Costs for tables at smaller cons run about 150-200 dollars, and larger conventions can be 200-500 dollars.
You also have to remember that larger cons run about three days (Fan Expo is four days) and small conventions are usually a weekend. Percentage-wise, I do better at smaller conventions, because of less competition and cheaper ticket prices.
Of course, though, I love to do the larger cons because I get to sell a large number of books, which increases my fan base.
Another thing I like to recommend to people, to increase the elements of sale, is to participate in book of the year contests. Last year I sent out my book to four contests, and was nominated for one. Having that finalist sticker increased my sales by thirty to forty percent.
People need to be reassured that the thing they are buying is worth the money they are spending. Having those accolades are a very large step toward that.
One other thing: they will offer to sell you little foil stickers to put on your books. Buy those, they are worth it. Eye-catching and impressive looking.
They will also offer you to get space on a shelf at some large book conventions, for a price. Don’t waste your money on that, or the advertising in magazines. They have yet to yield a single sale for me.
If you are interested in doing national level conventions, make sure to check the application dates on the internet, and apply eight to ten months in advance. Even if you do not get in, they will ask you if you want to be put on the waiting list. Say yes. With over a thousand booths, the odds of you getting it a few weeks before the event are in your favor. It happened to me twice last year.
As for getting there and delivering your books, the convention will generally accept orders to a storage facility that is operated by the people who take care of the convention centre, so that all you have to do is have it shipped to the address they give you one month before the convention, and they will have it delivered straight to your booth. This will be for a fee, of course.
If you have family or friends in the area, try to stay with them or have your books delivered to their home instead.
If you don’t, look at renting a hotel room with Booking.com. They have been very reliable so far. But always, always, always get a room which is cancellable. There’s nothing worse than being on the hook for a 600 dollar room you won’t use because your convention has been cancelled. Believe me, I know.
I used to go through plane-fare sites, but I’ve discovered that the prices are fairly similar on the Air Canada web site, plus you don’t have the same coverage or insurance.
If you want to do out of town conventions, here is a good tip: Leave a day before the convention, and come back a day after.
Why? Because you can go do your setup the day previous and scope everything out before the insane crush of people shows up, plus you have an evening to check out the city you are visiting.
Leaving a day later means that you get to sleep the night after the convention. You will need sleep. Sometimes I could use a good two days of sleep.
Having the hotel within walking distance of the event means you save on car rental and taxis.
Nowadays I save a lot of money by bringing a cooler full of sandwiches to eat during the con, and then I treat myself to a nice restaurant in town afterwards.
Make sure you have your float (cash you’ll need for the convention) with you. Cash machine prices get jacked up during conventions, and it is not unheard of to have 8 dollar processing fees at ATMs at the conventions.
Same goes for convention food. Bottles of water are 5 dollars and a slice of pizza will cost you a kidney or the lesser evil part of your soul. Sometimes both.
Also very important is to try to have a booth buddy. Remember, you’re on your own. If you get hungry, or suddenly need to go to the little Edgar Allan Poe’s room, you’re still on your own. I usually bribe someone with a free pass to the convention, which most conventions provide two of, since they’re assuming you’re a company with employees anyhow.
A little bit about convention psychology: I used to sell my book at 17 dollars. When I went to a few conventions, I saw that prices were incrementally in the 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, dollar range. I priced my book at 20 dollars because that is usually the upward limit, psychologically, that a person can justify spending on an unknown author for a book that may not be as potentially as enthralling as advertised. Not that it isn’t, but it all comes back to: are you known? If you aren’t, how good is your writing, really? Or so think the people that will buy what you have on offer. So far I’ve gotten very good responses, but I think that that’s partly because the cost/experience ratio has been fair.
I had a booth neighbor a while ago who was also an author. Whatever elements she was using were great: she had a beautiful setup, very medieval, had a good pitch, as far as I could tell, but she was selling a 35 dollar book. On the Saturday of the convention, she’d sold 13 copies. That price breaks the psychological barrier, and people aren’t willing to spend on it. Twenty dollars should be your upward limit if you hope to sell books. Keep that in mind when you are about to release a monstrous, 450 page blockbuster. Is your audience already in place, ready to spend on it as soon as it is released? If not, why not try to make it a two-parter? I’m working on a novel right now that is running 407 pages as of today. I’m expecting it to go up to 500 when it’ll be done. If I print it, it’ll cost me 12 to 15 dollars per unit, and then I’ll have to sell it at 35 to 40 dollars a copy to turn a profit. I’d rather make it a two-parter, selling it at 20 dollars a copy, which remains in the realm of people’s psychologically acceptable limit, and have them buy the next volume on Amazon and make internet sales. Simple as that.
The way that conventions work is that, most people have a three or four day pass (or two, for smaller ones). Various stars come in on various days, so it’s worth it to get a whole weekend pass. People will then wander around the whole show floor and check what is on offer. The first day is generally “Looking Day”. Most people don’t like to carry a bunch of stuff around with them, so they will wait for the Saturday to buy anything. You’ll make fewer sales on a Thursday or Friday, but it will go up incrementally. On the Saturday, that’s when your sales will boom, and you will work your butt off. The Sunday will usually be a lot quieter because everyone is tired and will have spent all their money.
Sunday is also the day you will have no voice left because you spoke to a thousand people. It is also the day you will be reminiscing about the incredible time you had during your stay at con.
All the experience you get from doing book sales and conventions will help you with the next one, and the next one. The important part is to have fun, to always remain courteous, to get plenty of rest, and to have fun with the people you’ll meet. Because on top of attendees, you will have some crazy fun booth neighbors, and if you’re like me, you’ll have friends and family pop by and hang out for a while. Enjoy it, try not to get overwhelmed, stay positive, and smile, and you will make it out mostly unscathed.
Are there any questions?