Monday, July 22, 2024

Finding Your Werewolf Chicken

This post is a collection of my thoughts for a panel I'm doing with another author next year. I figured I might as well share them here to have them all in once place and for those of you who aren't nearby that might attend the panel.

I recently tabled at a comic con where I did fairly well. Fairly well = on par with last year's sales at the same event. I always strive for an increase in sales, but the current economy is such that maintaining a sales number is considered a win. 

One of the tables across from me did not do well. At all. The disparity in sales prodded me to collecting my thoughts on the matter in the hopes of helping my follow artists in improving their selling experiences. 

Let's start by putting this in perspective. We both had the same size booth in the same aisle with the same amount of foot traffic. I ran my booth solo, meaning I was out of my booth for bathroom breaks and missed 2 hours of the 3 days of open vendor floor time due to arriving at the last minute (oops, bad planning on my part) and doing a panel during vendor hours. The other artist was there the whole time and had a booth buddy so they could give each other breaks. This is admittedly, ideal, yet I run solo 80% of the time. Because.

We were selling generally similar professional-looking products with clearly marked pricing. We both had art prints, stickers, and books (comics vs. novels). We are both the creators of our work, selling our own products.

Yet, somehow in those 3 days, I made $1000. They made $10. 

Why? How?

Reason #1  I had a live chicken on my table (One of my books is about said chicken). "OMG is that a chicken?" You might think this means instant sales, but it doesn't. 80% of people who stop for the chicken do not buy anything. But here's the thing, THEY STOP.  

The most valuable thing you can add to your sales tactics is a reason for people to stop. Sure, we all hope that the obvious reason is the awesome thing we are selling. But when you're at a busy event, there's a whole lot to look at and everything is a distraction from your table. Find your own distraction. Be the distraction. Ideally, without pissing off your booth neighbors.

If you don't have a chicken (and I hope you don't because that's my thing), there are many things you can do. One of my author friends hands out odd tidbits on a business card. Werewolf haiku? "I'm sorry, what?" See, they stopped.

Prior to having a chicken, I used, "Would you like a free short story?" Initially, this was a 1/3 sheet of paper folded over with a cover image and a 100 word story. Eventually I switched it up a condensed version of the story on the back of a bookmark, with my marketing stuff on the other side. In the end, after publishing enough books that I needed both sides of my bookmark, I got rid of the short story and went with, "Would you like a free bookmark?"

Are you going to hand out business cards or bookmarks to people who are going to just toss them? Yep. But if you get a percentage of them to stop for the few seconds it takes to make a connection long enough to be able to toss out your one line product pitch, a percentage of those will buy something. The trick is finding your thing that you can afford to give away. 

Your reason to stop doesn't have to be a sticker, or story, or bookmark. Maybe you've got a cool cosplay. Maybe it's a eye catching outfit, a funny hat, or a prop that relates to your genre or book. How about an intriguing line on a banner behind you? I've had people stop because they read 'too much alcohol' on my series banner. My tag line is also fairly successful: Science fiction, Fantasy, Horror...and Chickens. "Umm what? Explain."

It could be none of those things. You know what's free? See #2

Reason #2  Talk to people. Say hello. Notice what they bought and ask them about it. Compliment their shirt/cosplay/any item of clothing/jewelry/hair. Ask a question: Do you like to read. Are you a fan of __. Anything. Start a conversation. Get them to slow down and actually look at you and your wares. Obviously, you can't initiate the same conversation with everyone, but aim for shoppers that look promising. Watch for eye contact, for a flicker of interest in your wares, anyone who is openly into the event - meaning they're not mid-conversation with someone, look petrified you'll talk to them, have their focus stuck on their phone.

Being sociable is not everyone's thing. I get it. I'm only a people person at shows. But you HAVE to turn it on. Think of yourself as a character playing a role if you have to. But for the love of all that's holy, do not sit silently behind your table looking pissed at the world. Got resting grump face? Don't rest. You're there to sell. Selling is hard. It takes effort. It is exhausting, especially for introverts. But you put your heart and soul into creating your thing. You want to share it with the world. Get people to stop for two seconds an actually look at your table. You owe it to yourself to make the effort to be sociable for the time you paid to be there to sell your thing. Do we hope the thing we're there to sell will sell itself? Sure, but... (see #3)

Reason #3  All your products are flat on your table, making it super easy to pay no attention to them. Get your products in front of people's eyes. People DO judge a book by the cover, but it's more likely they'll see that cover if your book is vertical. Do you need an expensive book rack? No, but they do help - as long as you get one that allows for your covers not to be half-hidden behind one another. You can use a cheapo picture/plate easel. For no cost, you can even use a stack of your books to hold up the one vertical display copy.  

If you have stickers or prints, wire grids with a few clips are your answer. Tape art to your banner. Hang it from a bar. Get things vertical. Does everything need to be? No. Go to a show and see what tables grab your attention, consider why that is. There is often a mix of vertical and horizonal display items. What you don't want to do is... (see #4)

Reason #4 Your table is too damn busy. You want whatever you're selling to stand out. Don't make your art compete with a busy table covering. I prefer plain black. That said, I do have a table banner that has simple patterns on it that goes under my book racks. These are subtle images from the backgrounds of a few of my book covers. I've seen some beautiful eye catching shimmery or theme print fabrics (that look like scales, armor, or feathers that work well too). Let your art take center stage. If your wares are busy, displaying them on a busy table covering makes eyeballs want to veer away. 

Will some people veer away no matter what? Yep. You can't win them all. Some people are terrified of chickens. They're not a fan of werewolves or haiku. They don't read comics or science fiction or whatever your genre is. They don't follow the anime that your artwork features. Not everyone is your customer. But some of them are. You just need to get them to slow down and take a look at what you're offering long enough to figure out if they are a fit for what you're selling. Even they they aren't your people, they may know someone who loves your thing and maybe they'll pass on your business card. But you'll never know if you don't get them to stop.

In my ten years of selling at in-person events of all kinds, I can say: 

10% of the attendees are just there for something to do. For exercise. To chat with their friend. To have somewhere to wander while taking their kid for a ride in the stroller. They want to get their steps in while they're face is glued to their phone. These people will likely only look at a small fraction of the booths and be too busy to bother engaging with you. While you should always smile and be ready, the odds are, you won't waste your energy on these people. They are not your customers.

10% of attendees will actually peruse every single booth in search of 'the one thing' they must have. Whatever that might be. They will listen to you and smile and nod, but unless you have their one thing (and these quiet, secretive folks often don't even know what their looking for until they see it), they'll move on. Don't be discouraged by the treasure seekers.

30% of the people are there with their families. They are there for entertainment for the whole family. The odds you can get one of them to slow down with the one thing one of them loves are not zero, but they are also not high because they are moving as a chaotic pack. If you can snag a whole family of readers or fan of your thing, then you're likely to get a sale. See also, "I need to go find my parent and see if they'll buy this for me." Again, not a no, but you're going to have to pitch twice to get that sale.

The other 50% are your probable customers. They are there with money they saved for the purpose of spending it there on the things they love. Learn to spot these people. They wear clothes related to your thing. They might look a certain way that puts them in your demographic. Learn what your demographic is. There are always outliers to that, but it will help to know when to really put your efforts into a sale vs. saving your energy and going with the soft pitch instead. 

You are paying for a table to be able to sell your art. You're also there to have a good time. Look like you're having a good time.

Having a good time, might mean sketching if you're an artist. That is doing something active in your booth that may get attention. If you're an artist that makes things, maybe you're painting a figurine or stringing beads or making buttons - people like to see how your product is made. Do remember to look up and smile at people when they are approaching your table, or have your booth buddy do that if you're wrapped up in arting. If you're a writer, it might mean you have a book or a laptop with you. Be careful no get all wrapped up in your fictional escape from peopling and forget why you're there. I find it's best to save this distraction for when the traffic slows. Writing is not something people get into watching you do in person. It just makes you look like you'd rather not be there (which, while this might be true, is not good for sales).

If you have a table buddy or you've (hopefully) made friends with your booth neighbor(s), be conscious of the passing traffic and pay attention to them and why you're there. Getting wrapped up in too much conversation can lead to lost sales. People may also be hesitant to interrupt you to ask a question if you're busy talking. Be sociable with your neighbors and assistants, but available for your customers. This might mean you drop a conversation mid-sentence to pitch to a customer. It's totally fine. We all do it and we're used to picking back up once the customer leaves the area. Customers get first priority. 

Don't be high pressure. Be friendly. Be engaging. Be proud of your wares. 

If you do those four simple things, the odds of sales are in your favor.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

How Do You Write? July IWSG

June was busy. July will also be busy. August will be insane and then things get better. September through January are my writing months. I'm looking forward to those months. Nice sedate, quieter months.

Not that the busy months are all bad. During those months, book sales at all these events pay for my groceries, my house cleaning, a little extra income so I can have fun now and then, and they also have been subsidizing my major garden project. Thank you to everyone who has purchased a book so far this year. I enjoy eating.

Laya and I were included in a local news article about the Lakeshore Art Festival.

I'm wrapping up the artwork for Laya's Vacation and am aiming for an August release. When in August is yet to be determined. Am I running behind? Yep. Am I stressing about it? Eh, what can you do?

Critiques on I9 continue to bode well. Now I just have to continue writing it. Is it September yet?

If you're not familiar with 
and find links to all the other 
participating writers.

This month's IWSG question asks: What is your favorite writing software/tools/apps? My favorite is good old Word. Yep. I don't need bells or whistles. Let me count the ways I love thee:

I know Word. 

My fingers know Word. 

It does what I need it to do: sit there quietly while I put words on a page. 

It autosaves for me. 

It keeps all my current stuff projects in the 'recent' folder so they are easy to find. 

I don't get distracted from writing on an internet hunt to figure out how to use some feature of it. 

Both Grammarly and Pro-Writing aid have a plug in for it. 

The .doc format easily imports into InDesign when I'm ready to format. 

Everyone accepts a .doc or .pdf from Word for submissions and critique. 

The newer version has a built in narrator that makes read aloud edits super easy. 

If you set up your document correctly, Word event makes jumping around between chapters super easy with it's side bar menus.

Are there plenty of other options? Sure. But Word is what works for me. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

IWSG June?

How is it June already? Time flies when your schedule is full. And then you get a cold. Twice. And drop all the balls and then scramble to pick them all up. I don't have time to be sick! Get thee away from me germs!

I bought my spirit t-shirt.

How is progress on Laya's Vacation going that I planned to release at the end of June? Slowly. (see above). We're now looking at August or September. Not ideal (given my event schedule) but it is what it is.

Laya doodles

Writing in general? Out the window. I am getting some reading done after hours at events though, so yay?

Yes, September is a long way off, but I'm looking forward to quieter times. Does this mean I'll slow my event roll next year? Mmmm probably not. But I will attempt to better organize and protect my writing months (Sept-Feb) so I don't have to stress about fall releases. 

Sales have been good at events since April. Which is wonderful because Jan-March sales were pretty dismal. Now we're in tight inventory management times with 3-5 events per month. No stress at all. Everything is fine. *grimace*

The weather has been playing relatively nice, though this next ren faire looks like a rainy weekend. Ah, the perils of outdoor events. 

Meet Ziggy, my newest chicken buddy.

Other distractions have included: 

Building a large raised garden bed with 70lb+ blocks because my wooden ones rotted after 7 years. This giant bed is going NOWHERE:


Sewing a ren faire outfit for my daughter:

Tunics for everyone!

Weeding flowerbeds (a losing battle that maybe I'll catch up on this fall) No pic needed here. Imagine a hill full of weeds and small unwanted trees with flowers poking up through them. Yep. You got it.

If you're not familiar with 
and find links to all the other 
participating writers.
And now let's get to this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group question: In this constantly evolving industry, what kind of offering/service do you think the IWSG should consider offering to members?

Clones. As long as my clone and I don't get sick at the same time, we could be so much more productive. One could stay home and work on the flower garden and sew and paint and write and the other could go off on road trips to events and work on Amazon ads. One of us could sleep now and then. That would be super cool. We might even make notable progress on my towering TBR stacks. Maybe. Hmm. But that might also mean two of us lose in the bookstore. Nope. Only one clone is allowed to buy books. We must have rules!

Ok, I should probably have a serious answer here but my brain to too scrambled to offer constructive suggestions.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

May brings so many distractions

If you're not familiar with 
and find links to all the other 
participating writers.
The chaos of book-related events is in full swing now. What should I be doing? Writing. I was hoping to be adding more words to I9 now that One Shot At The Sphinx is out. If all had gone according to plan, I was also supposed to be wrapping up illustrations for Laya's Vacation.

Did things go according to plan? No.

What a perfect IWSG question for this month: How do you deal with distractions when you're writing? I'd love to say that I avoid them and diligently write. But the truth is, I dive into them full throttle.

Why? Because if I'm all in on a project, I can't be distracted. In fact, I often can't be bothered with things like sleeping or eating regularly. But if that urge is grabbing me, it's usually my brain telling me I need a break to recharge. And who am I to argue with my brain?

April's distractions on the downside from releasing Frayed and Sphinx, included all six seasons of Vikings among many other Netflix indulgences, and starting a random cross-stitch project after not having done one in years. 

And now that I'm over my Netflix binge, I'm back to painting so I can get the Laya book out this summer. 

Sometimes we need a brain break. 

Last month was also busy with Grand Rapids Comic Con Spring Fling, at which Nana Visitor 
(of DS9 fame, which is my favorite Star Trek, in case you were wondering) stopped by to pet Kay-Kay while she was taking a break from her table. Sadly, I did not get photo evidence.

The show mascot also liked Kay-Kay. Chickens unite!

I just got unpacked from a weekend at Viking Fest with Laya. It was generally good weather for once and we had a lot of fun. We survived the spring winds and rain showers and I managed to get a sunburn. But no hail this year and it was actually downright hot on Sunday so its a win!

I get this weekend off and then there are four weekends of excitement at which I'll be camping. Who scheduled this??? (That would be me.) Renaissance faires and comic cons oh my!

See you next month after a long warm shower. By then I'll probably craving another round of distractions. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Warmer weather brings busy times

April showers bring May flowers and so many projects.

Yes, I normally juggle a few writing projects but it seems like everything is wanting to be written at once. And I'm excited about all of these things so it's hard to focus on just one. For the record, focusing on one project while pondering the others is how I would recommend managing this balancing act. It's just not working right now.

Currently on my virtual desk:

Painting interior art for Laya's Vacation (children's picture book)

Writing The Adventures of Nugget the Space Chicken (young reader chapter book)

Writing I9 (stand-alone adult Science Fiction Mystery

Finishing Interface (stand-alone YA sci-fi)

Writing Godmother (stand-alone YA fairytale)

Fleshing out this new idea for a funny post-apocalyptic zombie/ghost story that just manifested. 

Among other things that are not-so-patiently waiting their turn. OMG. If someone knows where the dial down on the idea faucet is, could they help a girl out? Please?

On the things I can check off my list from last month:

The refresh for the interiors of The Narvan series is done and uploaded. This was more of a 'for me' thing because I wanted them all spiffy to match the new novella prequel release of One Shot at the Sphinx. Which, if you didn't grab your copy from my last post, it's still free on Smashwords, B&N, and Kobo. 

In addition to several events, I visited with the members of the book club at Jason's Books and Coffee in Grand Rapids who read Destiny Pills & Space Wizards. (And yes, I look weirdly photoshopped into that photo, but it's legit. Crazy phone camera focus)

T-rex joined me for
the West Michigan Women's Expo 

Kay-Kay and I visited six classrooms for March Reading Month, talking about books, writing, and chickens. We had a lot of fun and so did the kids. 

My new distraction:

My flock grew last month. Meet Lucy. She's a Toulouse goose mix that is settling in nicely with my chicken ladies. 

When I'm not busy working out the yard, playing with my flock, or working on that list of projects, I'll be signing books at these fun places:

April 6: Cadillac Pop Con, Cadillac, MI

April 12-14: Grand Rapids Spring Fling Comic Con, Kalamazoo, MI

April 26-27: Whitestown Viking Festival, Whitestown, IN

If you're not familiar with 
and find links to all the other 
participating writers.

Speaking of doing lots of things, let's get to this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group question:

How long have you been blogging? What to you like about it and how has it changed?

It doesn't seem like this long, but apparently, I've been at this since January of 2010! When I first stepped into the blogging pool seemed like so many others were doing it too. These days it feels like our numbers have dwindled. It could be that many, like me, are still at it, but we don't post as often as we used to. Thanks to this group, I can say I at least post once a month. Hooray for that!

I met a lot of fun people through their blogs, had a great time doing various blog hops. The A to Z challenge was a particularly great one that pushed me to think of new ways to work that in each year. Sadly, these days, I don't have as much brain to devote to blogging as I did back when I was first starting out. At that time I was just getting into the publishing world, writing a lot of short stories and polishing my first novels. Now I'm busy going out to promote my bookstack and drowning in the perpetually running faucet of inspiration when I'm home. 

There are far worse problems to have. ;)

Keep blogging.