My First Convention as a Seller: A Retrospective

So as some of you might have seen, I did something new a couple weeks ago. I went to a convention (Harucon in Jerusalem) as a book seller, selling my own books of course.

It was a great experience, and I look forward to doing so again. (As of writing this, I’m signed up for another con in just over 2 weeks’ time.)

The basics being said, I think it’s still worthwhile to go into a bit more depth about my experience, and several observations I made. Some of it might be helpful to other indie authors thinking of doing the same, though you should bear in mind that since I’m selling English language books in a country where most people do not speak English, it may be hard to make a direct comparison to anyone who has sold English language books in an English-speaking country.

All told, I managed to sell more than half the books I brought with me that day (23 of 45), which, as I understand it, is pretty good, especially for a first timer, and was one of my best sales days ever–discounting kickstarters. I can’t say yet if sales will always be at that level or better, but it does indicate that people have an interest in what I had to sell, and especially in buying it from the author himself. Many people were surprised when I said that I had written the books myself (as opposed to simply selling someone else’s books), and I have to wonder if the appeal of buying from a local author played a role in at least some of the purchases. It was also funny to see more than a few people stop to look at the books (my light novel series in particular) and (based on bits of overheard conversation) try to figure out what series it was from.

Which means that my books definitely have the right look for the genre.

So, a couple things that I took away from this first convention, and which I think may be helpful for others:

1: Bring change. More than you think you’ll need.

For whatever reason, almost everyone paid in cash, and it got a little difficult as the day went on for me to provide change. I don’t know if this is more an Israeli thing or more common, but nothing would be more annoying than losing a potential sale (or having to give it to them for less) because you can’t make change of a larger bill.

2: Bring more copies of early books in series

This is something I already expected before the con, and I confirmed it. Most people are going to just buy one book, and that’ll obviously be book 1. Unless you’re established enough with repeat customers who’ve already started the series, every buyer will be buying the first book, and you don’t want to run out of those. By way of example, I sold 13 of my 16 copies of Light Unto Another World Volume 1, all 5 copies I had of Volume 2, and then just a couple copies of later books.

3: Know what type of con you’re going to

Something else that I suspected and confirmed, was that the type of convention you’re at is likely to affect which of your books sell (assuming you write in multiple genres/styles.) In my case, all but 1 of the 23 books I sold was from Light Unto Another World (the exception being a copy of my other fantasy novel, The Dragon Hand), which made sense given that I was at an anime con.

4: Be prepared for a long day

Especially if you’re manning a table or booth alone, as I was, be aware that you’re going to be at your table (mostly standing) for a good 7-plus hours. This means no real opportunity to explore the con at all, and things like eating become something you need to make time to do. Better to bring food with you so you don’t have to ask one of your table neighbors to watch your table any more than is absolutely necessary (such as for bathroom breaks). I should also add that this is probably less to percent theft and more to ensure that potential customers know you’ll be back soon. Which is the other reason you want to stay there all day; you don’t want to miss sales by leaving the table.

Those are my main takeaways/pieces of advice based one whole one convention. My next one is more a general nerdy stuff con as opposed to a very anime focused one, so I’m curious if I’ll move any Galaxy Ascendant books this time (I hope so.) Also, this one is going to be two days, so I do wonder if I have enough books lol.

Selling out wouldn’t be the worst problem to have, tho.

If you’re an indie author, have a couple books out, and there’s a local con that isn’t charging an arm and a leg for a table spot, go for it! You really don’t need a whole lot to set up something small and simple (my table was very basic), and it can be a great way to start getting not only some more sales, but also some name recognition in your local area. Fanbases start slow, remember, but you need to start somewhere!

Cosplaying while selling books is optional, though I did theorize that it may help in that it signals to fans of similar things that you’re “one of them” as opposed to just trying to sell them something.

For any Israeli readers, if you’re at Olamot in 2 weeks, come stop by! And for my fellow indie authors, best of luck at any cons you decide to go to!

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