Thursday, September 10, 2009

Surviving the Con

Okay, hotshot. Your book's been published, and now you've been booked for a convention appearance or have secured a table at the next relevant convention. What do you do? Relax. Surviving the con is painless and is actually one of the most fun parts of this job. I have a blast at conventions, and you can too. Just use your head and follow a few simple guidelines:
  • Your Table - It doesn't take a genius to see that a visually unattractive table will not inspire folks to come by. Little things make a difference. For example: I use a black spiderweb tablecloth on mine. Sure, it's a minor thing, but it would surprise you how many comments I get about it. Also, no matter how many copies of your book (or how many titles) you have, don't clutter your space. Put out between one and three of every title, then stash the rest under your table. Make sure your space looks clean and professional. And props don't hurt at all. My table usually has my gargoyle bookends, a coffin that I use to hold markers and pens, and a candy dish that looks like a pile of skulls filled with Jolly-Ranchers. I know it's cheating, but it works. Make sure your price list is clearly posted, as is your name with "Author" below it. If you can swing it, go to Kinko's and get a poster made up of yourself and your book cover(s). True, it might be pricy, but it's worth it.
  • Your Appearance - Please, folks. You're a professional now. Look like it. They say clothes make the man (or woman), and, to an extent, it's true. I'm not saying that every convention is a suit-and-tie event, but I am saying this: Dress appropriately. Dress the way you want to be perceived, and be damned sure that's how you want to be perceived.
  • Your Fans - This is probably the single most important piece of advice I can give, so please pay attention here. WITHOUT THE FANS, YOU WOULDN'T HAVE A JOB. Fans include anyone who's ever even thought about reading one of your books, so consider everyone at the con the same way: The people who allow you to write. Show some appreciation for them because they deserve it. Be nice and friendly to everyone. This doesn't mean that you have to endure the indignant or possibly psychotic stalker that hangs out at your table for three hours, but you should smile at everyone, engage in polite conversation, and let the fans know that you appreciate them. I've been to cons with a host of celebs, and the best ones are the ones that never turn a fan away and always have time to talk to them. Among the best of them are Ari Lehman, Bill Johnson, and Roddy Piper. I've honestly never seen any of them be rude, turn down, or walk away from a fan, and I respect them for that.
  • The Other Celebs - That's right, the other celebs. You're one too, remember? You have to walk in with that mindset so you don't turn into a drooling fanboy when you meet your idols. In the hospitality suite (that magic room where they go when they disappear, to which you now have access), they just want to breathe without being asked for autographs or to pose for pictures. This does not mean that you can't talk to them. In fact, most of them are genuinely nice and down-to-earth and are interested in making friends. Not business connections, mind you, but friends. So introduce yourself, listen and talk, and be yourself. That's all there is to it.
  • Practice Your Patter - Have an opening line, a book description, or a prepared sentence or two that you can repeat without stuttering. It makes you appear more confident and more intelligent.
Above all, conventions are meant to be fun. Take your camera, prepare to meet some wonderful (and some weird) people, and have a great time. Remember why you're there: Because someone thought you were worth the time to appear, and because you appreciate the people who put you here: the fans.

Good luck!

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