order her Cinderella story here: True Love.

Christine is my mechanical arms, the organization of this booth. I take more of a cheerleader role, but someone needs to guide the ship to dock. She holds everything together. Thank you Christine! Mwah!


Marion G. Harmon writes Superhero fiction in a comicbook styling. His series, “Wearing the Cape” made it to Amazon.UK #1 in Superhero fiction. Great for those searching for some strength. It’s perfect for 14+.

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C.K. Johnson also writes fairy tales, but unlike Christine, this is for the tamer, sweeter disposition. This is good for any age. C.K. and I have worked together before. I’m really excited to work with her again.

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Ben Ireland writes Urban Fantasy. His Billy Blacksmith Legacy series surrounds an unlikely hero and 300 lb spider trying to drink his blood. It’s a story for everyone, even the arachnophobes. 36067163Pre-order Billy Blacksmith: The Hellforged here and get the pre-order price. And Demonslayer is currently on sale for Comic Con. It’s fantastic, and seriously, so much fun!


Jessica Parker‘s The Bride Trial is a combination of the Bachelor and the Hunger Games. I think I just got every teen girl’s attention. I think her cover is so stunning. Perfect for those romantic types and teens looking for an adventurous romance. 31930741


Quinn Coleridge coined her work “Gaslight Fantasy” leaning on the Steampunk crowd but with a delicate elegance to the stories. I’m really excited for this rather dark, Sherlockian duo, solving the mysteries of the fantastical.35213244


And if you didn’t know, my Build A World is new also for Comic Con as well, for those would be writers. I sometimes forget that I need to sell my stuff as well, but I promise, here it is if anyone is interested. Pre-order is only $.99! Remember BOOTH 1001! See you there! 😉

Build A World

Let’s Be Authors! – Experiment #1

Experiment #1

Congratulations! You’re an Author! Now what?

This expression is felt by every author. The excitement. The thrill. The CULMINATION of the pinnacle of your creative expression bound and wrapped and now burning your fingertips, as an alive, breathing thing.

A BOOK!!!

It’s so beautiful. The perfect moment. And it truly is… a perfect moment, with the reverence, and silence, and noise, and wonderment. It is everything you hoped for and nothing you expected. The moment is totally worth it… but it all starts there. I know, you thought the hard part was over. Nope! Not even close.

All I could think about before publishing was PUBLISHING!

This is nature.
There was an envy I felt when I spoke to authors, you know, REAL AUTHORS. They had done it, so I knew it was possible. They had scaled the wall of the publishing world, like a ninja or at least maybe Spiderman, and knew what it’s like on the other side. How I dreamed to know what was on that spendiforous other side.
I’ve often described publishing like a door to a spectacular house. And so many people are trying to figure out how to get to the door, or open the door, navigating a way to the door – whatever and however they can. And it’s soooo exciting to open that door. Seriously! It’s a great feeling to push past all those others scrambling to get in, and you do. Finally!
And then you, yes YOU, are in the house. And what do you find on the other side of the door??
It’s a room packed full of authors – all searching for another door.

This is my dedication to the Door Openers

 

I will explain everything I’ve tried through a series of experiments. I have a scientific background and need logic and method when organizing my thoughts. I feel much like a trailblazer in my own publishing right, as I think, many authors feel. I had no compass and no guide to get where I have, so experiments were the best way to test the world I had ventured in. Not every author’s story starts with a six figure deal. Yes, I know some of them who have, but as lovely as that sounds, authoring comes with a set of hurdles every author faces – Relevance, Visibility, Validation, and most importantly, a Backlist. And I can’t say I clawed to recognition either, but tried, regardless of the blows that would come (and they came). Trying gave me experience and perspective. I tried and failed and tried again. It’s just an experiment.

Simple Scientific Method –

  • Come up with a hypothesis
  • Experiment
  • Analyze your findings
Simple. Some experiments worked better than others. Some were absolute dismiss failures. In a general statement, writing is a personal thing, being an author is public. It takes a lot of courage to first read or let others read your stuff, and when people have some type of critique, it can be difficult at first to take. When published, an author has to develop a tough skin, because all the critiques are on public display for everyone to read. In a sense, it’s the same with experimenting. There is excitement, trepidation, and recognition when something isn’t working and still moving on.
As the blog goes I will list a number of experiments, not in any specific order, I can’t keep track of all that, to highlight the “Success” the world sees and the failure an author feels.

And here, my Experiment #1 is this blog.

I don’t think it is necessary to rehash my first fleeting attempts to get published, but know they happened, over hard years of rewriting and rejection.
Scared little bird, aren’t I? Happily having no idea what I was doing. 1st Salt Lake Comic Con Sept. 2013
For me, being an author started after the hoopla died down from the first release of my debut novel with a publisher. I first published with a smaller publisher, not one of the big houses. I had no marketing team to help me. I quickly found out what I could do and couldn’t do in the publishing world. There are a lot of rules placed on publishing houses that are not part of the BIG SIX. And a secret world, run by the Illumanati, of rules, restrictions, and secret handshakes that the author is never a part of, and I learned every kind of rejection finding this out.
And you need to be really good, and freaking CHARMING, in order to get your books in stores. But, even then it was through consignment, because of rules. 
I learned over time about being present, actively participating in writing groups or conferences, return policies and book store signings, social FREAKING media, engaging an audience, outside book festivals, writing communities and leadership – and adding to that PTSD, getting over the insecurities and pretending to be someone I’m not, the idea that everyone will not read your books, and the expectation that everyone should… and so, so many battles and experiments that worked, failed, or failed in epic proportion… all just trying to get noticed. This, and more embarrassing or insightful hilarities to come.
But, beyond all that I have said, the point of LET’S BE AUTHORS! is to have fun, to see the you are not alone in the world of publishing, and to laugh at the pitfalls we all have. WELCOME TO PUBLISHING, PEOPLE!
I thought for kicks, I would add my post from the day I signed my contract with my publisher, from my silly, retired blog I had. You can see all the lights shining in my words, the brilliance of each sentence gleaning the possibilities of this strange, new world were I had no idea, no clue what waited for me. Thanks for joining me.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2012

More Adventures in Awesomeness!!

News! News! News!

It’s never a boring time with me.  There is always something crazy happening in my life.  Besides stuffing myself like a Turkey Dinner this holiday, I also did something a little insane.

What could it be??? you ask….

Let’s take some questions from the audience…

  • Did you win the lottery?  sadly no, but I feel like I did.
  • Did you get your braces off?  – I WISH.  My news isn’t that cool, but on that note, they will come off in DECEMBER! Santa is delivering my Christmas wish a little early.
  • Did you finally get that gum out of the carpet?  Nope, but better than that – I REPLACED IT!

Have you given up yet??  No???

  • Did medical science decide to freeze my embryos for future generations to bask in the presence of awesome me?  Umm… no, but that would be cool.  And on that other note, no I’m not pregnant, but thank you for thinking that I could.
  • Did you get your midnight tickets for THE HOBBIT?  OF COURSE!! And my shirts are hot and ready to feel the magic, but that’s not it, though it’s cool too.

Oh…. did you give up? Fine, I will tell you.

I decided to try and get my book published and guess what?  It worked.  I am now a contracted author with Xchyler Pubishing. (it’s pronounced Skyler, for those of you who are thinking about some crazy baby name spellings).  I’m just getting started, but they are super excited to have me with them.

Next you’ll see my very own theme park in Florida.  Cool huh?

If you have read my story and know the genre, just take a look at the website and you’ll know my book is a perfect fit. http://xchylerpublishing.com/

Wish me luck!!!

 


With this blog I hope to highlight not just me, but other authors and what they tried, the different experiments we have tried to get our books in readers hands. It’s a humorous blog, though tongue and cheek, but it’s meant to enjoy and share the feelings us authors feel. I hope, also, to add a podcast as will, because authors are whores when it comes to talking about themselves and how they failed too.


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