Last week, we talked about why live book events are important for authors, how to choose which events are right for you, and how to maximize your time at smaller events like library or bookstore readings. You can check that out here: Book Events – Part 1.
Today, let’s talk about larger events like Cons and conferences. I’ve been to many, so all this is advice comes from first-hand experience!
Top Tips to Maximize Your Time at Large Events:
- Apply to be on a panel. Most conferences and Cons have panels. Think about your area of expertise as a writer. Can you talk about world-building or character driven fiction? The panels are generally well attended, and by sitting up at that table, you’ve got a captive audience. When I finish a panel, quite a few people follow me back to my table and buy my books.
- Create an eye-catching display. You’ll have a table, so be sure to make it appealing. Put out a bowl of candy. Set up a banner behind you. When I have a table with my fantasy writer friend, we hang a letter board behind us and periodically change out the message to funny things like, “Authors need booze money!” I also have a little chalkboard on my table that says, “These are the books you’re looking for.” Star Wars fans get it. People stop and laugh, and then check out our books.
- Give something away. Bookmarks, business cards, or book postcards are a great idea. Make sure anything you give away has contact info, social media links, and a link to your books.
- Interact with the crowd. As a sci-fi fan, I attended Comic Cons before I was ever a vendor at one, so I love the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd at these events. It’s easy for me to talk to the people who stop by. But I don’t just wait for them to stop, I stand behind my table, smile, and say hello to just about everyone. I compliment costumes and ask people if they’re having fun. Be approachable.
- BUT, don’t annoy people with hard sell tactics. I engage with people as they walk by, but I don’t talk about my book unless someone asks me directly.
- Have a quick, enticing pitch ready when they do ask. One of my kids was my table buddy at Boston Comic Con a few summers ago. When he heard me stumbling over my book description to the first few interested people, he said, “Mom, that was terrible. You have got to do better.” We practiced and refined for a few minutes until I had a couple of sentences that captured the essence of the story. Think log line but with a more conversational tone.
- Network! Selling books isn’t the only opportunity at conferences and Cons. Make new friends. I leave every conference and Con with at least one interview booked, stacks of business cards in my bag, and a nice bump in my social media following. And ‘BarCon’ is a thing! Find out where people are congregating after hours and join the fun.
- Take care of yourself. Conferences and Cons are fun, but exhausting. Have a bottle of water, some power bars and snacks with you. Wear comfortable shoes. I bring a yoga mat to stand on and it really helps.
- Take Monday off. If possible, give yourself some downtime after a conference or Con. The days are long, and sometimes the nights are even longer! I’m a disaster after a weekend on my feet, and I plan an easy day when I come home.
Some final thoughts:
- Mind your budget. For indies, time and money are considerations. After all, no one is going to pay to send you on a cross-county book tour! Even if you’re published traditionally, you’ll likely have a limited budget. Think local. Also, think about events where you can share a table or podium with another author who writes in a similar genre. You may need to spend a little money if you want to attend conferences or Cons, but if your target audience is in attendance, try one and evaluate the cost benefit.
- Most of all, have fun. You’ve worked hard and you have something to show for it. Enjoy the time with your fans and fellow authors!
Hopefully events will become a productive part of your overall book marketing plan. Experiment, make adjustments, think strategically, and enjoy!