Phoenix Comicon 2011 was this weekend, and for the second year in a row, I had a small press table there. Let’s start with raw numbers, then get into a description of the experience. I’ll get into a bit of detail below, but in addition to the following book sales I sold two paintings during the course of the con, and traded a crochet sculpture for $50+ of merchandise from another local creator.
Here are my total sales (all paperback, except where noted), with last year’s comparable sales (in italics, in parentheses):
- Lost and Not Found: 1 / $14 / (0 / $0)
- Lost and Not Found – Director’s Cut: 0 / $0 / (1 / $10)
- Dragons’ Truth: 2 / $26 / (4 / $49)
- Dragons’ Truth MP3 CD: 0 / $0 / (1 / $13)
- Forget What You Can’t Remember: 1 / $14 / (5 / $70)
- More Lost Memories: 0 / $0 / (0 / $0)
- MLM/Pay Attention chapbook: 0 / $0 / (1 / $2)
- Cheating, Death: 7 / $70 / (6 (plus 2 given away) / $55)
- Cheating, Death eBook (collectable card): 1 / $7 / (N/A)
- Time, emiT, and Time Again: 3 / $42 / (N/A)
- Untrue Tales… Book One (OoP): 1 / $6 / (1 / $12)
- Untrue Tales… Book Two (OoP): 0 / $0 / (0 / $0)
- Untrue Tales… Book Three (OoP): 0 / $0 / (0 / $0)
- Untrue Tales… Books 1-2 (combined, OoP): 1 / $6 / (0 / $0)
- Untrue Tales… Books 1-3 (combined, OoP): 1 / $12 / (8 / $200)
- The First Untrue Trilogy: 6 / $144 / (N/A)
- The Second Untrue Trilogy: 3 / $70 / (N/A)
- Total Comicon book sales: 27 / $411 / (27 / $411)
…that… didn’t total out the way I expected it to. I apparently sold the exact same number of books for the same amount of money, compared to last year. Weird. Anyway, based on my rough estimate of the same thing, I did pre-pay for a small press table at the 2012 Phoenix Comicon, so I’ll be there again next year.
((For reference, ‘OoP’ is ‘Out of Print’ and is the out-of-print first editions of the Untrue Tales books, which I’d had printed along the way as I’d finished each book – and which, with the new editions of the complete series out, I want to get rid of. Thursday and Friday I tried “Name your own price” but found people don’t like to do that, so Saturday and Sunday I said “50% off” and sold a couple of them.))
In addition, I brought a couple of paintings with me to show at the con: The original artwork I created for the cover of Cheating, Death, and my latest, ‘RainbowAwesomeUnicornWow’. I bought an easel specifically to show these paintings at this con, and I suppose it worked out alright, because the unicorn painting (which I had at/above eye level throughout the con) certainly brought more visibility to my booth than I would otherwise have had, and before the convention was through, both paintings had sold, for $400 apiece. I’ve still got to deliver them (this week), and both buyers will be working out payment plans with me over the next few months, but they’re also repeat customers who are also friends I trust. I’m sure that part of what made up their minds about buying the art this weekend was that I was showing pieces they were interested in, and that other people were expressing interest in buying them. So… not technically sales I made / money I took in at con, but certainly sales which mightn’t have happened any time soon otherwise. I feel a bit bad about it; it hadn’t been trying to pressure those particular people into buying those pieces, I simply wanted to sell the art. I haven’t done any Art Walks or other shows in over a year, so wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. :/
On the other hand, if I add the art sales to the book sales total (using accrual method accounting, of course), my sales at this year’s con are nearly triple last years… even though they were actually, eerily flat. (Come to think of it, the only non-book I sold at last year’s con was a crocheted artwork, sold for $55, and this year I brought a single piece of crocheted artwork to decorate my table which I traded, at the last moment, for roughly the same value.) Eerily flat.
Of course, there are also expenses. The cost of the table, of gas to and from downtown every day (or, as others do, of renting a room downtown for the duration), the cost of parking (last year I was trying to use free street parking ~1mile away & ended up getting a ticket – this year I paid to park in a garage adjacent to the convention center & ended up paying much less), the cost of food while captive downtown for ten and twelve hour days, the cost of the new easel, a few display materials, hundreds of business cards, and (I never account properly for this) the value of my time. I’ve been coming out a bit ahead each year, though realistically -if I want to do any better- I’ve got to spend significantly more money. Buy bookmarks or postcards or the like to try to sell or simply give away. Buy big, full-color signage; at least with my company name, possibly with my book covers, et cetera. Pay for a full-size booth instead of a small press table. Worse, perhaps worst of all to me, and most-recommended to me by other creators and by fans/attendees alike, is to show/sell at more conventions. Leprecon, San Diego Comicon and Emerald City, Tuscon Festival of Books and TusCon, Saboten-Con (really?), CopperCon, and on and on… Each one a big up-front cost for a space, tied to the hope/dream that I’ll sell enough to earn it back, and most with travel expenses far, far beyond both booth costs and my best sales experiences, ever. Hotels, gasoline and/or flights & shipping, and the cost of eating out multiplied severalfold (I could eat breakfasts at home, this weekend, and make/pack lunches, which is difficult or impossible from a hotel room in a strange city) and I doubt I could make enough sales to break even with such expenses. Yes, it’s a problem of confidence. It’s also a problem backed up with data, as in: $400 in book sales doesn’t cover $1000+ in expenses for a non-local show. Heck, a standard 10’x10′ space at SDCC is listed at $2200 for 2011. (The Leprecon & TFoB web sites are so terrible I can’t quote prices for you here; I can’t find them.) If I were motivated by money, I’d likely either have some terrible plan to make conventions profitable or have given up on the whole thing by now…
Realistically, I wouldn’t be doing Phoenix Comicon, either, if my wife weren’t in love with the whole thing. It’s a lot of effort, it results in a tiny amount of profit and a huge amount of stress and a small number of new readers. (For comparison, I sold books this weekend to only 20 new readers and gave away roughly 200 business cards (most of which have probably already been thrown away) – while each of the 13 of my titles which are available as free eBooks and podcast audiobooks finds nearly 200 new readers a month, every month.) There are roughly 3 people I met and talked with this weekend who I expect will, upon reading the books they bought from me, turn into “true fans” of my work (though 2 of those are teenagers who I’m not sure qualify in the sense of a small number of “true fans” being sufficient to financially support an independent creator, yet) – and that’s great… but I wonder about how much time and effort and money ought to be invested in acquiring one more fan… and I really need to get some sleep.
I’ve just looked up and it’s after 2AM… and I’ve been running long, hard days at the comicon since I woke up early Thursday morning. I probably won’t get much more good thoughts out of my now-almost-painfully-tired brain until I’ve slept. Feel free to insert your input in the comments, or by email, or by calling/txt’ing me… Or by buying my books… or art… *sigh* Enough trying to sell. Hopefully for a long time.