After-Action Report: ConFinement 2020
On Saturday (6/13) and Sunday (6/14), I attended ConFinement, an impromptu convention in Dalton, GA put together by people who really, really wanted to go LibertyCon in Chattanooga, canceled this year due to coronavirus concerns. My main goal was to sell books, although networking and just plain enjoying myself was a nice plus.
Before I get into the sales part, here are some fun things that happened:
*I'd anticipated only fans from Georgia and Tennessee and maybe a few outliers from states that are farther out but still nearby, but people came from all over. I spoke to a young-adult librarian volunteer from Florence, Texas about their possibly stocking The Thing in the Woods and met people who'd come down from Raleigh, Detroit, somewhere in Virginia, and even New York City. And although the Facebook event only had 60 confirmed and 80 maybes, around 118 people actually showed up. For a convention that only had two months to prepare and wasn't heavily advertised, this was impressive.
*One person couldn't leave Sunday morning because a cat had gotten into the engine of her hybrid van. The hybrid part is important because the undercarriage is sealed off rather than being open like a conventional engine--the cat would either have to get in/out via the axle/wheel well or up through the engine. I got some of a breakfast casserole to try to lure it out with the smell of meat, but that didn't work. I called the county animal control in hopes they had people with the skills and tools to get an animal out (maybe some kind of lasso or hook), but we had three police cars show up instead. It must've been a very slow morning. :) I ended up going back inside, since I doubted I could be of any more use than three policemen with flashlights and the car's actual owner. I later went back to check on everybody and both the driver and the police were gone. The hotel manager said he didn't know exactly how the "crisis" was resolved.
(Cue the Unsolved Mysteries or X-Files theme songs. The great mystery of ConFinement 2020--what happened to the cat?)
*Enough people came that the convention organizer--Baen Books author Michael Z. Williamson--ordered Chili's for everybody. Given the severe hit that COVID-19 inflicted on the economy in general and restaurants in particular, I'm willing to bet that huge order of sliders, ribs, Southwestern egg rolls, and vegetables with ranch dipping sauce was well-appreciated.
*Since the hotel only provided the most basic continental breakfast (i.e. honey-buns), people chipped in food for a con suite. We're talking homemade cookies and brownies, candy, fruit, pastries, deli-type sandwiches, soft drinks, and water. I tend to bean-count to make sure I cover my costs at every event, so not having to buy any meals (other than some McDonalds in Acworth when the sugar crash from the birthday cake I'll get to in a later anecdote hit on the way home) was really nice.
*The whole event, including the panels and all the vending, was in one large room. So from my table I could hear everything being discussed. For example, on a panel about actually running conventions, I learned a bit about labor laws and why chocolate or cheese fountains at conventions are not really good ideas. :)
*Sunday was somebody's birthday, so a big sheet cake was acquired. Another nice boost for the local economy. And free cake. :)
*Late Saturday night, I got to listen to Baen Books Acquiring Editor Gray Rinehart play on his guitar a parody of Looking Glass's "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)" about a fan who wants to go to LibertyCon. He also played "Another Romulan Ale" (a Star Trek song that also references other science-fiction franchises) and a short parody of "Freebird" about not playing "Freebird" on request. That song was pretty funny. And he's got a BandCamp page, so if you want to listen to his songs, here you go.
(And although Baen had rejected Battle for the Wastelands, Mr. Rinehart was so kind as to send me all the commentary, both positive and negative, from the editorial readers. I used that to make the final edits before hiring Jason Sizemore to put together an independent print and e-book edition for me. I showed him the final product and he liked what he saw.)
*Baen Books Publisher Toni Weisskopf gave me a free copy of the science-fiction novel Frozen Orbit because I'm a teacher. Ms. Weisskopf went all-in on the free books--for teachers, for parents of teens, for people who'd never attended a Baen "road show" at a convention before, etc. I think I'll review Frozen Orbit when I've got the time to read it.
As far as selling went, I sold that second backer copy of the tabletop war-game Stalin's Final War that I helped fund on Kickstarter. I'd helped fund the game because I liked the concept, not because I'm a gamer, but realized that I could independently sell my backer copies much like I independently sell my books for money. I also sold five copies of Thing, five copies of Little People, Big Guns, two copies of Battle, one copy of my short-story collection Flashing Steel, Flashing Fire, and two copies of the short-story collection The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Vol. 2 in which my Viking monster story "Nicor" appears. I sold a bunch in "two for $20 deals" and made one "three for $30" deal that, although they meant less per-book profit, meant more books got moved.
Having reviewed my figures, if I don't include the cost of SFW (which I backed more to be a patron of the arts rather than get a product to sell), I made a profit of $34.19 for the whole weekend. If I include the cost of SFW, however, it's a loss of around $35. Not including SFW, period, means a loss of $15. I also got ten e-mail addresses for the newsletter, which will be of particular importance with The Atlanta Incursion (the Thing sequel) slated for release in later June or early July and one person saying they'd prefer Thing and Battle as e-books.
Still, for the fun had and most if not all of the costs covered (I definitely got more than my money's worth on all the food), I would count this as a success. :)