Forget bringing your notebook for a little writing or browsing. Forget that ball of knitting. This isn't your little literary convention. This is Comic Con. This is several thousand visitors hitting the floor, and you're going to be busy. Very busy. Grab a great breakfast. Bring water bottles. Get your game on, and understand that you'll be playing at your best for up to twelve hours.
It can get intense. As in the following where I'm both selling and also coaching a starting writer:
Sometimes the lane in front of me was packed solid with folks. Many of the convention goers came dressed for the part, in costumes ranging from television to movies, and (of course) comics. Most will simply walk by - maybe give you a glance. They're after merchandise, not books. Others will pause. Some you engage directly in conversation while others simply scoop up a business card. I generally didn't bother with a hard sell - that only gets your out-thrust card or pamphlet stuffed into a dumpster once you're out of their sight.
I did great - well over a hundred business cards taken, many folks writing down the promo code offered by my publisher, and quite a few folks buying the books themselves. As a promotional effort, today was a smashing success (again, remember that these folks didn't come here to buy books).
The hours were grueling - the conference opened at 9:30am for the VIP guests, and didn't end until 7:00pm that evening. The name of the game is pacing and hydration. Don't stop sipping at the water. Do bring a friend to assist at your table so one of you can get up and walk around at least once an hour. A bonus comes when you're in costume like the rest (note the outfit) as you get to have your picture taken in the process of taking a quick breather. Make sure lunch isn't ignored, either. Or coffee as the afternoon wears on (and the people keep coming).
Networking is no small matter, either. There are opportunities to grab - such as the organizer of a smaller comic-con in southern Texas offering me a free table if I came down next year. A little research and wow, the convention actually was sizable enough to garner my full attention.
So, the busiest day of the convention is over. Tomorrow will be more like Friday, with those who purchased a two or three day pass intent on combing the floor for something they might have missed or simply not decided on. Sunday the convention runs for only six hours, and then it is time to pack up and leave.
Things I've learned so far has to do with logistics. If you can leave it at the convention for the next day, you don't have to worry about toting it in. Most of my outfit, for instance, remains at the convention in a suitcase so I can simply throw it on when I come in and not have to otherwise concern myself with it. Only regret is that I didn't flip some of my pamphlets sooner to explain the stories behind the books, and that I decided not to print up special business cards with the promo code on them like I had last year. I'm doing good if that's all I'm worried about.
Did I make a profit? Hah! This isn't retail, folks. This is promotion, and promotion is an expense. Don't go to one of these thing somehow expecting that the cost of your registration and books will be erased by how many books you sell. You'll be disappointed every time. Count the outbound cards, and be delighted when you do sell books. Tally up the hits on your site in the weeks to follow as if each one was a gold coin. That's how you know you did well.
On to Sunday!