Vul-Con Post Mortem

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Look at that Hunger In Her Bones cover! So big and pretty, soon to be in the flesh with the other Faery Ink Press books.

Check out my other convention write-ups here:

Red Deer Expo
Calgary Expo 2016
Hal-Con 2015
Edmonton Expo 2015
When Words Collide 2015
Calgary Comic Expo 2015
Hal-Con 2014
Keycon 2014
Hal-Con 2013
C4 Winnipeg 2013
When Words Collide 2013
KeyCon 2013


General Impressions

I’d never been to Vulcan before – I guess I really haven’t been to many places in Alberta – and Vul-Con being a small Star Trek convention, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I knew it would be one of my smaller, more specialized events of the year. I knew I could probably push the Sparkstone Saga successfully, since it’s a young adult science fiction series set in Alberta.

Vulcan turned out to be what I expected: a small town in Alberta surrounded by farmland. It was a pretty drive once we got off the highway! But a little scary being surrounded by nothing but open farmland. Where does it end?!

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Also, I was nervous leading up to this trip because I knew I had to do some of the driving. I have some driving anxiety that stems from many different sources. Mainly, not enough practice in a heavy urban area, and irrational fears of cars crashing into me. But I did some practicing leading up to the day, and I ended up doing 50% of the driving for this trip. I’m celebrating as a success because a week before, my body would not have handled that much highway driving, lane-changing, and intersections. So this has given me more confidence to do more driving in general, which I need if I’m going to drive to Saskatoon in September. Haha – there’s no if in that, I need to drive to Saskatoon in September, else me and my many boxes/banners would miss SaskExpo 2016!

Location is Everything

If you’ve been following my post-con articles, you’ll notice that I place a lot of emphasis on my location. That’s because it matters – a lot! Especially at events like these. There’s a natural flow of traffic at cons, and if you’re not in the right place, if you’re off the beaten path, chances are your audience is going to run out of money before they get to you, or they’re not going to notice you as much as the next person.

When I first arrived and got my spot, I was disappointed. I was across from the main stage, and to the right of that was the guest signing area. This is bad, I thought. This is off the “main” through-fare.

Boy, was I wrong. I really, really lucked out with this table.

Turned out, the stage and the guests – most of the time – were the heart and centre of the con. The main presentations were there on that media stage – and most people congregated to listen. What’s more, the big name guests were signing at those tables, and that was big event for a lot of the attendees. For hours on Saturday, people lined up to get autographs from Adam Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy’s son. The line went right in front of my table, which meant my books got a lot of exposure and interest.

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On Sunday, it was not as busy – the afternoon was dead! – but in the morning, people lined up for Dominic Keating (Lieutenant Malcom Reed in Enterprise) Andrew Robinson (Garack in DS9!!) and Robert Beltran (Chakotay in Voyager). Most of our sales on both days were in the morning, with a couple in the middle, and one or two last-minute purchases.

Display

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Unfortunately because I was at a small, six-foot artist alley table, my eight-foot horizontal banner is too long. I’m going to have to buy some sort of retractable setup for it so I can have it behind me if I wish, no matter my table size. Also, because I’m building up my height, my display blocked the Faery Ink Press logo on my tall banner. Another reason to find a better solution for the horizontal banner. Sigh – the more stuff I get, the harder it is to lug around!!

This is the last con that I’ll be sharing the table with Kate, so next time I’ll have more room to spread out. I need to push my newsletter signups. I also need better book stands. I’ve been saying that (and Kate too!) for ages now, but it’s one of those things that slips the mind in between shows.

One vendor commented that I should have a smaller eBook sign, since it was blocking access to the buttons. Kate had the excellent idea of attaching the buttons to a ribbon and hanging them on the whiteboard, but that didn’t stop people from going through the box itself, trying to see the designs. So I think I need a better solution for that. Buttons aren’t a huge seller for me, but if I optimize their display, then I should expect a couple more sales per con. Once I sell out of them, I’m going to rethink the design of the next batch based on what sold the best.

I’ve also stopped giving away my bookmarks in favour of the postcards, which have more information and act as a catalogue substitute. People who buy got bookmarks – that seems only fair! I think another good merch option for me might be designer bookmarks – whether they’re tassled, or super sparkly, or those fancy corner ones. I’m going to think more on that, especially if I’m going to do more artist-focused shows.

Sales

My expectations were pretty low for this con. But I did really well, a lot of it thanks to my location. Almost half of my sales were made with credit cards. I had a few people ask if I take debit, but when I said no, credit or cash was fine. I made more money in Vulcan than I did in Red Deer – and there was maybe 1,000 people in attendance at Vul-Con.

I had quite a few people tell me they’d visited my website, or they’ve seen my logo before around, or say that my covers looked familiar. Yay! This previous exposure to the brand also drove a couple of sales.

I did a discount on The Violet Fox and The Silver Spear print copies on the first day, and that went over well. Stars In Her Eyes was about on par with The Violet Fox, which is what I was expecting, since it’s a Star Trek con, and the Sparkstone Saga is YA sci-fi set in Alberta. I pushed the Hunger In Her Bones pre-orders a bit harder, and was rewarded with some new customers willing to lay down some cash. I can’t wait until I have that book in my hands. I got lots of compliments on the cover.

I was surprised that Kate didn’t do better – going in, I thought this might be a strong con for Crash and Burn because a) it’s a space opera and b) Star Trek fans, generally, seem to be open-minded, accepting, knowledgeable people. Yet I think it was the older crowd that didn’t get what “queer space opera” meant. Apparently Vulcan also has a large conservative streak. Ah well. One memorable sale she made was to a proud mother and father, who intended to give it to their kid, who belongs to the LGBTQ community. Yay! We also chatted about how she could expand her display, and include more flag types – she has the rainbow flag, but intends to get the asexual and the agender pride flag, and many others. The flags are a great idea because it’s an easy visual that will attract the appropriate audience. Crash and Burn has a diverse set of characters that are still being introduced, and I’m looking forward to observing and hopefully chronicling more of the comic’s growth.

Other vendors I talked to said that they did okay, and that Saturday was the busiest it’s ever been for this con. Many said that last year was pretty dead. In any case, I think I made the most out of my very good location.

Celebrities & Cool People

I was very close to the Star Trek celebrities and got a good eyeful while they signed and chatted with the attendees. I thought about going and introducing myself to Andrew Robinson because I’m such a DS9 fan – and a fan of his character – but I also didn’t want to word vomit all over him, or exude self-importance (“Hey, I’m at that table over there, look at me and my pretties, I LOVE YOUR WORK SO GIVE ME ATTENTION?!”). There’s also some etiquette surrounding interaction with celebrity guests that I’m a little iffy on – I didn’t pay them for their time or their signature, so I respectfully keep my distance unless they approach me and express curiosity about my work. But that’s just me. Sometimes attending con authors give books to guests – I find that brave and a bit ballsy, personally. I have visions of the guests saying, “Oh thanks” and then throwing my hard work away if I were ever to try! Maybe someday I’ll work up the nerve, but I’d rather approach them as an equal with a business opportunity than as a gushing fan.

It was the Star Trek actors that drove attendees at this con, and it was their draw that helped to bring attention to my table. So I’m grateful for that.

Sally Kellerman, the woman who played Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in the Original Star Trek pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before” came to my table. She was browsing the artist alley row. She looked tired. She’d been sitting at a secondary signing table all day, but there were no more people lining up for autographs. She expressed some regret at staying for the second day. I guess she was only scheduled for Saturday.

Aside from that, a couple of friends from Calgary/Edmonton came and said hi – Neil Enock (pictured) and S. G. Wong (she’s a finalist in the Whistler Independent Book Awards, for which I also received an honourable mention for The Violet Fox). It’s nice to see friendly faces!!

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I also got to meet the guy who sells wood carvings and jewellry, whose products were next to me at Red Deer Expo. We had a really good chat about expo sales and the different shows we were planning on doing. While wandering around, looking at the other vendors, I also bought a pretty dress from CC’s Leggings, Etc. This dress? for business! 😉

Next to me this time was Dale Bolt, who was a really nice artist selling his prints and canvases. There was a jewellry display next to us but we didn’t really get to know them well – but their jewellry complemented my colour scheme, and attracted many potential customers that would also look at my stuff. It’s important to consider your neighbours and build your display to complement theirs if possible! 🙂

And of course, I had some good chats and laughs with authors and fellow vendors Aviva Bel’Herold and Adam Dreece, and publisher Brian Hades.

Inappropriate/Weird Interactions

Kate and I noted more awkward/inappropriate interactions than usual at this con. Star Trek does tend to attract the Know-It-All personality, and there were a couple of conversations we fielded where the potential customer tried to unsuccessfully display their limited knowledge on one subject or another relating to publishing, or the subjects we were publishing about. Part of going to cons is learning how to field these conversations without coming off as discouraging or condescending. Some people think they know what they’re getting into when they say, “I’m going to start a publishing business!” but you really don’t know a thing until you experience it, and that’s very true with being a publisher.

On the creepy side of things, we had a man (who happened to be a con volunteer!) stop in front of the table and flex. At first, I thought he was showing off his tattoo, so I was like, okay, hello, that’s nice. He stumbled out a “Hello…guys-uh, ladies!” Oh brother. Then he said something along the lines of “I wish I had some iron to pump” so that he could “impress” us some more. He continued trying to beef himself up in our eyes. He then stroked his beard and said, “Yeah, I’m pretty good looking.” Good lord. Fortunately he walked away after that. It was so cartoonish and awkward that I was just shocked that someone could think that would be acceptable – or like, effective. Kind of started the day off on a weird foot. It didn’t occur to me until later that I could have reported him for his behaviour. Mostly we just laughed it off.

Will I go back?

I did really well here. But Vul-Con has the potential to be bigger than it is. If Vul-Con continued to get several big-name Star Trek guests each year, it would really flourish, and be good for local business – and attract some of my target audience. Quite a few people drove down from Calgary to attend, and others came from Saskatchewan and even the US! However, I’m not sure if they’re going to hold it at the arena next year – and get the same quality guests. If they go back to a smaller venue, then I’m probably out. It was really fun, but I’m not sure if the numbers would work out for anything smaller.


Check out my other convention write-ups here:

Red Deer Expo
Calgary Expo 2016
Hal-Con 2015
Edmonton Expo 2015
When Words Collide 2015
Calgary Comic Expo 2015
Hal-Con 2014
Keycon 2014
Hal-Con 2013
C4 Winnipeg 2013
When Words Collide 2013
KeyCon 2013

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