Wednesday, December 15, 2021

What Makes A Successful Show?

 Got Brian K's newletter today and it posed the question, What makes a successful show? 


Meeting new people/contacts

Hanging out with friends

Treated well by organizers?


When I first began doing signings, a successful signing meant I sold at least 2-4 books.  After being picked up by the publisher and being in digital, success changed to IF I sold any on Amazon, but I wouldn't know for 3 months.  Therefore, success meant talking to a lot of people and handing out swag and cards, and networking.  In 2013, when my work was available in print again, success meant selling 4-5 books, and I could joke I could now pay for dinner.

In 2019, I branched out into conventions, and sales began to rise.  I was thrilled when sales meant a tank of gas was covered.  At times, I'd even paid for my table.

2020 just sucked, due to the lockdown.

2021 has blown all expectations out of the water.  Sales are not only covering booth fees, but for some venues, gas and even my lodging for one night.  I was particularly thrilled that at the Christmas show, I made all my booth fee back.  Of course, I promptly spent it on Christmas presents for my family!

Meeting New People/Contacts:

Back in 2010, desperate for extra income, I set up every week at our Farmer's Market, since the spouse was on medical leave, and we were living on unemployment. The local city leaders took note of my efforts, plus the fact friends had decided to open a used bookstore, and invited us to be the Grand Marshalls of the annual Christmas Parade (I found out later my friends only did it because I was so excited.), but we were also joined by two other established authors and three other new ones.  Needless to say, the city leaders' interest in us didn't last long, but it was meeting a certain author who began sharing writing conventions and book signing info with me.

One such contact led me to Columbus, In, where I met several other authors whom I was thrilled to talk to and pick their brains and friend them on FB.  A year later, one sent me an invitation to be a vendor at the Indpls Christmas Gift and Hobby Show, and I was able to afford one slot.  Only sold one book (I was still primarily in digital), but had such a great time, I made it a priority to do at least two slots the following year....then worked up to four.  Sales not only increased, but I was soon getting repeat customers, eager to see what was new, or what they had missed.  So up until 2020, I knew I was spending a lot of $$ on my booth fee and only making maybe only one day/slot or even half my fee back, but I didn't care.  I love being at that show; I love seeing 'what's new' by way of clothing items and meeting people.

Hanging Out With Friends:

Hands down, THIS is why I do some shows.  

Recently, a colleague asked me why I go to Louisville every year, because 1) the cost has gone up; 2) the hotel cost has increased; and 3) sales are not that good.  Quite frankly, it's seeing friends I only see at that convention.

A) It keeps improving.  The first time I did the Con, I think I only sold 1 book, but I sat on 3 panels and enjoyed myself.  The next year, it had moved to a new venue, and our table was in the very back, and we didn't get a lot of traffic, but still managed to sell some.  I was on 9 panels that time and realized it was too many.  I cut down on the 3rd year, but signed up for the special signing slot and sold more that way.  Last year, it moved to another venue, and offered a 'Creative Alley' instead of just the vendor room, and got a LOT more traffic in the hallway than I did the previous years, plus my sales doubled from 2019

B) The convention keeps getting better, and attracting more guests.  I don't know if the Con turns 10 this year or not, but at the rate of improvement.....why give up 'just because sales are low'?  I LIKE the people I'm with; I LIKE the comraderie; I LIKE the support I feel....yeah, I'm not giving up just yet.

Also in 2019, I met someone who encouraged me to attend Comic Conventions.  I never in my life thought a romance/fiction author would do well....but I have!  Yes, the first year I did a few events, the sales were mixed (ranging from 2 to 10 books sold), but friendship makes it all worth it.  We go to dinner, we cross-promote, and we share info.  

This past year, the show I sold the least at was a tiny show that was not very well attended, and I only sold one book.  But I was thrilled to note I'd sold 20 books at one convention (Superman) and 30 at the State Fair.  Was this due to readers being forced to take a year off from meeting authors, or just a fluke?  I guess I'll find out next year....

Organizational Treatment:

Here's where things get a little sticky.

I have been attending one particular Reader Event where the first time I did it, a friend was there, and we had a great time.  I returned this past year, but she didn't, and while I have a couple of acquaintances who were there, I was very disappointed they didn't invite me to dinner with them, even though we ate at the same restaurant.  I had taken my time packing up my table because of the long hike to my car, and having to make two trips, so imagine my shock as I was entering the establishment to see them exiting, greeting me by name, and telling me, "Have you ever eaten here before?  It's amazing; you're gonna love it!"

Even the night before, I'd bitten the bullet and stayed at the same hotel as everyone else, and when I went down for drinks and dinner, a) no one made room for me at the table until someone finally nudged another person to scoot over and b) my comments were acknowledged, but further conversation was not directed AT me, if this makes any sense.  I just felt excluded all around.  So why am I going back for a third time?

-My children's book will be out

-I LOVE the venue

-I want to ride a particular ride that was closed this year

-I would like to eat at the same restaurant as I did this year, because it was SO GOOD, and we don't have one in our area.  Is that a good enough reason?  Plus, maybe take a friend or even a child along....

Every other venue I've been to, the organizers/promoters do a fantastic job of labeling your booth space; they provide you with water and snacks and a 'swag bag'; sometimes they even have people to come around and offer to either watch your table or go get your food.

UPDATE:  Due to rising gas prices, I'll be skipping 2022 ($4-5/gallon)

Final Thoughts:

Yes, the craft fairs and Farmer's Market were a good place to start.  I met readers, and was thrilled to know people were enjoying my books.  It was a way to make contacts, and to branch out from my tiny community.  But as I said, sales were mixed.  I'd sell 2-4 and maybe make my booth space back.  The Cons and Reader Events are a little more expensive, but sales have been good, plus I get to hang out with good friends and meet new contacts.  One day, I'd like to be able to travel beyond the states I currently travel to (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee), and meet more readers and authors.

Success means something different to everyone, and I know some people will not agree with some points.  But you can't always measure it in dollars and cents.

2019 was an experiment; 2021 was a learning experience.  I'm hoping to revamp my table set-up for 2022, and that the upcoming children's book will do well.  I'm also hoping to finally get one of my unfinished wips written and published this year.  I've not put out a full-length novel of my own since last year, and I'm long overdue.

I also realize I'm getting older, and probably only have 15-20 years until health issues stop me.  Right now, the part-time job is paying for all my trips, and I'm trying to squirrel back as much as I can.  My goal for 2022 is to stay out of the hospital, so I can get out of my current medical debt!  Breaking my arm and having my gall bladder out this past year was NOT on the agenda, ha ha!  Thankfully, insurance has helped, as had the financial assistance payment plans. But 2022 also marks the year my youngest turns 18 and his SSI runs out.  We are about to lose $1200/year; his last payout is January.  And since it is normally used for the truck payment and medical see where I'm going with it..  

But I have faith it will work out.  God has been very good to us the past two years, and it will continue.

Just keep the faith.

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