If you’re an author in any of the speculative fiction genres, one way to promote yourself and your books is to exhibit at comic conventions. I’ve done quite a few myself and find them really fun and a great way to connect with readers. Although I’m no veteran yet, I’ve worked enough big cons to have learned a few things about how to sell books, especially in a setting that puts more emphasis on art and comic books.
Here are a few tips to try:
Get a backdrop. Most exhibitors, whether authors or artists, have something behind them that shows people what they’re about and draws them to the table. Artists have their art; authors need something else, whether a poster, banner, or pull-up with something to do with your books on it. Make it attractive and interesting, and make it tall enough to easily see while remaining within the con’s rules.
More is more. More books and merchandise is better than less. I’ve found this to be true for myself and for other authors. Ideally, you would have multiple books and other merch such as t-shifts, stickers, etc. If you’re just starting out with one book (like I did), put out many stacks of those books. Along with your other important information (business cards, information about you, sign-up sheet to collect emails, signs), you’ll have a full table.
Stand up. Standing up means engaging with people, whereas sitting down is passive. Make eye contact with people passing by. Say hello. Your feet will get tired, so it’s okay to sit down from time to time, but don’t stay seated all day. And, just as important, greet people who do come over. Make them feel welcome.
Stand your books up. You want people to easily see the cover of your book(s). You can buy plexiglass stands that will stand your books up for you, or you can stack 8-10 books and then lean one against the stack. Make sure you have multiple copies facing passersby. This not only draws people to your table if you have an interesting cover, but it makes the books seem more accessible, increasing the probability that someone will pick one up.
Pitch, don’t bore. Pitching your book(s) is an art that takes practice. Work on your “elevator speech” and make sure you can summarize your book or series in a sentence or two. What genre is it? Does it have a sub-genre? Who do readers compare it to? What’s it about? Keep it short and let them look through your books or materials, and offer to answer any questions.
Regarding selling style: Some authors will try to pull potential customers in by calling out to them as they pass by (“Do you love to read?”) or putting copies into passersby’s hands. Others will hang back more, allowing people to decide if the book covers and backdrop interest them. The right way is the way that works for you. How do you like to be sold to? What feels most comfortable to you? Personally, I don’t like a hard sell; if something interests me, I will approach the table. I’ve found that the readers will come to my table without my doing anything other than look friendly: they’re attracted to the book’s cover, my sign, or they just love to read.
Pricing. Always make your prices clear by posting them on cards or signs. Offer deals if you can. I offer a “special con price” that’s lower than what my books cost online. For payment, keep change for those who pay cash. And make sure you take credit cards. The PayPal Here swiper (or Square) is super easy to use with your phone and free with a PayPal account.
Network. During slow periods, talk to other authors. What’s working for them? What other events do they like to do? Find them on social media and stay in touch. You can meet great friends and colleagues this way. And it never hurts to look around and buy books or art from other artists, if their stuff appeals to you.
This is just a partial list, which will likely expand as I learn more. If you have other suggestions, feel free to add in the comment section.