I attended two conventions in 2019, another in early 2020, and felt like I was really hitting my stride. Then quarantine happened, and my convention aspirations dwindled for a while.
But now I’m back! And ready with a newly upgraded booth setup. This is part of an ongoing series about convention stuff. Previous posts here:
Conventions are a uniquely exciting experience from a vendor perspective, and I cannot WAIT to get back in the groove. While online communities and stores are incredible, there’s something magical about seeing someone get excited about your book right in front of your eyes. I love that feeling.
The big upgrade is a pop-up banner and a printed foam-board sign. Having more stuff behind the table gives me more space to put books on main display. And I added a bunch more freebies for people to choose from.
However there are still a few things I’m not sure about.
- Keep the box? The box from Version 2 did add multiple levels and made the display a little more eye-catching. But it doesn’t fit with my new black-background aesthetic. Might still be worth keeping? I dunno.
- Change the Freebies sign? It’s got the right colors, but something more professional might fit better with my other signage. But I kinda like how friendly it is; draws attention to it.
- Better way to display Freebies? The display looks a little cluttered; with the different pages stacked so tightly. But maybe that’s good? Like customers can see all the different choices at once?
Either way, I’m happy with the new setup. I’ll be attending ConCarolinas 2021 in June, so if you’re in the area, stop by and say “hi!”
I’ll update this blog post after the event is over with a report of how things went.
I survived ConCarolinas 2021! And I had a blast.
All vendors were required to wear masks, and all attendees were strongly encouraged to wear masks. This defintiely created a barrer between us and the guests, people weren’t exposed to my brilliant smile. I had to rely completely on my luxurious locks to lure customers. And my books, of course.
I sold ZERO books on Friday. Not only was it slow in general, but the vendors were tucked away down a side-hallway. Since not everyone showed up Friday, there were a lot of empty tables giving things a ghost-town feel. I heard more than a few people remark “Oh! There’s more stuff over here. I had no idea.”
Saturday was much better. I sold:
- 3 Lowcountry Crawl
- 2 Clink
- 2 Mythic Mortals
- 1 Bone Marshes + Marsh Goons (sold as a bundle)
- 40ish tokens
And we skipped out on Sunday to drive home early.
I don’t regret the trip, but Friday was a huge bummer. I don’t know what conventions could do to remedy this kind of problem. And I’ll be the first to admit that my books are niche products; perhaps other vendors had consistent sales across the entire weekend. I guess this is a callout to other vendors; post your sales and your thoughts! Let me learn from your wisdom.
Anyway, let’s breakdown this new setup.
We’ll start with the most important part: Freebies. I put a different collection of Freebies out every day to encourage repeat visits and to see what Freebies were most popular. Customers were limited to one per person, and I told them to return with their friends if they wanted multiple Freebies.
Full credit to to the authors of these 200 Word Submissions; they created beautiful games that delighted hundreds of folks over the course of the convention. You can grab the digital copies here.
- “✗amurai” by Younès Rabii
- “Heavy Metal Wizard Sorcerers” by Alessandro Dellamotta.
- “For City Coin” by Sean Smith
- “Vikings Having Feelings” by Joe Greathead
- “Kintsugi” by me.
- “Drink Tea. Forget.” by M. Quintanilla
- “We Who Once Ruled” by Michael Dunn Oconnor
- “Sherlock Holmes is an Asshole” by Eric Farmer
I cannot express how important Freebies were for my marketing and sales. They perform several valuable functions at once:
- People like free stuff. It encouraged folks to engage with my table long enough to take one.
- Some people don’t know what RPGs are, and being able to read through a short one goes a LONG way towards selling the concept to customers.
- Some folks would take a freebie with them, only to return later with their friends. “I got the Viking one! You should grab the tea game.”
If you’re considering being a vendor at a convention, I highly recommend having something to give away. Heck, you can even email me about using the same Freebies!
Shamelessly stolen from Ben Milton of Questing Beast these tokens were easy to make. Not only did this draw the occasional MTG player to my booth, but it helped to have something small and cheap for folks to purchase. I had a few people really enjoy the freebies, and just pickup a few tokens to show their support.
But I’ll be the first to admit that the Tokens were not a huge draw nor did they make much money. I might ditch them as I fill my table with more books or other products. Still, never hurts to have something shiny at the table.
The stand-up banner was my biggest upgrade this time. It was hard to tell how much it helped. It would have been far more useful in a crowded room than in a narrow hallway. Still, it didn’t hurt!
However the foamboard sign did MUCH of the heavy lifting for me.
I never know how much to engage with crowds. I saw some vendors who seemed to hide behind their booths, only coaxed out with direct questions. Other vendors stood out in front, calling out to everyone who passed by.
The sign made it very easy for me to engage without being aggressive. Someone would walk by my table, slow down to read the sign, and if they reached for a book or a freebie then I would greet them and explain my wares. Just as many people breezed by without even bothering to read the sign, and I knew they weren’t a potential customer.
I would probably sell more books if I was outgoing, but I know a lot of folks (myself included) hate feeling like we’re being guilted into buying something. And my books often require a little explanation compared to something like dice or jewelry.
Strangely, I don’t have too much to say about the books themselves. I put so much thought and energy into getting people to engage with my booth, and the rest is out of my hands. Do they like the art? The writing? The pitch? I dunno. But I hope that the freebies and signage encouraged more people to consider the books themselves.
Putting “Touch Me” on the books encouraged people to open up the books and see the beautiful art, maps, and monsters. Especially for RPGs, which rely so heavily on art and presentation, I really wanted folks to open the books.
It was a little weird to have Marsh Goons out on the table. We recently re-printed Bone Marshes and Marsh Goons as one big beautiful book, but this convention ran before I could get my hands on a copy. So I just sold them as a bundle. If anything it was a nice little bonus for customers, but wasn’t reflected in my signs or anything. Next convention I’ll have the real Bone Marshes books out there.
Despite all the effort I’ve put into this convention setup, it’s still a complete toss-up. This is due to a combination of factors. I don’t blame the hard-working convention staff nor the delightful guests who gave my booth a chance. My games are niche and weird, and I’m not here for the sales anyway.
- CharlestonCon 2019 was my first (version 1), and I sold about a dozen books.
- AtomaCon 2019: 4 books
- Captain’s Comics Expo 2020 was huge (version 2), I sold well over 20 books!
- ConCarolinas 2021: 8 books
Conventions, for me, are far more about the engagement than the book sales. I had great conversations with folks, met other creators, and saw tons of cool costumes. It’s an intoxicating experience! I plan to attend a few more conventions this year.
I hope you found this little breakdown useful. Feel free to reach out if you have specific questions, my email is in the sidebar. I hope to see you on the convention floor someday!