Saskatoon Expo 2018 Post Mortem

Ahhh Saskatoon! At the beginning of the year, I was fairly convinced I wouldn’t return to Sask Expo. Not because it became independent once more after Informa bought out the Calgary and Edmonton shows—because of personal superstitions.

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

In 2016, the day before I left for Saskatoon Expo, I fell and rolled my ankle pretty badly. I went to the con on the bus anyway but it took a while for me to heal.

In 2017, the day before Saskatoon Expo, I sprained my hand. There was no way I’d be able to handle travel, luggage, and set-up by myself, so I had to cancel the whole trip—forfeiting hundreds of dollars in table and travel costs.

I thought, maybe I’m cursed? Maybe I’m not “meant” to do this show? Superstitions and “signs” have a way of burrowing deep in the mind, creating irrational fears.

In January 2018, Chris Bernhard, the showrunner, emailed and offered me a discounted table rate.

I thought about it and said yes—wondering if this was me flying in the face of a Warning from the Universe.

But I’m happy to report that the third time’s the charm and I was not injured before, during, or after (knock on wood!) the show. It helped that, despite my busy schedule, I didn’t rush and gave myself lots of breaks in the week leading up to the event – so I wasn’t too tired or stressed! So yes, by being cognizant of my body and my limits, I “broke” a “curse.” How about that?

When I got off the plane, I noticed a woman with a Saskatoon Expo sign—definitely there to pick up some creator guests. I felt emboldened—they’re probably going to the convention center. I could probably get a ride.

Once I grabbed my bags from the carousel, I approached the woman and asked if it would be possible for me to hitch a ride—even though I’m a vendor, not a guest. She looked at my many bags and said, “We might be able to make room.”

We went outside, and turns out, they had two SUVs—room for me, my things, as well as the other guests. So thank you Crystal for accommodating me and driving me to the convention center! It saved me a $30 cab ride. 🙂 You have to be willing to brave the “no” to get to the “yes!”

Once there, I dropped off my bags, started set up, and sorted out the pallet situation. Many vendors use the travelling pallet, so the cargo was spread out over many booths, so once I tracked down my two boxies, I was like, wow, this is a service I could get used to!! Next week, I’ll have an idea of what this service cost me, since I sent more boxies on to Edmonton Expo!

Display

The display here is identical to my Fan Expo Canada set-up. The batteries ran out of juice for my little fairy lights and I didn’t realize until I got there – aww! Those batteries only lasted for seven show days (one three-day show, one four-day show).

I also had a great location – I was right by the entrance! I may have requested this, but honestly, it was 9 months ago, so…I don’t remember!

My table runner was a good investment. People actually read it – and it gives them an idea of what I do without me having to TELL them what kind of books are on the table! Hurray! I got it from Vistaprint for around $100.

I need a second banner now more than ever! Since the small press booth type has disappeared from both the Calgary and the Edmonton shows (aka, I’m buying artist alley table space, which is cheap but generally doesn’t include pipe and drape), I desperately need a better backdrop to hide the adjoining row of artist’s displays.

But comparing my display to two years ago?

You can see where I’ve refined and unified the look of the brand. The look will always be evolving with the number of titles I have.

Upping the Game

I’ve done a few things in the past month to improve the display, not including the new banner and table runner!

First – new eBook sign! I realized some time last year that the eBook bundles actually sell when there is a sign blatantly stating “EBOOKS AVAILABLE.” But my sign wasn’t good enough – it was confusing. People thought only the books pictured had eBook versions or the ordering I’d pictured them in was the ordering of the series. If it’s one thing I’ve learned about making signs, it’s you have to make them extremely clear – and even then, people don’t often read them!

In any case, it’s one thing to have a sign, but then figuring out where to place it is another game. I’ve put it on the second shelf and that seems to be a good spot for now, at least until I have more books. Once people see it, and ask about it – I’ve pretty much made the sale.

Second – custom name badge! Yet another thing I’ve wanted to do for a while. Inspired by my friends Justin Currie and Greg Chomichuk, I wanted to create a custom branded badge that I could wear to every convention. Note that this doesn’t replace actual badges – you still need those to enter the show (one hopes that security checks them). But it’s a cool touch and looks super official! Dave printed it off for me and got it laminated. Thanks boys for the idea, and also thanks Greg for giving me a lanyard big enough for my ol’ tiger face.

But remember – fancy banners, pretty name tags, custom shelves…it all means nothing if the product isn’t strong enough to keep the customer’s interest. Or, if you aren’t pitching it right. Or, if you’re pitching it in the wrong place. Fussing over your display can be fun, but it’s only part of what’s going to give you success.

Sales

It’s been two years since I’ve done Saskatoon – I was worried I’d be starting from scratch with momentum. But no! I had more people than expected return for sequels. Hurray!

Saskatoon is one of the smallest conventions on the docket for this year. Despite this, Saskatoon showed up for me this year in a way I didn’t expect. People told me they drove hours from small, surrounding villages to attend. Big crowds during the busy times—quiet but steady when it wasn’t as crowded, especially on the Sunday! Saskatoon Expo currently holds first place for highest average per-day sales for this year for me—helped because it’s only a two-day show. I surpassed my sales target handily.

Stars In Her Eyes and the Sparkstone Saga were the winners for this show. I’ve altered my pitch slightly for the Sparkstone Saga and I think that’s starting to pay off. Which is great, considering Darkness In Her Reach is coming next year! Saskatoon is a city hungry for original content – and they really want to support you, especially if you’re from Saskatchewan, which is an attitude reminiscent of the Maritimes.

I’m actually getting low on copies of The Violet Fox…I thought I’d be able to save reprinting until next year, but since I did Fan Expo Canada, and taking into account the Christmas shows I have coming up, I may have to spring for a run this year. I only printed them last November—granted, it wasn’t the biggest run! Since November 2017, I’ve reprinted Within, The Silver Spear, Dreams In Her Head, and Hunger In Her Bones. I did a first run of The Emerald Cloth. Right now, I’m waiting on reprints of Stars In Her Eyes – 1,000 copies, my biggest run yet. To put this into perspective, a small to medium-sized publisher would print around 1500-2000 of a new book for a newer/mid-list author, and that’s a conservative estimate. Good thing we have a new house to put all these books in…

I’ve been extremely conservative with my growth until now, printing only what I think I can sell. Bigger runs means lower unit cost, but it also means I don’t have to reprint as often, which is definitely a drain on the ol’ profits. Hopefully this is the last year where I have to reprint EVERY book?

It’s fine, though. This is the stage where my unit cost starts being low enough that traditional distribution makes some sense – which is the ultimate goal.

Good People

Once again, I stayed with my friends in an AirBnB – Sam, Justin, Greg, and Drake. This time, in perhaps the BEST HOUSE IN THE CITY?

I don’t want to post too many pictures because this is someone’s home – but this was truly the coolest house. Expensive speakers in each room, which you could stream music to from your phone. Expensive strobe light wired to respond to the music. A hard liquor collection and a wine fridge…which we could buy into if we asked first. A long table for eating with friends – and for creative business meetings! A sauna in the basement, and exercise bikes (which we were not allowed to use). Strange buttons above Justin’s bed…that innocently change the bulb colour! And apparently, a SECRET ROOM THAT THEY DISCOVERED AFTER I LEFT. Ahh!

It’s not just about the house, though. Staying with my creative friends brings the con experience to the next level. We can talk business or we can just hang out. It’s like we’re assembling the Avengers, except instead of destroying cities and saving lives, we’re building each other’s success and enriching ourselves. I feel like I’m part of something bigger and more powerful than myself.

THANK YOU to everyone who came to visit the table, who said they enjoyed the podcast and the post-mortems! 🙂

Will I Go Back?

I feel like the “curse” has been lifted, so YES I would love to return to Saskatoon Expo—especially since it’s only a week apart from Edmonton Expo…which is where I’ll be in mere hours of finishing this post mortem. I think next year I’ll try to find a drive and not necessarily fly to reduce costs and maximize those dollars. Thanks to Chris and the team of volunteers for organizing this great convention!!

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.