Animethon 2018 Post Mortem

I decided not to do WWC this year – and did this convention instead. I don’t regret this choice. WWC was one of my lowest performing conventions, sales-wise (granted, it’s not really a selling con), and while I enjoy hanging out with my fellow creatives, I promised myself this year I’d only do larger, sales-driven conventions. Looks like everyone who went had a lot of fun!

The day we drove up to Edmonton, my reprints arrived! On a large FedEx truck. On a skid. In the walkway up to the front. This is my life now.

It’s fine – in Big Life News, Dave and I just bought a HOUSE, so in a month’s time, FedEx can deliver things right into my basement storage. YEAH!! I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally have a REAL OFFICE and REAL STORAGE and not live AMONG THE STORAGE.

So along the THREE SHOWS I have coming up within the next month, we are also moving house. Oh and you know – doing work and writing books!

To follow my sales journey and to see how I did at past conventions, click here for the full list of articles.
I talk conventions with my BFF on my new podcast, BUSINESS BFFs. Listen here.

General Impressions

I had the smoothest load-in ever for a convention at Animethon. We drove into the loading dock, and GES staff were there with their own dollies, and asked if we needed help. I hesitantly said yes, fearing I’d get a bill from GES later for “handling” as they stacked my many boxes on their oversized dolly and wheeled it down to my table. He told us to return the dolly whenever we were done. But no bill, just kind service! Yeah! Normally load-in takes a few trips, but this worked out great!

Display

Similar to what I’ve done throughout the year! However, I FINALLY got batteries for these lights I bought two years ago and strung them around my boxes. I think it was a subtle, little thing that added a little more oomph to the display!

I’ll say though: I think having the three Violet Foxies in a row with my logo bookends REALLY helps the customer. It’s shorthand for “this is a series, and this is the order.” I might need more bookends to do that for the Sparkstone Saga as well.

My new banner arrived the day after Animethon, so it will debut at my next show. No pipe and drape in artist alley. I can see the benefit of a single-coloured backing with my books, however, though I am hesitant to invest in and lug around photographer backing. I also need a table runner – I’ve been using my poor white table cloth in that role long enough. Time to invest.

Even when you’ve been doing shows for a while, there are always things you can improve upon!

Sales

As with Otafest last year, Friday was a long slog. Sales were fine, but the day felt excruciating. Edmonton was buried in heat and post-apocalyptic smoke from BC wildfires—I didn’t believe the patrons when they said that it smelled like smoke outside. It was Silent Hill, except populated. Saturday was better—far more crowds and the rain finally came. Sunday was like Friday, but cooler, though the hours were shorter and I made essentially Saturday sales, even with the thinner crowds.

I sold far more individual copies of Stars In Her Eyes than The Violet Fox, but The Violet Fox continues to win the battle of the bundles. Almost everyone wanted the three books in the series so far instead of just one. My pricing strategy continues to work perfectly, at least for the Violet Fox Series!

I also didn’t sell as many Sparkstone Saga bundles as expected – I think this continues the trend of anime fans preferring fantasy over science fiction. The Sparkstone Saga is a soft sci-fi – it has fantastical elements – so I should probably play that up at future anime conventions to move more of those units. A lot of people admired the art, however, and I did have fans ask if Darkness In Her Reach was available yet. Aghhhhhh next year?? I know, it needs to be now!

My 2-for-$30 deal continues to work well, an easy upsell that has singlehandedly generated record numbers for me this year. This kind of deal will become a cornerstone of my strategy going forward, especially as I generate more content.

I’m about halfway through my shows for the year. Looking at my averages, Animethon was very middle of the road, not bad, and not stellar. This isn’t a bad thing. I’ll take an average show that lines up with my expectations. I was a little short of my target goal, but I can’t complain. Less than Ottawa, but slightly more than Montreal Comiccon. Considering that Animethon has around 10,000 attendees and Montreal has around 60,000, this is pretty impressive – and one of the reasons I enjoy doing anime shows. Remember that I have a (fairly) established brand at this point, my books show well, and I have enough product to give the buyer some choice. That’s really the only reason I can make conventions work for me in the first place!

Interactions

Dave and I stayed at MacEwan University, a place that felt secure, though walking twenty minutes to the event downtown felt a little unsafe. I made the walk multiple times without incident. Usually Animethon is held at the university, but they upgraded to the new venue, and this was a point of contention for some, especially when it came to personal safety. Granted, I was there to go to a specific spot and work for eight to nine hours, so I can only speak to the safety of the specific path I took that weekend! There were multiple security guards, Animethon staff, and people with “SAFETY” vests walking around (not sure what made them different from venue security and event staff?), so once I was within the event itself, I felt perfectly safe. I also appreciated the Shaw staff standing on the landings, checking badges at multiple levels and directing people as well.

Justin Currie and I had a good chat at the water cooler (they had a whole station for FREE WATER, which is AWESOME! More conventions need to do this) about how every anime convention is kind of the same. I’ve only done three now – but I see his point. If going to conventions is going to a workplace, something like Otafest or Animethon is a normal nine-to-five office job. Fan Expos are more flashy, more crowded, and you’re not going for more than five minutes without engaging someone (in my case).

As for the attendees, I got a lot of “I don’t have any money,” which I noted at Otafest last year as well. As with Anime North, I had a number of people compulsively, anxiously explaining why they would like to buy my books, but can’t (not enough cash, already reading too many books, etc). I find this behaviour overwhelming, and I know it’s a defense mechanism for the customer, it’s just not one I enjoy being on the receiving end for.

I had a lot of interactions that I were 100% sure were going to turn into purchases – but didn’t. Usually my conversion is pretty high. The longer you speak to me – and you’re not an aspiring writer/publisher – the more likely it is you’re there to buy. Just an interesting observation that I think speaks to the demographics range of the attendees: a lot of younger folks who go to the convention with their friends to hang out.

A side note here: Dave and I have been doing a lot of furniture shopping in the past few weeks as we prepare to move into our new house, and being on the receiving end of an aggressive sales person is so overwhelming. I had no idea that this was what I was in for. It made me question my own sales experience. I hope I’ve never been so aggressive to make someone uncomfortable. I also never want to come off as desperate – because I’m not. I engage in enough conversation to see what kind of interaction you’re comfortable with – and then I leave you alone to make a decision (as much as a person trapped behind a table in a crowded, small space CAN leave you alone, that is!). With books, either you like what I’m offering, or you don’t! Although, I will say, if you’re interested in interacting and you are not annoying, I have no problem with that at all.

Interactions of note:

The young man who looked at all my books and, asked if I wrote them all, and then asked, “Can I have your autograph?”

“If you buy something, I’ll sign it,” I replied.

“You drive a hard bargain.” He did not buy.

I think me three years ago would have signed a bookmark and given it to him – but I like to think my time and signature is worth something!

Another young man fell into my cover vortex and had a hard time escaping. AKA: he could not stop staring at my books, and that’s not a euphemism. Just, literally, five minutes of staring. He said, “I don’t read, but these make me want to.” He did not buy, but I could have pushed a little harder. I treat these people delicately. I would not want to be responsible for turning them away from reading, so I guide them carefully towards things I think they might like.

Also, more people asking for advice – how do I become a writer, how do I do what you do. I should just write a blog post! But so many idealistic people do not realize the kind of commitment publishing can be, how success is really a ten- to twenty-year slog, and it’s me patiently but excitedly shoving ten years of advice into five minutes. I enjoy dispensing the advice, but I also get anxious because I don’t want people to have the wrong idea – AKA, “I can write a book and then people will buy it.” Nothing is guaranteed.

I also had my VERY FIRST COSPLAYER! Ahhhh! Yeah! A woman bought my books on the Saturday, and returned on Sunday with specific questions about the Violet Fox – what she wears, what kind of fabric do I mean on this specific page! It was very flattering but also a little intimidating! So nice to know that people love my characters that much!

Good People!

I met Sam Taylor, a chibi artist. She was behind me at Otafest as well, but this weekend we really got to know each other! Yay new friends. She drew me a Bastila chibi, because KOTOR rules. My other neighbour was Lisa. She’s so talented! I really enjoyed our chats about the business – we’re both in the same place in our career. It’s comforting when you see other people with similar obstacles!

Thank you to everyone who stopped at my table and said hi!

Birthday!

It was my 30th birthday on the 13th, and so Dave and I celebrated by upgrading to a nice hotel and shopping on the Monday. He showered me with presents – an RGB keyboard (it lights up!) and no birthday is complete without some Junji Ito collections! I think I have them all now. I also bought myself the TIME stories board game, which we’ve played sporadically with our friends and I LOVE.

2018 has flown by. A lot of life things are happening this year. My business is expanding, my drive to focus on my own art is growing stronger, we bought a house, and I travelled across the country and the continent. My twenties were my adult adolescence, and I feel “real” adulthood creeping on – I’m narrowing in on what I want to spend my time on, and less concerned about the things that won’t get me to where I want to be. I recognize I’m lucky and privileged. I’ve always known what I wanted and I’ve had the resources and support to achieve my goals. This year was one of the first where I’ve felt like I’m “finally” getting somewhere – like people are starting to recognize who I am and what I’m about.

Will I Go Back?

Unfortunately many artist tables at anime shows are by lottery. Including this one! This is a good idea for the artist tables (allows up-and-coming artists a chance to get in), though I wish that some of the tables were straight-up applications so I could establish a firm presence at this show! So yes, I’d like to return – if fortune is in my favour!

Next stop: Toronto, for Fan Expo Canada!

To follow my sales journey and to see how I did at past conventions, click here for the full list of articles.
I talk conventions with my BFF on my new podcast, BUSINESS BFFs. Listen here.