Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Con Game

When I first I got published, I couldn't wait to attend the various mystery cons like Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, and Men of Mystery. What I soon discovered was that the audience seemed to be mostly other mystery writers and those fans in attendance were there for the big name headliners. Typical of any fan response was when I hosted a Men of Mystery table and I could tell the people were disappointed in being assigned to a writer of vampire novels. At mystery cons, fans are interested in the authors of traditional hardback mysteries and fantasy stories are usually ignored. Of course, if my name was Charlaine Harris or Joe Hill, then it would've been a different ball game. As it was, I'd be lucky to sign five copies of my books. I tried a couple of ThrillerFests. Each long weekend would set me back close to two grand for airfare, hotel, conference fee, meals, and the bar tab. For my money and trouble I'd get one panel, usually at 9 AM, and maybe ten people in the audience.

On the other hand, science-fiction/fantasy cons proved worth attending. A literary event like MileHiCon will attract over 1,200 attendees, while the various Comic Cons will bring in tens of thousands, numbers that rival the L.A. Times Festival of Books. (For the record, I've sold plenty of books there.) Last weekend I was at PensaCon--one of the smaller Comic Cons--and it tallied over 38,000 visitors. So you can see how the numbers at science-fiction/fantasy cons stack in my favor. Typically, I might sit on five-six panels and I can expect anywhere from thirty to fifty in the audience, sometimes over a hundred. Fans seek me out to sign my books or to meet me in the dealer's booth.

Lately, I've gotten connected with WordFire Press. What impressed me about their operation is that they hustle and sell books. Take a look at that booth--the Tower of Nerd--and compare that to what Barnes & Noble might offer. WordFire also cranks up the publicity machine to get the word out. But setting up and staffing that booth is work.

Don't get me wrong, Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime are a blast. Mystery writers are a great bunch to hang out with and toss back drinks. But publishing is a business and I have to follow the money.


Anonymous said...

I can only speak for myself, but as a reader and a fan, one of the things I love about attending cons is finding out about new or as-yet undiscovered authors that I would never have known about otherwise. Sadly, the smaller, more intimate cons seem to be dying off (Scene of the Crime, Bloody Words) but when I attend the bigger conventions, I usually make a point of getting to the new author breakfasts or visiting the mystery cafe.

Mario Acevedo said...

You are awesome. Thanks for your props.