Tag Archives: conventions

Working the Table: Getting Started as an #Indie at Conventions

Someone asked me recently how much money it really costs to get ready to work your first convention. What’s a good level of investment to plan on fielding for that first show? They asked me because I do this a fair amount, and have even co-authored a book on the subject.

Shameless self-promotion works! Sometimes.

I gave an off-the-cuff estimate of $200-300, then started thinking about the real answer. What’s the minimum needed to work a table, and what’s the minimum needed to be successful working a table?

The minimum expenses:

  1. Books. It’s challenging to sell books that you don’t have on hand.
  2. The table fee.
  3. Transportation costs–gas, parking, airfare, etc.
  4. Food.
  5. At least one pen–for signing your books.
  6. Something to hold cash and some bills to make change with.

These six things are the absolute minimum. At many shows, you’ll be given a table with skirting and sign attached to the front with your name in block letters. You can get by with this if you’re on a tight budget. New vendors manage with this all the time. This minimalist option lets you squeak by on little more than the cost of your books. Your setup and teardown time will be short, and you’ll have little to transport.

To really succeed, you’ll need to invest a bit more:

  1. Some sort of promotional handout–bookmarks and business cards are always winners. An informal poll of other authors reveals these two are the best bang for the buck in promotion. This type of thing is cheaper per piece when you buy in bulk, so get as many as you can afford at once.
  2. A way to accept credit cards–I use and recommend Square, which requires either a data connection or internet on the device you attach it to.
  3. A reseller permit, which requires a business license in your state. This allows you to buy copies of your own books without having to pay sales tax for that transaction. (Obviously, if your state doesn’t assess sales tax, you don’t need this, but you’ll still need the business license).
  4. Some sort of large promotional graphic thing with your name and/or your series name. Many authors and artists get a retractable banner to put behind their chair and a second banner for the front of the table. Other options include a table banner of 1.5-3 feet in height, a backdrop with a frame, a custom printed table cloth, and a banner with a stand. You can find a wide variety of sizes and shapes.
  5. A trade show tablecloth like this one. This isn’t necessary, but it makes your display look more professional.
  6. Book stands like these or these. I highly recommend these two types as cheap, reliable, inconspicuous, stable, and easy to both use and store.
  7. Some method of transporting your stuff between the table and your vehicle. I use one of these, but it’s overkill if you only have a few titles. A foldup handcart like this one or this one is a good starting option, depending on how you store your books.
  8. A plastic bin or similar container to hold pens, bookmarks/cards, book stands, and other whatnot.

Keep in mind that the more you add to your display, the longer setup and teardown will take. At most shows, I have a complex display with ~40 titles that takes 45-60 minutes for both setup and teardown, and it takes me, on average, three trips to my car. By contrast, the minimalist with 1-3 titles needs 5-10 minutes, and an average indie with 3-5 titles will need about half an hour.

In total, aside from the table fee and transportation, a good, solid start needs about $400 for books, banners, bookmarks, and odds & ends. If you can catch sales for banners and similar items, you can keep the costs lower. The good news is that many of these items won’t need to be repurchased for every show, so your costs come down to books, table fees, bookmark/card replacement, and transportation for subsequent shows.

Good luck, and don’t forget to order your books well in advance!

Road Trip Wrapup

I’m home. Finally. Because I had to fly across the country twice after I got back from Kansas City (for personal reasons), it’s taken me a couple of days to really recover from all the traveling. now safely ensconced in my bean bag chair once more, I have a lot of work to do. The goals I outlined earlier this year for my writing tasks won’t be met, and I already know that. Now, I’m focused on the most important things: Spirit Knights #4, Ilauris #3, cyberpunk, some dragons, and a few anthology submissions.

Coming soon: a cyberpunk novella still in need of a title! With luck, it’ll be available in time for GeekGirlCon.

In other news, while I was gone, someone stole the dragon from my front yard, which is a unique 70-pound reclaimed metal structure. May whoever took it get everything they deserve. I have serious doubts I’ll ever see it again, but it’s been reported to the police anyway.

I live in a dragon guarded castle

Should you happen to see it someplace, let me know.

And now, some pictures from the trip. In reverse order, because I’m ornery like that.

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Nothing says excitement like Deadpool at WorldCon!

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The debut of The Greatest Sin’s new covers at WorldCon. Aren’t they pretty now?

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I’m still geeking out over meeting Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon at WorldCon.

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From a much-needed few days of downtime.

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GenCon had the truck and everything. They left markers so folks could write on the wall.

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Myths & Legends Con in Denver–a small con with a big heart.

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In Denver, I acquired a Temporary Helpful Writing Cat.

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Best cosplay of Mawg ever. At MALCon.

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Chimichangas, anyone? From GenCon

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This dude rocked the Finn cosplay. At GenCon

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I saw this guy and thought, “OMG, that’s almost Justin!”

The Epic Road Trip of Madness

Jeffrey Cook and I left on Tuesday to drive a total of about 6500 miles, work a total of 13 convention and setup days, and suffer through the heat wave gripping the Midwest.

So far, it’s hot.

We carved out time to see Star Trek Beyond, which I heartily recommend, and are going to wedge in a showing of Jason Bourne later today. I also managed to get a sunburn by sitting in the shade for an hour. #pastywhiteproblems

You see, we’re taking our time getting to Indianapolis. Because we can. And if you can, you might as well. We’re seeing some sights, doing some things, and working out plots. No, not that kind of plotting. The book kind.

On the way back, we’re leaving Kansas City on the morning of the 22st. I have to be in Olympia by the evening of the 24th for personal reasons. Clever readers may notice that’s only 3 days to drive about 1900 miles. It’s certainly doable, but it won’t be much fun.

My posts will be light and sporadic–which is so totally unusual lately, I know–until September. I intend to try very hard to get back on the blogging track, but no promises. In the meantime, allow me to introduce you to Muffy. She first appeared on Edgewise Words Inn.

Muffy's Nefarious Plan

I’m Going to Westercon! #westercon69

As part of Clockwork Dragon, I’ll be at Westercon this weekend, July 1-4 at the Doubletree on Multnomah in Portland, OR. I’ll have copies of both Illusive Echoes and Ethereal Entanglements, and it’ll be the first show for both titles. I’m excited! That makes a current total of 12 novels, 1 non-fiction book, and 2 anthology appearances. And I’ve got more yet to release yet this year.

Yes, I know. You’re tired of hearing about these two books already. So that’s that about that, at least for a while.

At Westercon, I’ll be participating in a few panels, which is both exciting and terrifying. It’s all writing-related stuff: Indie Publishing 101 (Saturday at 2), How to Revise (Saturday at 4), and Challenges and Joys of Collaboration (Sunday at 4). There’s one other thing. I’ve got a reading slot. If you’re going to Westercon, please come by. I haven’t decided what to read from, but it’ll be at 10am on Sunday, July 3 in the Madison room. Come, please. I’ll be a very sad dragon if no one shows up. But be nice, please, because I have anxiety issues.

Spring Fever!

I’m contractually obligated to remind folks that Backyard Dragons releases this Friday. If you’re interested, I strongly recommend reading Girls Can’t Be Knights first, as Dragons is a sequel. CAUTION: This is Young Adult Urban Fantasy WITH NO ROMANCE. Seriously, there’s no romance. Please don’t read it and get mad there’s no romance, because there’s no romance. It’s an ACTION/ADVENTURE series with a female protagonist.

I also must point out that Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions is now available in paperback. The ebook version will be available whenever Amazon is able to figure out why their system is spazzing over the file. Hopefully, by the end of this week. If you have any interest in pimping your own books at events, this book can help you make your first event more of a success than a “learning experience”*.

With that stuff out of the way, Spring is springing where I live. This weekend, we had gorgeous weather here in the PNW. After spending the past five months chained to my laptop, working nearly nonstop on Backyard Dragons, a handful of anthology submissions, book 4 of The Greatest Sin, Chowndie, Ethereal Entanglements, and the next Ilauris book, I set it down. For, like a half an hour. I went outside. There was this bright, yellowish thing in the weirdly blue sky.

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The view out the window of my office. And when I say “office,” I mean “bedroom.” You may hate me for working from my beanbag if you so choose. You may also gape at what we in the PNW mean when we say “clear skies.”

I had to check the internet to find out that’s what the sky looks like when it’s not cloudy or raining. Who knew, amIright? Apparently, that bright light thing is called “the sun,” which seems kind of a silly name to me, but I’m not in charge of things like that. I prefer “daystar” or “cancerlight.”

Since the weather was so pleasant–all the way into the 60s–I went out and did some gardening. Okay, I really only planted four bulbs I picked up at the Portland Home & Garden Show. I’m taking a chance on an oriental lily this year. According to the saleswoman, whose business happens to be about five miles from my house (because of course I drove over 100 miles to discover a business where I live), they don’t get red lily beetle here. Allegedly. We’ll see. The rest of the bulbs were daylilies which are sort of my gardening chocolate. As opposed to actual chocolate, which is my writing chocolate.

I feel it’s only fair at the point in the year to warn people who enjoy my spring and summer Ragbrai-related posts that I’ve decided not to go this year. Don’t panic. I’m not dying and have had no major injuries. This year, instead of journeying to Iowa for the best week in the multiverse, Jeffrey Cook and I are embarking on a midwest road trip convention tour under the Clockwork Dragon banner. The timing of the cons we’re working makes Ragbrai impossible. I’m hoping to get back to the corn in 2017. I’ll probably still talk about it, because no matter how awful Ragbrai is, it’s still the best vacation ever.

P.S. You really should read Knights before Dragons. I’m not kidding. Will Dragons make sense without? Sure. In the same way Empire Strikes Back makes sense without A New Hope. See? Grab Knights first. Then brace for Ethereal Entanglements this summer, which is book 3 in the series.


*Notice how I’m not guaranteeing you’ll have the bestest first event ever. I’m not a huckster trying to profit from your hopes and/or dreams. I just want vendor rooms to be great places and am perfectly happy to share my experiences to help others. Jeff feels the same way.

Cover Reveal: Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions

IndieGuideCoverComing soon! Jeffrey Cook and I teamed up to write the definitive guide for surviving and thriving in the book-event environment as an independent author. Though it’s tailored to science fiction and fantasy authors interested in working convention vendor tables, this guide is a valuable resource for any writer working any book event.

Next Stop: @RustyConWA

OrcaCon wiped me out. I didn’t even spend all weekend there and I came home so tired I could barely think straight. Thus, a post about it in the afternoon instead of the morning. We had a very good time in Everett and are looking forward to participating again next year. The staff and volunteers did an incredible job organizing a first-year con that felt like it had learned all its mistakes five years ago. As a result, it was a great way to start the new year.

Rustycon33This weekend is RustyCon, an established convention held in Seatac. This is RustyCon’s 33rd year, and we have good feelings about it, even with its infamy. I’ll be in the Marketplace with Jeff, offering books under the Clockwork Dragon banner.

We’re hoping to have copies of Jeff’s latest release, Street Fair, the second book in the Fair Folk Chronicles. Coming soon: a cover reveal for Backyard Dragons. After many trials and travails, the book is on target for a release at FLYA in Portland, a one-day Young Adult centric convention in mid-March.

I have some anthology submissions to finish up, then it’s on to the third book in the Spirit Knights series, Ethereal Entanglements. Hopefully, that book will released in time to take to GenCon this year. Along with it, this spring holds more new releases and more conventions. In 2016, I’ll be a busy bee!