This weekend, I will be a Special Guest at Columbia, Missouri’s ComicCon: DoDecaCon. Fellow guests include New York Times bestselling author John Jackson Miller.
Here’s the layout of booths. I will be at Special Guests Table 2. (click to enlarge)
My panel schedule is Saturday only, with the following two panels:
2:00 PM Special Guest Q&A with Bryan Thomas Schmidt, John Jackson Miller and D.A. Roberts-Main Stage
3:00 PM Writing in an Established Universe with John Jackson Miller-Panel Room A
Barnes and Noble, Columbia, will be selling my books and I will sell others at my table. To help me out, please buy my Baen books from B&N then come have me sign or personalize. I will likely do signing times each day at B&N as well (TBD). The rest of my books will be on sale at my own table, Special Guest Table 2.
Okay, I am going to Los Angeles for Stan Lee’s Comikaze Comic Con, a place I lived for 7 years and have not visited in 19. Excited to see old friends and see how the city has changed. I will also be hanging out with some very cool people, both at the WordFire Booth #1342, on panels and at the Con generally, including stars from Star Wars, The Flash, Star Trek TOS, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and more. Come join us. I will have early release copies of both my novel, The Worker Prince and my Baen hard SF anthology, Mission: Tomorrow. Here’s where to find me Friday through Sunday at the Los Angeles Convention Center:
Friday Panels 10/30/15:
4:00 – 4:50 pm Writing Existing Worlds
A panel of authors and editors discuss writing media tie-ins, comics and more in popular franchise from Star Wars to X-Files and more
Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Panelists: Kevin J. Anderson, David Farland, Jody Lynn Nye, Peter J. Wacks, Neo Edmund
Panel Moderator: Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Saturday Panels 10/31/15:
11:00am-11:50pm Worlds of WordFire
Publisher Kevin J. Anderson and several authors discuss existing and forthcoming titles from WordFire Press, a small up and coming small press publisher whose authors include New York Times Bestsellers like Frank Herbert, David Farland, Jody Lynn Nye, Todd McCaffrey, Alan Dean Foster, and More
Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Panelists: Kevin J. Anderson, Peter J. Wacks, David Farland, Jody
Lynn Nye, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Neo Edmund, Rebecca Moesta,
Panel Moderator: Kevin J. Anderson
4:00pm-4:50pm Publishing Unlimited: The Many Paths to Worldwide
Publication for Writers
E-Books. Digital Comics. Newsletters. Blogs. Print on demand. For those of us
with a passion for telling stories through the written word, there are now
limitless opportunities to publish, produce, and distribute our work. Of
course, with so many options, it can be a brain scrambler to know which path
is best suited for a particular project. Write it as a book? A Screenplay? A
comic? Is it better to go indie or seek out a traditional publisher? Join this
awesome panel of professional writers and story editors, and story editors as
they discuss the many paths they’ve taken to get their work published and
Genre: New Media
Panelists: Kevin J. Anderson, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Peter J. Wacks, Rebecca Moesta
Moderator: Neo Edmund
Sunday Panels 11/01/15:
12:00pm-12:50pm Iron Author:
Like Iron Chef except with writers. Each person Includes subject and a
“secret ingredient”. The audience judges the winner
Love it or hate it, for the modern author Conventions and Appearances come with the job. These can be a great deal of fun or a great deal of stress or both. I’ve done 9 Cons since 2010, 5 since March 2012. (You can check out my appearances here.) I’ve enjoyed them all for different reasons and yet some were better than others. Still, overall, the contact with fellow creatives and the public is a stimulant to creativity even if it drains time away from writing while I’m there. The biggest strain, of course, is budget. Cons are not cheap. But still, if you take the time to learn how to maximize them, there can be great benefits. Here are Ten Lessons I’ve learned from Cons and Appearances so far:
1) Selling Books Is Hard. A good signing/appearance tends to be around 12-13 books for me so far. As a new, relatively unknown author, it’s really hard to get people to try out your stuff. You do readings at which 4 attendees is a good turnout. You do bookstore appearances/signings and are happy if three people an hour actually stop to talk. At Cons, you do tons of panels and hand out info cards and are happy if people take them with any enthusiasm. In dealer’s rooms, if 5% of those who stop to look buy your book, you’ve done well. If you are a writer thinking selling the book is the easy part, think again. It’s hard. I don’t know how this compares with those whose publishers have thousands to spend promoting their books, but for micropress writers like me with promotion coming from my own time and money, selling books is hard.
2) Face-To-Face Matters. I realize many authors are socially awkward. We spend so much time alone by ourselves writing that social skills are not being developed. And many of us started out socially awkward in the first place. Thus, public appearances can be nerve-wracking and stressful. Still, nothing gets people’s interest like a face-to-face encounter. If you’re nice, funny, interesting, etc., people take notice. They realize you might be someone whose voice they’d like to spend time with listening. And this leads to sales and word of mouth. It’s a slow process, in my experience, but I’ve definitely seen it enough to know it’s true.
3) Most of Your Sales Come After Cons Online Or In Stores. No matter how few or many books sell at a Con or appearance, I always know more a week or two later by looking at online sales and Author Central. Almost always we see numbers increase from people who met me or saw me at a distance and went to buy my books. I don’t know if this is because they don’t trust buying from you, worry about pressure sales if they approach or what. PayPal is secure, people. Whatever the reasons, I do see most sales coming from online or stores, even when I offer discounts through my website store, which I still can’t figure out.
4) Partnering With Dealers Has Advantages And Disadvantages. If you’re going to a Con, it’s always good to check out the dealers and see if you can find someone to either order copies of your book to sell or accept them from you on consignment. You will be expected to offer 25-40% of the price to the vendor, but I have still been able to sell books at a slight discount off retail when doing this. The bigger issues come from expectations. One, you should expect the vendor to display your books in a way that customers will see them, but not necessarily center stage and upstaging the vendor’s own wares. Two, pairing with a bookseller for books is better than pairing with another type of vendor. Vendors selling gadgets and toys will get customers who are easily distracted from books by their other wares. Clothing vendors have customers who aren’t looking for books. And so on. Booksellers are the best bet, but regardless of the vendor’s product, all of them expect you to get people to the table and come by to help sell your book. Working with booksellers makes this easier because they know how books sell, even those by unknown authors. Their expectations will therefore be appropriate. A toy vendor I worked with complained that I didn’t jump up and run out to pitch every customer who touched my book. My experience is that having a table between you is less intimidating than standing next to them on the sales side of the table and that being pushy is less effective than being casual and nice. Offer to answer questions, tell them a little about it, and even offer to sign it, yes, but being pushy is something to do at your own risk. Vendors don’t always understand because you are taking table space from their wares and sometimes the stuff they sell is sold well with a bit of push.
5) Plan Time To Be In The Dealer Room. If you have product for sale, it’s a really good idea to plan time to be at the dealer table greeting customers, signing, etc. Not just because of what I said in item 4 but because not everyone will see you at panels, readings, etc., and sometimes knowing the author is there makes buying a book more enticing. So check out the dealer room hours, compare it to your schedule for panels, etc., and plan some time. Remember: dealer rooms keep daytime hours. They will close at night, even when panels are still ongoing, so if you can, use the gaps during dealer room hours to be present and save your alone time, etc. at night for the much needed breaks. One good way to do this is to plan to bring carryout food to eat in the Dealer’s Room and eat behind the table so you can jump up and greet, etc. when customers stop by. Also, be sure and help sell the vendor’s other items, too. It shows a commitment to team and partnership that vendors will really appreciate.
6) Learn To Set Limits. Cons and appearances are tiring. You can only do so much. Overcommit at your own peril.I’d say 2-3 panels a day is a pretty good chunk, especially if you have readings and signings on top of that. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you wind up doing two morning panels and then two late a night, you will realize your day has gotten really long quick. Also, being on panels requires a lot of focus. You have to be cheerful and nice and smiling, and you also have to try and give intelligent output, which also requires energy. Plus, banter with fellow panelists is also important. I did 4 programming items a day at the last Con and after the first day felt like I’d done the whole Con already. I was so tired. And I still had another day and a half to go. Some have more energy than others. But this applies especially if you are staying at a cheaper off-site hotel and you don’t have a room to run back to for a nap or recharge. Big Cons, especially, have no quiet corners for that much needed Introvert recharge either. So you can find yourself stuck in crowded, noisy areas for whole days with no real breaks and it wears you out. Also, if you actually plan to attend panels, parties, etc., the more tired and overcommitted you are, the less able you will be to not only participate in those activities but enjoy them.
7) Preparation Saves Stress. Think up questions which you might ask on a panel or might be asked and practice answers. They won’t come out exactly the same way at the time, but at least you’ll have some coordinated, coherent thoughts already floating in your head to pull out and use. If you do get asked to moderate, you’ll have some idea how to approach it. With readings, you need to practice reading slow, at a good pace. If you can read with some character voice changes, it makes it far more interesting than reading with the Ben Stein-drone. At least know which passages you plan to read and how long it takes to read them. And have an idea what you’ll say to introduce the scenes and your book as well as yourself for panels and readings. Keep it short but don’t be afraid to highlight your credentials. And if you’re new, holding up a copy of a book or two is perfectly fine. It creates a visual memory for panel attendees who might later see it in the dealer room and consider buying it.
8 ) Spread Them Out. Doing a Con every weekend may sound fun in theory if you like Cons, but in practical fact, besides being expensive, it’s quite tiring and stressful. Sometimes it will be unavoidable. But most of the time, you can alternate Cons with local signings, readings, etc. in such a way to give yourself time to rest and recover in between. I also think you benefit from geographically spreading out appearances. I blocked out a number of driving distance cons this year and prioritized based on location, cost, guest list, expected attendance, etc. to determine which I should aim for and which I could skip or leave for “if I have time.” If you have books to promote, you can’t really show up last minute and expect to do signings, readings or panels. But if you’re well known or just going to network and participate as a fan, you can definitely just make last minute choices. I like to vary Cons in size a bit but generally Cons of large attendance numbers are easier to get lost and forgotten in than smaller Cons. You also have better chances to do panels at smaller cons, although there are exceptions.
9) Take Pictures.If you have publicists you work with, they will constantly nag you about this. My publicist friend does. If you don’t have that, you should remember and find people to take pictures for you. In every panel, if you get there before hand, you can find a fan who’d be willing to take a few pics. Remember, you get what you get. If you’re anal about pictures and how they’re framed, etc., it’s better to bring your personal photographer along. Otherwise, ask them to shoot several and hope you get something you can use. But pictures are helpful for blogs, PR, websites, and more, so having them is really helpful and if you’re by yourself, you want to be in them, so you’ll need help.
10) Take Handouts. Have business cards, info postcards, book sell sheets, etc. and make use of the free literature tables scattered throughout Cons. Some have one, most have several. Put your stuff out and stop by from time to time to see if anyone’s taking them or to replenish the stack. Be sure and pick up extras before you leave, although I always leave a few behind for last minute people to take in case. Business cards will be helpful for fellow authors, editors, artists, etc. Postcards with book cover info, your website, a few blurbs, a small bio, etc. are good to hand to fans at panels, signings, etc. I use sell sheets at my book tables for people to take even if they don’t buy the book on the spot. Many people come back Sunday to make their purchases, browsing first to decide where they want their limited funds to go. So don’t miss the chance to give them something which might bump your book up on the list.
I’m sure I’ll do plenty more Cons and appearances this year and beyond, as my career is only just beginning (I hope). So there’ll be more lessons learned by this time next year, but for now, I hope these are helpful. Love to hear your thoughts and lessons learned in comments, too. For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Our recent Write Tip on 9 Free Ways To Market Your Book has been popular but people have asked me how NOT to use those techniques, so I thought it appropriate to do a follow up post. First, here’s a refresher on the 9 Free Ways which are:
The previous post goes over how to use those, so I won’t cover that here. Here’s how not to use them:
1 ) Author Site/Blogs — The goal is to create a relationship with readers and other interested parties, but primarily readers. Don’t use your blog and author site to self-aggrandize and totally for sales. Use it instead to reveal yourself. You don’t have to just lay it all out there transparently. In fact, that, in and of itself, may be a big mistake. You have a right and need for privacy. Determine up front where the lines must be drawn and stick to them. A couple areas you might avoid are religion and politics. I rarely blog on these. They only lead people to be offended and possibly lose interest who might otherwise enjoy your books. Unless your books promote your political and religious views, you don’t really need to go there and you’re better off if you don’t. You also don’t want to lambast people. Flame wars may draw traffic but they don’t do it because you’re winning fans. People stare at car wrecks not because they envy those involved but because it’s just hard not to stare. The same is true of flame wars. Don’t get in nasty arguments and back and forth with people. Avoiding controversial topics can help avoid drawing those kinds of comments in the first place.
2 ) Author Profiles/Blog Interviews–Don’t reveal spoilers in your interviews or profiles, unless the book has been out a very long time and you are discussing aspects of craft where it’s relevant. And try and stick to authors and topics where an audience who’d be interested in your book and its genre/topic might find you. It’s okay to reach out to new readers but, seriously, you shouldn’t be on a Christian romance authors blog promoting your paranormal erotic romance, okay? It’s just a waste of time. And don’t lie either. Be honest. At the same time, try and hold back some in interviews. Don’t tell everything to everyone. And find a new way to answer the same old questions. Keep it fresh if you can. You’ll be answering a lot of the same questions again and again at various places. It’s boring for you but it’s all the more so for fans, so try and find new ways to say the same thing and reveal new tidbits with each interview if you can. It’s hard, so hold some things back and give a little each time.
3 ) Goodreads/Library Thing–Great for giveaways and networking with book lovers and fellow authors but these communities tend to give back what you put into them, much like Twitter. They are the most successful giveaway sites, in my experience, for spreading interest and generating reviews. Not so successful, in my experience, for their ads or for generating huge sales numbers. They are a tool to be used with lots of others for spreading the word. It’s important to remember they are about “community.” Door to door salesman are as welcome on Goodreads and Library Thing as anywhere else. Goodreads has the easier interface but both are popular. Approach them as opportunities to share yourself, your love of books, and review and discuss books, genres, trends. Author interviews so far don’t generate a lot of interest in my experience. It’s more about communicating through observing what people do and their observing what you do and say about what you read. Approach them accordingly in both time dedicated to them and how you use them.
4 ) Press Releases–Don’t just copy someone else’s and don’t write blind. There’s an art to this and the goal is give them a ready to print article about you, your book, etc. You want to minimize the work for them so they’ll jump on the opportunity for an easy to prep story. And that takes practice and careful thought and editing. If you can afford it, write the first few drafts, then pay a publicist to fine tune it. There are plenty of independent publicists, like Matt Staggs or Adonna Pruette, who would be happy to assist and charge reasonable fees. Once you’ve done several and get the format and style down, you may be able to work on your own but I know from experience, your first several press releases will not get the results you need without a professional touch. The difference is startling.
5 ) PSAs–Public Service Announcements are a funny thing. They aren’t as common as they once were but they are indeed true to their name: Public Service. It’s not about sales. It’s about making the public aware of an event which might be of interest/benefit. Stations can be very selective about the kinds of events which qualify. They make income from selling ads, after all. Library and school events, for example, are far more likely than bookstore events to be accepted. After all, both imply educational content. And both libraries and schools are publicly funded to serve the public. Still, it’s worth checking these out but you will have to write and time the text yourself and be very careful with wording. Again, don’t self-aggrandize and don’t sell. Just inform. If the radio or tv station does you a favor, you need to make it easy and worth their time. If you make them mad or offend, you’ll alienate them from not only PSAs but also other potential opportunities for you.
6 ) Signings–Don’t expect to sell hundreds of books. The average signing is 4-6 from everyone I talk to, unless you’re a bestseller with multiple books. Signings are as much about letting people know you exist and cultivating valuable relationships with bookstores as they are about actually signing and selling books. I’m sure it varies from author to author but especially new and unknown authors need to approach Signings as opportunities to put their best foot forward and network more than selling books. The signings I have done so far have all sold at least 4 books. The most I sold was 11. All of them brought stores who carry and promote my book for me. And all of them brought publicity opportunities in the community I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I also sell other people’s books. My goal at signings is for people to buy something from that store and to make customers feel welcome. Hopefully they buy my book or at least talk to me. But if not, at least I helped the store and the store will want to help me in return.
7 ) Appearances–Appearances are hand-in-hand with signings as networking opportunities. Especially when you get the chance to read or be on a panel, you get the opportunity for people who didn’t know your name or the titles of your book to remember you and learn of your expertise (or at least ability to b.s. really well in public). The goal is to make a good impression on as many people as you can. You don’t do that by aggressively selling. You do it by being personable, knowledgeable and respectful. You do it by smiling a lot and being warm and friendly. If you can do that while waving a copy of your book subtly in front of yourself, all the better. But high pressure pushy tactics will not bode well for you.
8 ) Book Clubs–These are groups of book lovers who offer two advantages: 1. They go through a lot of books. 2. If they love it, they’ll buy more, recommend it to people and otherwise spread the word. The disadvantage is that some are quite picky and blunt in their response. Do offer to visit or otherwise interact with the group. Do offer group discounts if you can. Free books to group leaders are a good idea if you can afford it, but these are book buyers, so free books aren’t essential to win both interest and loyalty. The most important thing here is to write a good book. If they enjoy it, they’ll take it from there with very little effort on your part. Again, selling is less important than personal connection. Cultivate this as networking for word of mouth, more than an opportunity to sell multiple copies. If it works out, you’ll get both.
9 ) Reading Group Guides–Do not SPOIL. Do not SPOIL. Repeat after me. Reading Group Guides are for Book Clubs and others to stimulate thought and conversation, PERIOD. You do not repeat your story in intimate detail. Do not preach on your themes or message. Your goal is to get them to read thoughtfully and interact on what they’ve read. Help them enjoy the reading experience in a way which will likely result in their wanting to read more and spreading the word.
Well, those are some tips on how NOT to use the 9 Free Ways To Market Your Book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on other cautions, etc. as well as your successes. For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novelThe Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Well, I had to wait until I arrived but here’s my schedule for this weekend at ChamBana Con in Urbana. Have already run into old friends here which is a surprise but a cool one. Looking forward to making new ones. Guest of Honor: Geoffrey A. Landis and his wife Mary Turzillo. Also here Glen Cook, Don Mead, Tom Smith, Juanita Coulson, Sam’s Dot Publishing and artist Ray Van Tilburg.
Friday, November 25, 2011
5-7:30 pm – Dealer’s Room hanging with Glen Cook and Sam’s Dot Publishing who are selling my book.
8:00 p.m. – Salon E, Reading from The Worker Prince 9 p.m. – Hanging in Kilarney Room/Con Suite
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Free day. Signing in Dealer Room.
10:30 a.m. – Stroll With The Pros
Sunday, November 27, 2011
9-11:45 a.m. – Signing in Dealer Room
12:00 p.m. – Salon E, Panel: So You Want To Be An Author with Geoffrey A. Landis, Glen Cook, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Mary Turzillo, and Don Mead
1-2 p.m. – Signing until Dealer Room closes.
2 p.m. – Hit the road
Hope some of you in the area will stop by!
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novelThe Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.
Next weekend I will be apeparing at the two day MCC-Longview Community College Literary Festival with other authors of diverse genres and backgrounds. Here’s my schedule. I will be around much of Saturday and in and out Friday because of my panel being late afternoon.