In 2015, I went to my first ever convention: Anime Dublin. I followed this up for my thesis by attending four more conventions during the summer, and one more in November of that year. I reduced my convention numbers significantly in 2016 – I needed to attend so many the year before to record at them, but I was only attending for fun last year. That said, I did also begin taking part in The Geek Mart every month, with my responsibilities as an organiser growing the more I went.
Roll on 2017, and my first convention behind the table. K-Con, Kerry’s first big convention, takes place on April 1st and 2nd. While smaller than Dublin Comic Con, in sharing the same owners the level of hype and interest around it is growing. There are some obvious concerns among seasoned traders as to how well things will go for them at K-Con, but all new events need to be tested by somebody.
That’s where I come in, as a small press indie author looking to make a start on the convention scene. I’ve so far only arranged for two tables of my own this year – K-Con and Dublin Comic Con – with a possibility of appearing at a few smaller events throughout the summer outside of my Geek Mart responsibilities. Given that this is the first event of the year, though, and my first convention ever, I’ve pushed myself to bring something new and interesting – the book I keep talking about in every post I write: A Death in the Family.
I’m also putting together a lot of short story booklets, which I started bringing to The Geek Mart late last year. They vary in genre, from supernatural tales like The Local Necromancer and Swipe Right for Blood Lust, to Superhero stories centred around Pocket Powers (consumer-friendly consumable temporary superpowers) and some tales that are downright weird, like The Rabbit Hole and The Hat Collector.
One thing I like to keep consistent is my brand: I’m a storyteller. While I’ll have prints with me, my main focus for the convention will be on selling stories. The strange little ideas that I get, whether they become a full book like Balor Reborn or Stepping Forward, or a short tale like Stairway or Hanging Up the Scythe, have generally gone down well in the past, and I think there’s an audience for them. In my experience with small markets so far, there’s always someone willing to try something new.
This isn’t to say that I’m expecting I’ll do phenomenally well. There’s just no way of judging that. But unlike a lot of people who worry about this convention because there are only a few guests, I’m cautiously optimistic that the arrival of a new convention in Kerry will at least bring a few people who want to take a shot at some of what the Irish small press scene is offering. For the most part, it’s comics – lots and lots of really well produced comics.
There are a few of us who started with prose fiction, before we tried our hands at comic scripts. And there are a few of us attending K-Con who’ve never had big conventions before.
I’ve attempted to do some research on how to prepare for this – a remarkable short book called Working the Table provided some stellar insights – and I’ve spent almost a year at The Geek Mart figuring out pitches for stories, working on how to get someone to at least act upon their feint interest in a book to pick it up and read the back. It doesn’t always lead to sales, and that’s okay – it’s a good step in the right direction if someone can move beyond their hesitation to look at a book.
It’s going to be a long weekend at K-Con. There’ll be lots of travel involved, and more than a fair amount of standing around talking to people (hopefully), and then evenings of trying to mix recovery time and socialising with other con-goers and other vendors.
Maybe my experience browsing at conventions will help. No doubt eight years of retail (selling books, of course) will come in handy. And I imagine even the year-and-a-bit I spent working at Qwertee.com’s warehouse will find a way of being useful – being on my feet all day, for a start.
I’d like to sell a lot of books. There’s no point hiding that fact – everyone wants to do well at a convention when they’re behind the table. Just as important, I’d like to come away from it having had a good time, feeling like I did something right with the weekend, and figuring out how to make the most of Dublin Comic Con in August. A first convention is scary, but it has to happen eventually. And, I think it’s important to remind myself that a year ago I didn’t have a single book in print – and now I have five. Con-goers are excellent motivators.