After-Action Report: Days of the Dead Atlanta, 2019
The weekend of January 25 to January 27, I attended the Days of the Dead Atlanta horror convention at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel in Atlanta, GA, splitting a table with fellow dark fiction author T.S. Dann. I sold 24 copies of The Thing in the Woods and six copies of The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Vol. 2. After running all of my expenses (costs of the table, per-unit book costs, snacks, a Lyft ride) and gross revenue, I made around $180 profit. In terms of single-event profitability, this one places second to the Atlanta Comic-Con in July 2017 and ahead of the Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo I attended in March 2017. This one is a definite go-back, especially once my upcoming horror-comedy Little People, Big Guns is released by Deadite Press in November 2019.
(Considering how there aren't a lot of conventions in December and I've got a lot of RL obligations that month, if Days of the Dead Atlanta 2020 is in January that might be the first event where I sell LBPG.)
In addition to earning money, I also got 31 e-mails for my mailing list, which will come in handy when my military sci-fi novel Blood on the Border, the slightly more science-fiction oriented Thing sequel The Atlanta Incursion, and LPBG come out.
(Only LPBG has a definite release date--Blood will be published independently hopefully sometime over the summer and I haven't heard back from the publisher yet on TAI. However, I've got high hopes for them all.)
Based on attending this convention and previous events, here's my advice for aspiring authors:
*Always split the table at a convention if you can. One reason that I made so much profit (as opposed to just gross revenue, although that too was pretty high) at Atlanta Comic-Con was because I split the table with C.S. Johnson. The table cost at Days of the Dead was high, but fortunately Dann was able to shoulder half of it. If he hadn't been able to attend, I would have barely recovered my expenses--and that doesn't take it into account that some people who came over to check his stuff out ultimately bought some of my stuff instead or as well.
*Take the time to network. I met Jeff Strand and his wife artist Lynne Hansen as well as John Wayne Comunale there. The Strands informed me there's a Horror Writers Association chapter that just formed in Atlanta that, in addition to networking opportunities at meetings, intends to set up a table members can sell from at the Decatur Book Festival. Considering how I sold a fair number of copies at the DBF at the Atlanta Writers' Club booth, another table someone else is paying for that I can put shifts in sounds awesome.
*Have more than one product to sell if possible. 20% of my profit for the event came from the Heroic Fantasy Quarterly anthology, which wasn't yet published when I had my first book signings and convention appearances. As I publish more and more books, I anticipate my revenues will rise. Someone who isn't interested in the Lovecraft-type horror of Thing might like the Dungeons and Dragons and/or Conan the Barbarian type stories in the Heroic Fantasy Quarterly anthology or the ridiculousness and Crosses The Line Twice of LPBG.
*Always bring your lunch. Leaving the table to get food will not only cost you potential sales (since you're not at the table to sell to passers-by), but you'll spend money on the food. Getting a sandwich from the hotel Starbucks at the Atlanta Comic Convention in December 2017 cost me $6.50, equivalent to the profit of selling one copy of The Best of Fantasy Quarterly Vol. 2. I'm not recommending being a total cheapskate, especially if there's something new and good to eat at the convention, but remember everything has a cost.
*Always have lots of bookmarks and other swag to hand out. I handed out hundreds of VistaPrint large-size cards (that can be used as bookmarks) that Digital Fiction Publishing designed for me. This cards have a QR Code linking to a page with links to the various places my fiction is available online. People who weren't able to purchase my books at the convention will be able to do so using the QR code on the card--and be able to purchase other short stories, novellas, etc. that simply don't exist in print form. Even if they don't know how to use QR codes or simply don't bother with them, the card has the title, author, publisher, etc. and can remind them to look it up. Handing out the cards could generate additional sales for me for days, possibly weeks, afterward.