Some humble advice for convention organizers...


For many indie authors, conventions are our lifeblood. Without selling our books at local comicons and other such events, we wouldn't be making enough money to keep producing books.

As an author and huge fan of conventions, I've been to tons of them. Some massive, some tiny, some new, some established, and everything in between. I've pretty much seen it all.

But one thing has been a constant of many conventions, especially the smaller ones, which makes little sense:


What do I mean? Too many panels, too many discussions, too many contests, movie screenings, gaming hours, celebrity meet & greets, etc.

But Stu, isn't that why many fans go to conventions? Why of course it is. The programming brings in fans from around the country. Especially the celebrity stuff.

So why limit it? Well, we don't need to cut it back much. But here are some of the complaints I've made and heard over the years of attending conventions:

  • Panels with large interest overlapping (common concern at big conventions)
  • Panels drawing 0 audience members because other panels take it all at the same time
  • People waiting in line for hours to get an autograph and missing programming
  • Vendors complaining about people always being consumed by programming and not making it to the vendor hall. This is a huge complaint.

A few conventions I have attended have also had poor floor plans. Hosting all of the panels / contests, etc in a room adjacent to the vendor hall means many people never even see the vendor hall. That's an issue.

How do we fix it? I have an idea I've tossed around to a few vendors and organizers over the years: make a vendor hour an event in the programming.

Make from 7pm - 8pm (or whenever, just not in the morning) a vendor hall hour. No programming, no contests, no dances (yes, some conventions have dances), no celebrity sessions, no screenings, nothing but vendor hall time for an hour. 

Vendors could offer promotions during that time, sales, free stuff with purchases, all that jazz. It gets people to enter the vendor hall, probably spend some money, and see things they might not otherwise see if their day is full of programming. It also lets people grab some dinner (depending on timing) which is never a bad thing.

Just some food for thought.

Launching books the easy way.

Launching Books the Easy Way

This is part 3 of the Marketing, Marketing, Marketing series. To check out the other parts, click these links:

So you've covered everything you ever need to do before going live with your novel. The editing is superb, the cover art is flawless, the formatting is great, now you just need to launch the thing. Assuming you don't already have a huge fan base from something else (book related or not), launching a book can be a challenge.

Where should you start?

Step one is obvious: get your ducks in a neat little row. Order a proof copy and actually read the entire thing. Make sure it is perfect. Did the printer poorly cut the cover? Did you find a typo that slipped through? You need to make sure your product is as near to perfection as possible. Even if large changes need to be made which might take months, do them. Get it right the first time.

Step two: select a venue. Where should you host your book launch? There are a few different routes that might work and some of them will depend on your genre. Don't launch a gore fest horror book in a children's themed cafe... Do you want a bookstore launch or something different? Bookstores offer the upside of getting potential buyers as people simply walk through the doors. The downside is that bookstores will typically take a large cut of your profits since you are a direct competitor. My personal favorite? Launch at a bar. Assuming you are of age, find a local pub with a lot of character. Guests would be encouraged to eat and drink as they mingle and usually, that should be enough incentive for a bar to let you host with them. You keep the profits all to yourself.

  • Pro tip: make sure your location is easy to get to with enough parking. Don't make your friends and family drive more than 15 or 20 minutes to support you. A good central location is rather important, even if it means driving an hour yourself.

Step three: select a date. Don't pick a weekend. People are out of town on weekends (as you should be, going to conventions to sell your book...) and bars are packed on weekends already. Go on a Tuesday or Wednesday when the bar will likely be a little empty. Pick your date at least a month in advance. Allow yourself plenty of time to market the event and fix any potential mistakes before it is too late.

Step four: marketing. You have to spread the word. Do all the obvious stuff first. Make a Facebook event, post on Twitter, do all that online stuff. Post on the bar's Facebook page about it. Get some fliers printed. You can easily have a hundred or so posters printed for just a few bucks at any office supply place. Take your posters to the bar and all the nearby businesses. Ask the managers to hang them up and canvas the local area. Go to bookstores in the region and ask to put them up there (especially if your book is for sale online with that store anyways).

Step five: promotion. Make some bookmarks. You can get 5000+ bookmarks for around $100 and you definitely should. Leave bookmarks at the pub. Ask them to slip one in each customer check to tell people about the event. Leave them at the register of local book shops and coffee joints. Ask a bookstore manager if you can put some inside the covers of books similar to yours. Run a contest on Twitter or pretty much anywhere else on the internet. Maybe things like, "tweet this event to be entered to win a free advanced copy of book 2," or perhaps, "first 5 people at the event get a discount," or even, "every book purchase enters you in a drawing for a free gift card!" Things like that will certainly boost the popularity of your event.

Step six: don't shoot your own foot. Sure, your parents and best friends all want copies of your new work of art. Guess what? Don't give them one. Kindly tell them to attend your book launch if they want their free copy. You want to pack the venue with your supporters and giving out even one or two copies to friends before the launch is only hurting your cause. Don't let your eBook or online paperback ordering to go live before you launch either.

Step seven: get a massive amount of books ordered. Even if you don't sell half of what you take to the venue, the books don't turn to dust. You'll have them for conventions and other live events. Bring at least one copy for each person you expect to show up and bring double that number for people you don't know about. The launch is the one event where selling everything could be bad.

Step eight: get your finances in order. You need to accept cash and credit cards. That means you need a cash box, plenty of money to make change, and a card reader that attaches to your phone / tablet. It might be a good idea to get a friend to handle the actual sales part so you can focus on mingling and signing. That format looks a bit more professional too.

Step nine: weird stuff you might forget about. A costume might be a good idea. Is your novel steampunk? A steampunk outfit would be a good choice. That way, people who show up will recognize you without having to awkwardly ask someone else who the author is. Identification is huge if you plan on mingling (recommended) and not sitting behind the table. Do a reading of your book. Reading your words out loud might be the most embarrassing thing you'll do in your entire life, but it actually works. Sure, the people you know are already planning on buying a book, but other people who happen to be in the venue don't know about it. Doing a reading (or 2) lets the other patrons know exactly what you're about. It also looks and feels more professional. Make sure you stay for the entire time you listed. That should be obvious. Even if only a handful of people show up, just grab a drink and enjoy yourself.

Step ten: take pictures. Commemorate the event with photos and such (especially if you incorporate a cosplay element into your launch. Maybe a 'dress like the character' contest?) and post those photos to your blog. Tell everyone as you take their picture where it will be posted. That drives traffic to your website.

Step eleven: online stuff. I don't want to get into huge detail here, but there are a few things you can do. Send out advance copies to bloggers and reviews a month before the launch. Tell them about your launch and ask if they would please leave a review on their blog / Amazon the day of the official launch. Find other bloggers (like me!) and ask to be interviewed by them and have it posted the week of your launch. Write a guest post about your genre or something interesting and get a friend to post it to their blog the week of your launch. The more steam you can generate in the week prior and week after your launch, the better your online sales will be. Doing a blog tour is a great way to promote. Pair the tour with some paid online promotion (see other marketing posts for info on those) and you can really boost your ranking.

Step twelve: email list. Use your book launch as a way to gather emails for your list. When people buy the book, ask them to write their email on a clipboard. Use that as the seeds of your email list which will become a great tool to let everyone know about your next book launch event. 


I hope these tips help you plan a successful launch! If you have any other helpful ideas, feel free to post them in the comments. This is by no means an end all guide to becoming a billionaire, but it should at least get you started on the right track.


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