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Point of View: Selling at a Con

Scott Angel Freddy yaoicon

Hey all,

Just got back from YaoiCon in San Francisco – I went for one day on Saturday to hang with MCB Books’ Angel Martinez and Freddy MacKay.

I thought I’d share some of what I learned from this and the other cons I have attended about how to get the most out of your book sales. and to be as organized as possible beforehand.

Find Out if You Need a License: Some states require you to collect taxes and send them in for sales made at cons and trade shows. I don’t know if it was required for YaoiCon, but we need one for GRL in Kansas City next month. For the state of Missouri, the license was free, but I did have to go through the process twice because of how my writing business and QSF are structured.

Find a Credit Card Processor: Many folks want to pay with plastic at these shows, so find a cheap way to process credit cards. Some will want to use Paypal too. MCB and many other authors and small publishers use Square, which also has a fairly good app that lets you preload all your books in advance and put the most common ones on a home screen for easy selection. If you already use a credit card processor, they may offer their own smart-phone based app and processor – First Data has their Clover device, for instance. Check the fees carefully, and find out if you can turn off the service for months when you don’t have cons.

Find Out About the WiFi: I have been to two cons where the hall wifi was transient and really sucked. One of my favorite moments at one of them was seeing Alex Woolfson do the wifi dance, trying to get service to process an order. If you are taking credit cards, you will need wifi or a cell connection to do it, and those can be iffy, too.

Figure Out Books and Shipping: Most cons will let you ship books to the con in advance, saving you the weight, cost and hassle of carrying them in your suitcase. But a couple caveats. First, this comes with its own shipping costs, so compare them vs. bringing them yourself. Second, you’re at the whim of both the shipping company, which could lose your books (of course, so could the airline), and of the hotel or conference venue, which can put them in an Indiana Jones style pile from which they may never emerge. Ask Angel about that one. You will also need to deal with whatever books are left, so find out from the venue in advance how this will work. Bottom line – if you can drive to the con, do.

Bring a Cash Wallet: And lots of change. For all the folks who want to pay by credit card, there will be as many who want to use cash, and having the right change can be the difference between making and losing a sale. And don’t forget to take it with you when you close down the booth for lunch or at night.

Find a Sub Buddy: No, that’s not a guy you can walk around at a leash at the con, though if that makes both of you happy, why not? *grin* It’s someone who can man the booth in your absence – for bathroom breaks, panels you are on or want to attend, or whatever. Closed booth means no sales.

Tag Line Your Books: This one is from Freds, and it’s a great idea – come up with short taglines for each of your titles and write them down. Being able to pass this info on quickly to your customers helps you sell your books more easily, and to suggest others the customer may like.

Have Bookmarks and Business Cards Ready: When someone buys a book, give them a bookmark for another. When they ask about getting your books in eBook form, have a business card ready that directs them to where they can find them.

Bring a Sheet: Cover your table when you leave. This discourages casual passersby from helping themselves to your titles.

Relax and Enjoy the Experience: You are among your friends, fans, and potential fans. This is your moment. Relax, talk to whoever comes to your booth, and enjoy it. If you are enjoying yourself, others will respond more positively to you, and you’re likely to make more sales, and folks will remember you the time!

You’re probably not going to sell enough books to pay for the con and airfare and hotel, but you can make a dent, and convert a few more folks to readers and fans, and in the end, that’s what it’s all about, right?

What are your tips for con sales?

3 thoughts on “Point of View: Selling at a Con”

  1. Excellent advice. I’m still kicking myself for not printing up business cards in time for the convention. Thank you for sharing! It was awesome to finally meet you in person!

  2. I’ve only done small cons thus far, but will start doing larger cons in the future. My biggest issue has been guestimating how many books to bring. I don’t mean to read. I’d rather have more than enough (obviously), but being able to go home the last day of a con saying, “I sold out” might be nice too. How do you (or anyone reading this) judge how many copies to bring to a con to sell?

  3. I’ve learned to bring book stands. Books that stand up seem to sell better. And I always bring a sweater — I’m not sure why, but Dealers Rooms always seem to be refrigerated.

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