I realized today that the hotwash I posted yesterday wasn’t really a hotwash. It was more a lovely picture-based summary. The hotwashes you crazy kids have come to expect should have lessons learned and all that fun stuff.
So here’s the real hotwash.
Pensacon the Project encompassed more than just the three day event. It was a testing for media engagement, looking at the differences between selling one book versus two, and also learning to let other people sell my book.
Bottom Line Up Front: Pensacon was successful in some ways, and not in others. But overall – I’m a happy camper.
I had been planning this damned convention since August, when I put down the $483 for a table, electricity (YES, SO GLAD I DID THIS), and an extra badge. Total, I invested $2300 into this event between the table, my flight to Pensacola, books, advertising, and petty cash out to feed my two helpers.
Yes, that’s a lot – and more than I normally put up. But I also knew that if I was going to splurge, I would splurge on a release convention.
I put together a press release for the event, focusing on my hometown girl nature and coming home to release the book. I sent it to every media outlet in Pensacola – and only one of them decided to follow up. First with an almost verbatim article and then with an honest-to-God interview article. One or two people mentioned that they saw the article and it got them interested enough to come find me – so definitely a good thing. The media team at Pensacon was also pretty supportive – sharing the article and whatnot. And the Pensacola Today article was also mentioned on the local radio station, so that was even better!
I’d never worked with traditional media before (other than when I actually worked for them in my former life as a news producer freelancer), so it was good to get out of my comfort zone. The media is still one of the best ways to be noticed, and it’s worth it to try and get their attention.
My total sales for the event were 104/200 copies of Double Life and 83/100 copies of Alliances – which is a split difference. Obviously the goal is always to sell out, but selling only half of my copies of Double Life was a bit of a money loss – and yet selling almost all of my Alliances was awesome.
I knew in my gut that buying 200 copies of Double Life was way too many. I knew it and I did it anyway. Selfishly, I was trying to see if I could get ahead of my current business debts. But I have learned that being selfish does not good karma make.
So I have 96 copies of DL back in Pensacola. Obviously, books have no shelf life (HAH – I’ve made that joke about 1500 times so far), so I’ll sell them eventually and I can use them to defray costs of another event. And yet, I’m still wondering if I had purchased less books, would I have been able to spend less and make more.
Then again, I also sold WAY more Alliances than I thought. At $5 more (when purchased with Double Life), a lot of folks jumped at the chance to grab two books. As I said in the first blog post, the conventional wisdom is that you never sell the same amount of the second book in a series.
What I think, though, is that I’m going to raise the price of Alliances to match Double Life (so $10 each), and bring less of them. Logistically, it’s getting harder to bring and sell enough books to cover costs – let alone make a profit – since I’m flying to all these places. (Once I am no longer required to be somewhere on Monday mornings, I can start driving instead).
While that may result in less book sales overall for Alliances, it will end up working out in the long run.
One of the really brilliant things someone told me at VA Comicon was to start using bookmarks as free giveaways. So for this event, I created some for the Empath release in May and gave them away to everyone who bought a paperback. And I can’t tell you how often people were drawn to the booth based on the bookmarks alone – one person even wanted to buy it! I’ll definitely continue using them in the future, but once Empath is out, I’ll switch to Conviction (which means I need to finish that damned cover…). The bookmarks were $45 total, plus $10 for yarn to make ’em pretty, and definitely a good advertising investment (I have a bunch left over that I’m going to bring to the rest of the conventions).
I also made a big poster with “Pensacon Exclusive” on it, and hung it on the back of my booth where nobody saw it. On Sunday, I moved it over to the front of the table, and it seemed to catch more attention. That was only $30, and while I’m glad I purchased it, I wish I’d moved it closer, sooner.
Letting Go of Control
Why yes, this was a goal for me! I think I did pretty well with not controlling every aspect of my sales situation. I’m a bulldog when it comes to making my money, and yet, I was able to let go and let Val and Cassondra do selling. Because they are the best people known to man, they memorized my patented Double Life Schpiel (C) and were able to fire it off to anyone who walked by. Having them talk to folks freed me up to talk to more people, to engage with more folks. And – surprise, surprise – we still sold tons of books.
So yes, I learned that I can let go and let others help me.
Though it cracked me up when my dad and Richard (Val’s dad) came to help me break down the booth and insisted on carrying the book boxes as if I didn’t have to carry them by myself every freakin’ day.
From a monetary standpoint, I lost money at this event. I lost a lot of money on this event – thanks to the 112 books that I purchased that did not get sold. Then again, I have a profit opportunity at a future event, thanks to the books I did not sell. And there’s the opportunity that one of the many folks I handed an SGR-P card out to will contact me with a request for editing and/or marketing.
If I take away the books I didn’t sell, I think I just about broke even. Unfortunately, I don’t count specific events that way since it’s too hard to figure out the fraction. But when lumped in with other events in the future, the numbers will turn around. And with a third book coming out in May, those numbers will grow even larger.
From a goal-reaching standpoint, I’d like to think that this was a success (barring not reaching goal #1 above). I definitely got out of my comfort zone, I tried different things, and I saw glimpses of what life is like when I’m doing this for a living. I can let others help, I can let others sell for me.
On Sunday, I was even able to relax a little bit. Even though I had 2 unopened boxes of 40 under the table, I was okay with just selling out of what was sitting on top. When I’m no longer pushing, pushing, pushing, that’s usually a sign that I’m happy with the event.