Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wizard World Day 3

Okay, crowd attendance wasn't like Friday - more like a cross between Friday and Saturday with a few thousand folks peaking during mid-day.  Approximately one hundred more business cards were taken up, along with more networking (one promised review and an invitation to a Houston comic con).  Pretty much a repeat of Saturday in so far as how the wife and I paced ourselves.

Vickie on station (kissy!)

Overall, I'd say the convention was a success with a couple hundred cards in circulation as well as a some books.  Got plenty of pictures snapped of myself - even a few videos.  So, if you can dress up like the other con folks, by all means get involved.  Remember what I said about organizing early?  I preregistered for 2013 before leaving.

Now, I said I wouldn't be tossing up con pictures, hard to resist!

Excellent Iron Man

The Irony!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wizard World Day 2

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!      

Friday, October 26, 2012

Wizard World Day 1

Damn, I'm tired.

Came in well before the 11:am opening and got suited up.  Put out the books and pamphlets.  Located a nearby Starbucks (try and avoid eating at the convention site if possible) and we had our lunch.  The day went by with steady crowds, but not the full-on madhouse I expect from tomorrow when the crowds really hit (along with the cos-play).  We did have several cos-players about just the same, and I was asked quite a few times to pose for a picture myself.

The business cards went out in satisfying numbers, with the folks more willing to just grab from a spread on the table rather than the more neatly arranged card holders.  Something to think about.  Even sold a couple books.  One of the toughest things to do is the "elevator pitch" - explaining in quick and satisfying terms what your book is about when asked.  Sometimes it's best for me just to point to a back cover or invite them to look at the iPad video, but I do try my best just the same.  I would count the day a success, and the new display system a great idea.  Below is me before the crowds got started.  Tomorrow I will try and show what it's like in mid-crazy.  Yeah, that's me in full steam punk regalia (grin).

(ps - this isn't going to be a "con" page showing picture after picture of cos-players.  Gonna stay on the writing aspect)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wizard World Day -1

Setup day!

It's Thursday afternoon and time to do an initial setup at our table.  We chose to take the car instead of the metro (cheaper) and parked close to the convention center.  Was able to haul everything in one trip, so success!

Inside, we went straight away to the registration table and got our wrist bands that allow full access to the floor for the next three days.  Only bother is that we have to keep the wrist band on throughout the entire event (which means sleeping and bathing with it).  It's very unobtrusive so no biggy.

As can be expected, the convention floor was a construction zone.  As you can see below, this is what we started with once we found our table:

Of course, I'm dressing for the occasion (frumpy but comfortable).  You can see that our table has yet to even be covered.  That was quickly remedied.  The big suitcase I'm resting against is full of books.  We needed a sturdy hard shell case to avoid damaging the paperbacks over time.  There's foam on the inside to make sure the products stay put as well.  Take a close look at that black backpack on the table.  My entire display grid is packed inside that thing.

So, we took roughly an hour and a half to get everything straightened out.  To stand out from the crowd, we put our own cover on the table (sprinkled with stars).  All in all, we ended up taking three hours, with the waiting and chatting and resting.  Saw someone drive in a Delorian all decked out like the car in Back To The Future.  Chatted some with a famous sword maker (Dragon Song Forge) who was setting up his impressive wares.  The young lady next to us will be selling t-shirts, and they do look nice.

Below is our finished table for the evening, complete with the nice name tag provided by Wizard World.  Note that we didn't do everything - the books are still not displayed, nor are the various pamphlets and such.  We'll do that Friday morning before opening while latecomers are scrambling to throw their stuff up before the show starts.  Still deciding if we will dress out in steam punk Friday or wait until the weekend.  I will provide a picture with us in full operation tomorrow.  You can see the box grid and how we set it up to display the books.  The "shelves" (peg board tool holders) are hard to see, however a copy of Waiting Weapon can be seen on one (used for spacing).  Also shown is the Vista Print banner behind us.  Looking forward to the show tomorrow!  Tonight the iPad and phones will get a full charge.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wizard World Day -8

Things are speeding up now, and all in the right direction.  Made phone contact again with the Wizard World folks and was assured that "Yes, we're really really about to send emails out to the artists."  More important was getting the organizer of Artist Alley to confirm that I am on their list.

Email came in with all the nice little instructions on when and where.  Got my table assignment (all subject to change at the last possible moment, if last year's event was any measure).

Requested a promo code from my publisher.  Just received it.  These things are great for everyone involved.

Inventory got a second look, and the main display box (sort of a swivel thingy) we used last year was just not going to give us that professional look.  This time we opted out for a relatively inexpensive solution from Amazon that employs a combination of four grid boxes that come completely apart.  Lovely things - you can hang anything off them or simply use the inside of the box.  We seen a few of these being used to great effect in the last Comic-con.  Grid work arrives and is everything we hoped for.  A quick trip to the local hardware store and I had clip-in shelving for the books themselves (okay, the clip-in stuff was supposed to be for peg board tools, but it fit great!).  Did a full dress rehearsal of the display to get the kinks out.  It will be a huge upgrade over our last appearance, and will also be tall enough to easily catch the eye.

Next came the job of stuffing our new-found acquisition into an easily portable container.  Remember, you really don't want a huge amount of stuff going in with you if you can help it.  Good news - the entire (gasp) assembly and extra additions fit nicely into a backpack.  Went over to our other goodies we take along and put them into a carry-on bag.  Again , perfect.  The only bulk stuff now will be the books themselves, and we already have one rolling luggage for that along with two smaller boxes.  Our goal is considerable - two people being able to haul everything out in one run (so we can have the option of taking the light rail).

What are we taking?  Well, here's the list:

1.  Sixty-five paperback books covering the entire Dancer series and the spinoff "Waiting Weapon".
2.  One 28" x 28" grid display.
3.  Table cover, star sprinkles, our candy-giving froggy, signing pen, card holders, signage.
4.  Around 300-400 business cards.  At least 50 or so handouts and book markers.
5.  One each author and wife, armed with iPhone and the Square app to take credit cards.
6.  Full steam punk outfits for both of us (most likely worn from the start).
7.  8' banner and stand.

All on one trip...ahem.  Maybe.  Or not.  More dress rehearsals to come!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wizard World - Day -12

Arrangements made to take Friday off.  Wife will represent on Thursday's setup as I anticipate a mad rush for table spots.  Why?  Because I still haven't received any preliminary table assignment or email of any kind from the sponsors.  Called their contact in New York for the Artist Alley and was assured that emails would be going out this week.  This means nothing has gone out previous to this week to anyone.  That's not totally worth panic as assignments tend to be thrown about at the last minute anyway (more of an advisory at this point).

Encouraging things - my picture is now on the web page even though it was last year's picture (their link for this year to submit fresh bio was broken).  No problem, doubt many folks are pouring over the myriad of pictures anyway.  This means I'm at least on the list, and that's the main issue.

Inventory is solid.  Steam punk outfit is in great shape.  Letting the clock continue to tick down.  Lessons learned so far is that the only consistent thing about these big conventions is that they're great when it comes to taking your money, and very much last-minute when it comes to the logistics.  I feel sorry for this year's coordinator - another hair puller to be sure.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Wizard World - Day -24

What is it like to attend a large Comic Con convention?  Not as a fan, but as one of the many artists in "Artist Alley"?  Well, here we go with my series on everything leading up to the event.  Some background first.

This is the second Wizard World convention I will be attending.  The goal at this convention, beyond having a great time, is to "be seen".  My expectations are not to sell many books, but see those business cards get passed out.  Why such seemingly low goals?  Simple.  This is not a literary event - most folks are interested in Comics, Guests, and related merchandise...oh, and related artists.  A SF writer is going to be near to dead last on the list.  These were the lessons from last year.  Sold few books, but gave out LOTS of business cards.

So what did I do to prepare for the last one?  Well, I upped my game for starts.  A full banner showcasing my Dancer Series.  An iPad showing a video of the same said series.  A new stand from which I could showcase both the iPad and the books at the same time.  Finally, when I started noticing that my wife was getting more eye contact once she put on her steam punk outfit, I went out and got my own clothes from a vendor.  Immediate change in that folks considered me more approachable.

Getting Prepared For This Year - Early Bird Gets The Table

As with all conventions, you have to start early.  I sent my first email out in January, 2013 to establish contacts with the parent company regarding who would be involved this year.  I received the needed information, and preregistered myself and the wife for a table in February.  Adding in extra discounted tickets for the two kids, I paid out $350.00.  No, a comic-con event is not cheap.  In the case of Austin's Wizard World, these prices were reasonable when you look at the larger events around the country.  Received my receipt by the end of the month.  I'm paid and registered. 

Two months later, after a couple more conventions, I top off my paperback book orders and have more than enough new business cards for the distant event.  All is well.  Time to forget things for awhile.

Waking Up From Hibernation - October Has Arrived 

It is now just under four weeks until the convention.   My first task is to re-affirm my status with the event managers.  Things are a bit worrisome as I haven't received any emails concerning either my tentative table location or any promo media for my site.  Two emails head out requesting status - one to my former contact at the Comic-Con headquarters and another to a new email address provided on the site for those interested in Artist Alley.  I dig up the official payment receipt - just to be sure.  Plan A will be to wait for a reply.  Plan B is to show up with receipt in hand on opening day - not the best idea but table assignments are VERY fluid on opening day.  Informed my workplace I would be taking the 26th off.  It is October 2nd, and I am warming up for the main event.