In the midst of my struggles to market my novels, I discovered Cons. If you have any part geek within you and you’ve never been to a Science Fiction/Fantasy Convention, you have to change this state of affairs as soon as you can. Cons are where geeks gather to dress up as fictional characters, talk about geek movies, geek TV, geek books, play geek games with other geeks, and have an overall geeky time. They are a ton of fun. I did an early blog post on Cons that you can find here. Beware of geeks!
I had, of course, heard of cons before, but I had never been to one. My first Con was ConGregate in North Carolina. I went to see if I could learn anything that might be of help in marketing my novels. I didn’t learn much at that first con, and I discovered some of the people on the panels had no more experience than I did. Yes, the Guest of Honor is always a big name author, usually really big name, but there were plenty of lesser panelists. If they could do it, why couldn’t I? Maybe being a con guest would help me sell my books.
Besides, it was a blast, so I needed to go to another one.
So despite my extremely introverted nature, I applied and was accepted as a guest at Con*Stellion, a tiny con in Huntsville, Alabama: I got the schedule of my panels and saw, to my horror, that the other members of the panel, including the Guest of Honor, Orson Scott Card. While I’m at a big fan of his, he has been huge in Science Fiction for about 30-40 years. I met him about 25 years ago when he did a writer’s workshop at my undergraduate university. To say I was panicked to be on a panel with him is to put things mildly. I felt physically sick for two weeks. But I went to the panel, and while I don’t think I made much of an impression on anyone, nothing terrible happened.
I learned that I could survive being a con guest, and when the panel was over, I got to have fun with other geeks. I even sold four books. I considered this not bad at all for my first time.
Since the first time failed to kill me, I applied and was accepted at a lot of cons. I was on tons of panels. My husband started to come with me, and we had a blast doing geeky things.
I meet other authors, who were almost always fantastic people. From them, I learned that my experience with small presses was typical. Small presses rely almost completely on the author to market and sell her own books. To my surprise, I learned that, unless you were one of their top authors, the Big 5 (the five large American publishing houses) were only marginally better. The Big 5 also frequently locked authors into restrictive contracts that were damaging to their careers.
I sold books at every con, but never even close to enough to cover my expenses, but I went to panels on marketing, and I learned a lot of things to try. Facebook. Blog. Website. And on and on. I spent a lot of money on cons, and I put a lot of effort into doing the things suggested at them.
But I still saw very few book sales. I finished another novel, which I self-published, but it didn’t sale any better. I was becoming very discouraged.
I believe wholeheartedly that a writer must write first of all for herself. If the process of writing doesn’t bring you joy, you shouldn’t be doing it. Still, I created three novels that I thought very good, and the reviews I had of them supported my opinion, but still hardly anyone was reading them.
But then I went to Marscon 2017.
Stay tuned for the fifth and final installment of my publishing journey. Coming soon. How soon? you ask. If I told you, I’d ruin the surprise.