Conventioning: A Promotion Idea
My appearance this year will be a bit more useful to building a brand because I’ve hit on a couple of surefire ways to market myself:
Don’t Buy Table Time – In my experience, buying a table to sell books doesn’t really net much profit. Sure, you might get your book in front of a few new readers, but in the long run you will be out valuable money and time. By the time you invest in printing up a bunch of books and posters and other swag, rent a table and figure out a good way to do credit card payments, your hours sitting alone at the table will feel like a spiraling black hole for your finances.
Get On Some Panels – If you manage to become a media guest (this requires emailing small conventions, having some Twitter clout and a few books under your belt and about 90% luck) it is worth volunteering to be a panelist. The first year at SoonerCon I volunteered for too much, suggested panel topics that didn’t make the cut, and even though I enjoyed myself, I didn’t market very well. Panels give you a captive audience to show what you know about writing or other topics, and if you play your cards right you’ll find more prospective readers that way. And the panels are loads of fun, choc full of healthy banter.
Suggest Some Panels – This usually happens if you get invited for a second time, but suggest panels that would give you opportunities to talk ball it your own writing. I was able to get 5 panels on the schedule this year, and all of them will give me the soap box I need to show my skill as a storyteller.
Invest in Great Business Cards – I’ve made book marks in the past and simply handed them out at random, but this doesn’t really do much for marketing. You need to get some great business cards designed. Don’t do it yourself. They need to be bigger than normal, say 4-5″ square, glossy, and display your author page, a professional glamor shot, some of your book covers and a Twitter handle. These are much more impressive, and if they are bigger than a business card they won’t get lost in the back of the wallet.
Give Stuff Away – When you are a guest on a panel, you can use the opportunity to work some soft sell magic by giving a lucky member of the audience a free book with one of those big business cards stuffed inside. Ask the audience a trivia question, and then hand the lucky winner a book. If word gets out, perhaps folks will come to the panel to get the freebie and in the meantime you can show them why they should read you.
The most important tip here is that writers need to work toward a goal of engagement. If readers can see you are a real person whose not so concerned about hocking wares, you might just inadvertently hock some wares.