Last March, I attended the Lexington Comic and Toy Convention (LCTC) in downtown Lexington Kentucky. It was about a two hour drive for us — not bad considering the fickle weather the area can have. It was my first con ever, and I went as a spectator. Wow, was I blown away! While the LCTC isn’t huge, it’s still draws celebrities and brings in over 20,000 people during the three-day event.
While perusing the hundreds of booths, I discovered not all of them are totally comic-related. There were folks selling cosplay gear, novelties, toys, and even one booth selling cute furry little sugar gliders. And there were authors — a fair number of them. That got my mind churning. So when we got home, I jumped on the computer and started doing research. A check of my author’s bank account left me feeling reasonably comfortable that I could afford this.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I live in the middle of nowhere. It’s downright hard to get exposure as an author when the base population is small and primarily rural. So thinking a bit bigger might be a good thing. The clock was now ticking. I had about ten months to decide if I wanted to do this. The first thing to consider was the price of the booth.
Now this isn’t the massive San Diego Comic Con, so I was relieved to see that a three-day booth rental was $250. I opted for one of the lower-priced booths in the upper level — which still receives a lot of traffic. Once I made up my mind and booked the booth, I was now committed to this project.
For most, a two hour drive isn’t a big deal. But, when you live in the backwoods and the roads can be dicey and icy, you don’t want to be commuting such a distance every day for the entire con. Hotels in Lexington can cost a premium, so I booked as early as I could and used the LCTC discount. Since I’m rarely in the big city, I had no clue about hotels. And parking and driving in the area can be a real nightmare (last year’s experience was a fine example). So I opted to stay at the hotel directly connected to the convention center where I could use their parking garage and walk everywhere. And that’s where the sticker shock hit. My room for Friday and Saturday nights (checking out early Sunday morning) cost MORE than my booth! To the tune of $425.00 Ouch!
Now onto the booth itself. I’d noticed that many had nice backdrops that were colorful and helped accent what they were selling; that immediately got added to my “shopping list.” I want to feature two characters from some of my series, with images of the books printed on each side. I can’t draw worth a darn, so I worked a deal with a budding local artist. I’d let him set up shop in my booth in return for his drawing me the characters. This helps me in two ways: I get a little added security at my booth because one of us will always be there; and artists actively working on projects tend to draw people in to see what they are doing. So this should hopefully turn into a win-win situation. The only part I have not yet explored is the actual printing of the backdrop. I know of two or three local printing shops and I’ll take the design to them and get quotes. I plan on having bookmarks printed up with a short bio, featuring all my books available along with buy links for eBooks.
Of course the main aim of a con is to get noticed. Table goodies and swag are a necessity. For book signings I normally have 1-2 bowls of sweets to entice people. Chocolate is always a favorite, so look for sales after holidays where you can get it at a better price. Make sure the wrappers aren’t holiday specific! I’ll offer some items other than books for sale. I use a company called Zazzle.com to have things custom printed. There are other companies out there, but Zazzle happened to have a contract with the Postal Service for printing stamps, and I thought that’d be cool to mail letters with MY book covers on them. The key to getting the most out of a custom printer is watching for sales. I managed to order $15 mugs for ½ price because I caught a sale. I also did the same with t-shirts, a poster for my new release, and some stickers. So I can actually charge full price for the items and hope to make a little profit. If you order often, they have a service called Zazzle Black which is about $10/year and gives you free shipping on just about everything. I recently reviewed my profile and saw that I’d saved over $90 in shipping this year alone!
Buying paperback books is going to be the most painful part besides the hotel room. I use CreateSpace, and while I do get a discount on the cover price, the shipping can be expensive. What I’m trying to do is select something each month and make a purchase. In November, it was buying the merchandise. Probably January I’ll stock up on more books to make sure I have enough. Either December or February I’ll get the backdrop and bookmarks printed. I have a ton of business cards from a previous purchase, so I don’t have to worry about those.
Cosplay is a fun way to stop people and get them engaged in conversation. Last year I saw some doozies! So I decided I’d dress up as a character from my military thriller series. In July I started working on the costume. I needed a specific color of military battle uniform, custom embroidered patches, and a few accessories. So far the total cost is coming in around $250, and if I do other events, I can wear the costume again and again.
I’m very excited about March 2016. This will be new ground for me. I have no clue how this will go, but considering I’m a totally unknown Indie author, I’m not getting my hopes up for massive sales. If I sell a few books and goodies, that’s great, but the main aim of the comic con is to get folks to see me, my books, and get my name out there. Not to mention, having some fun!