Fan Expo Canada 2018 Post Mortem

My biggest show of the year, done! But was it worth it? Mostly I’m itching to work on Darkness In Her Reach, but this is the first of three shows in September, so it’s show time.

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

The logistics of this show are a bit of a nightmare, unhelped by the fact that downtown Toronto and the convention centre itself is a maze! Thanks to the woman whose name I don’t know if I got, who saw me struggling to get three suitcases through the front doors, ran up to me, and not only showed me where to go but helped me roll my bags right to my table. Turns out – she’s a Nova Scotian too! Makes sense, we’re always rushing in to help those in need.

Also I met my friends Brianne and Jake, and they helped me load in the stock I’d shipped ahead. It was nice to visit, even if briefly! THANK YOU so much for your help!!

Once me and my things were in the convention centre, and I’d grabbed my badges, set-up was a breeze.

Display

I got my new table runner the day before I left for Toronto! It looks great, and so much lighter than the white tablecloth. My logo will either print too red or too blue—it depends on the printer—but it’s fine, still purple. My eBook sign, prominently displayed, helped me sell a bunch of eBook bundles, though it hasn’t fared well with all the frequent travel. I need to make a new one.

My new banner ALSO arrived! I’d lost it at Anime North. Now I’ve remade it. Now the tiger is MORE POWERFUL than EVER BEFORE. Scott Henderson made me a map of Marlenia, which I’ve put into the reprints of The Silver Spear and The Emerald Cloth – you can see that within the tiger itself. I’m going to make another banner for the Sparkstone Saga so I have a better “backdrop.”

With the way I arranged the stacks, I think it was a little clearer to people what book belonged to what series, and their ordering.

I like how Sam and Greg had little cards sticking out of display copies that showed price and gave a description of the product. I think going forward, I need to make little laminated signs for each book that describe book order and series, and colour code them by series.

Sales

I went in with high expectations, thinking I was going to burst through all my sales goals. But as far as shows this year…this one was just fine. Not terrible–I was really close to making Calgary Expo numbers–but not really the sales I was expecting for a show with 120,000 people. Just goes to show that the biggest shows aren’t necessarily better—and that if you let your hopes and dreams get in the way with hard facts, you’re going to get unexpected, potentially disappointing results.

I have a predictable sales pattern for three and four-day shows. Fifteen to twenty percent of my sales on the Thursday/Friday, about forty percent on the Saturday, and the remaining twenty-five percent on the Sunday. Those numbers can fluctuate – sometimes forty percent of my sales are on the Sunday instead. But generally speaking, that’s the curve.

For Fan Expo Canada this year, I had twenty-five percent on each day. A flat line. Not only that, I had large windows of time with no sales. People would buy immediately in the morning, and then trickles throughout the day, and then a big chunk at the end. Now, I’m used to the afternoon lull, that’s to be expected. But a lull from 11am to 3pm? Not that I’m getting no people. On the contrary. I’m chatting up potential customers, people are taking my cards, people are interested.

Here’s why I think people weren’t buying:

1. Herd mentality. Especially on Saturday, you could barely move. People were shuffling by, looking, taking cards, but they didn’t want to stop. They just wanted to get through.
2. Overstimulation. There’s two buildings, so many artists, many large displays. I can compete with that, but I can’t compete with a headache.
3. Engagement on their terms. They didn’t want to have a conversation. They just wanted to get on ABC place to get XYZ item, and I’m an unexpected attraction. They’d take my card and look me up later.
4. Low Return. Many customers I was positive would return, didn’t. I have a pretty high return rate. This is because people want my product, but they don’t want to carry it around the show with them. I feel people didn’t return because they couldn’t physically get through the crowds on Saturday and Sunday. My customers on Thursday and Friday returned as normal, because it was less busy.

As for the actual sales! The Violet Fox Series wins, as usual. Sold nearly double as many sets as the Sparkstone Saga bundle, although I sold more single Stars In Her Eyes than single copies of The Violet Fox. Again, I think this is a pricing thing. I make it convenient for people to buy two books with The Violet Fox pricing, where it’s not as convenient with the Stars In Her Eyes pricing. I might re-jig some of my bundle prices to move more Sparkstone Sagas.

Another reason I sell more Violet Foxies is because when given the choice between fantasy and science fiction, most leaned towards fantasy. I ended up altering my pitch for the Sparkstone Saga as it’s a superpowered teens vs invading aliens story anyway. So I’ll lead with that in the future instead of just saying it’s straight-up science fiction.

I shipped a ton of boxes ahead of the show and sold through most of them and took remainders home in suitcases. I availed myself of Greg and Justin’s travelling pallet and put some boxes there—they will meet me in Saskatoon. This is something I’ll look into doing in the future. I have seven books now, and I need to bring at least a box of each to a show—two boxes when it comes to the Violet Fox Series. Having travelling stock that I can keep track of will save me so much stress, time, and money.

I have six more confirmed shows—still waiting to hear back about a few Christmas spots—and I’ve already surpassed my 2017 con sales numbers.

Thieves! Part II

If you remember from my Montreal post, thieves have been hitting the Quebec and Ontario conventions. Apparently a handful of large artist booths were hit at this convention as well. No one seems certain if these are the same thieves as in Montreal, but it’s unsettling all the same. I may have to upgrade my cash box to a fanny pack, as unappealing and unfashionable as they are.

The first two days of the convention, security was lax. On Wednesday evening, during vendor set-up, anyone could walk in there with confidence and snag unattended valuables. Literally anyone. There was a bag-check line for vendors each day…but Sam and I were able to waltz by without being detected. It was only on Saturday, after several artists had been hit by thieves, Informa beefed up its security, blocked entrances, enforced lines, and had volunteers at multiple checkpoints who would engage with you. A band-aid solution for an already gushing wound.

Loss prevention is hard, I get it. But taking action only after something becomes a problem…is a problem itself.

Good People

This is the first of three shows I’m doing with my group of friends! Sam, Greg, Drake, and Greg’s helper Jess and I rented a luxe condo for the long weekend (oh but shh, DO NOT TELL ANYONE ITS AN AIRBNB and DO NOT MAKE CONTACT WITH THE CONCIERGE was a huge theme of the weekend!). It was right around the corner from the convention centre—perfect location and great views! It’s generally worth it to pay a little extra to stay a little closer. Then you don’t have to worry about commuting or the cost of commuting. All of us were zonked after each day. We had a lot of low-key hangs to accompany the high-stress show, just what we all needed. We’re also going to be staying together at Saskatoon and Edmonton.

I also got to see Andrew, my Montreal neighbour, and Dustin from Jailbird Comics (Ottawa neighbour) once again! And I met Danny Zabbal at Saturday dinner. A wonderful storyteller, very funny, very down-to-earth.

Thanks to everyone who came to see me at the table!

The Weird

As always, I seem to attract the odd ones.

One man asked me where I was from. I told him.

“Calgary? Wait so that’s like, an hour’s drive from here?”

“Uh…it’s a four-hour flight.”

This did not compute. “So you took a bus? A train?”

“I flew. On a plane.”

He left after that.

Then I got a shy one who claimed he could read my aura. Apparently it is pleasant and business-like. Oh, and turns out I’m “quite beautiful” too. Do people think that I don’t know this? When has this line worked? C’mon.

A man on Sunday asked who I was cosplaying because I looked “amazing.” Okay, that’s not really weird, but it came out of left field after a string of other unrelated questions, and I was just wearing my purple dress. Sigh.

Hey guys, I own a mirror. I know what I’m about. There’s a difference between a compliment and a compliment hooked on a rod and string, and believe me, we know when you’re fishing.

Several people asked me for directions, or what table number I was. Not everyone got a map, I guess, and Informa only writes the table numbers on the floor. Sigh.

Will I Do It Again?

I’m not sure. I think I could do it cheaper. Expenses are high. And I do honestly believe that you have to do a show three times to build in that customer base. Doing Anime North helped. I had a little recognition. I’d have to do this show two more times to know for sure. Next year, it’s the weekend before Labour Day, so maybe that will make a difference in attendance numbers? Hard to say.

Two weeks of work, then it’s off to Saskatoon, then Edmonton, and then it’s NEW HOUSE TIME!!!

Here’s me and BFF SAM havin’ a GRAND time.

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.