Book conventions are the topic of the week and frankly, I have next to no direct experience with being a seller at one.
I have not (yet) published a book and therefore have never even considered having a table at a convention. I have been to regional ones with book talks and many sellers. Although it has been a mixed experience, I plan on attending more, but for the past several years my plans have been dashed.
I have heard incredible stories of great opportunities for networking at conventions. Many independent writers, or those published by small presses, have serendipitously gotten into bigger presses or find a great agents at conventions, but alas, that is the exception rather than the rule.
One now-huge writer said that when she was on her way up, she met a mega-star writer just outside the hall as they left a convention late one night. (“I wanted to ask her: Don’t you have people to keep people like me away from you?”) She and her husband asked the famous writer to join them for dinner and they had a marvelous evening, but I wouldn’t count on that happening to many of us.
In fact, I may be telling tales out of school, but one of our former Foxes spent good money to get into a big book convention only to be duffled into another room, away from the New York press authors, who were all put into a main room. She and the other smaller-press authors in the smaller room later found out that attendees were steered away from their room and were told that it was only for ‘over-flow’. The Fox and the others had wondered why they had seen so few potential buyers. It was totally unfair, as the smaller-press, lesser-known authors paid just as much as the big-guns. How were they going to become better-know and bigger-guns with such treatment? (This is something you need to ask and consider if you are ever planning to attend a convention.)
As some of my colleagues have stated this week, some parts of conventions are hard to handle. So many yet-to-be-famous writers looking hopefully in your direction. So many nice people to meet, so many interesting people to talk to, so many interesting books, but you’d have to be independently wealthy, (with great charity in your heart), and time on your hands to buy every book from everyone you meet. It is hard to turn down or gingerly avoid having to buy books from every one of the authors. My resources have been quite limited most of the time and the book talks, author lectures and workshops are fun…and free. Frankly, I missed many of them at the last one, speaking for hours to an author I had met online through Jeff-the-Hound, who was also in attendance for part of the day, along with his lovely wife. (Yet another perk of a book convention: meeting online friends in person!) My husband hit some more of the talk and we had taken my grandson, who likes to write. He attended a great workshop with a famous children’s author who encouraged him greatly, (as did Jeff and our mutual friend. Thanks again, Jeff; he is still writing as a teenager.)
It is also difficult at times to go as a visitor to a bigger convention with big-name authors or other famous people who are there to promote a book and with whom you would like to speak. Take a stuffed wallet or a card with a high credit limit because you are not getting near them without having bought a book there at the convention for them to sign. And your time with them may be very limited indeed.
All that having been said, I keep planning on attending more and will, I do hope. If I get my own works ready will I ever get a table at one?
Right now, I have to say that frankly, I don’t know, but I think that I would. I can’t see that it is worth it in the monetary and sales areas, but I observed great camaraderie and support among the authors while they were waiting between possible customers and even during the interaction with them. So many lovely people who would introduce me to the writer in the next chair, or point me to a friend of theirs, it was quite heartening. I might go in it for that, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it.
How about you? Anything you’d like to add concerning book conventions?