From the Dusty Mental Archive: My First Convention (as a Writer)

I enjoy conventions, though I don’t go to them often, and unfortunately COVID hurt the local convention scene for a while, so I haven’t been to one recently.

But a decade or so back, I decided to try going to a local convention not as a fan, but as a writer. Get my own booth, try to promote my stuff, maybe sell a few books. I didn’t expect to do well, but I was hoping for a fun experience (and making my money back if I was lucky).

The convention was called VCon, and this is how it went for me…

The first day was a slow one. By the end of it, I only sold 4 books. But fear not, that’s normal on a Friday, another vendor told me. He sold about the same amount and had been going to VCon for years. Friday is “recon” day, apparently.

This other author, Joseph Picard, sells about 30 or so books a year there. Hopefully, I’ll do the same, plus hand out plenty of flyers and free short-story Amazon links to people on the fence. But hey, I really like the display I put up.

Things started out rough, however. My half table had been fully commandeered by a paintball company who thought they’d bought, and had prepared appropriately for, a full table. Half an hour after the vending hall opened to the public, it got resolved when the paintball guys were given a full table in the Artists Hall just outside the vending hall, giving me a full table.

Good deal, you might think, but until that time my display was… less than attractive. Not a good start (certainly didn’t help the stress and first time jitters), plus I didn’t really have enough stuff to warrant a full table. I was afraid of being too thinly spread, so I used only about 2/3rds of the table instead.

And then there was the other problem… one of the paintball guys got drunk. He took back part of my table (despite them already having a full table) and was borderline belligerent to people. Not enough to be a problem, but enough to make people uncomfortable. Especially me. Oh well. It wasn’t all bad. Some of the cosplayers there were dressed up really well for the apocalypse too… often with a steampunk flavor as well.

The rest of the evening was pretty straightforward, and I spent most of my time talking to other vendors and occasionally potential customers. That’s just the way things rolled. One woman, Lisa, is an aspiring author but she was there selling her artwork and jewellery.

Another, Cat, knits everything from woolly brain hats to throw rugs woven with Daleks in it. Plus lots of other fun odds and ends as well. An aspiring artist, “Q” has a booth in the artist hall just outside and actually found a missing word in a word search I had added to my promotional pamphlet! The word Curse doesn’t actually show up in it, despite being listed. I thanked her and told her I’d tell others it was intentional—that’s the curse.

That evening, there was a book launch party for new authors. Hors d’oeuvres were on offer, but I had little appetite (despite not eating all day). I was nervous, and I’ve blown public speaking before. I had a chance to say a line from Hamlet on stage at the Globe Theatre years back and pretty much blew it (That still haunts me).

The other readers ranged from zombie-reading voice to having a well-practised manner. A couple could probably read their own audio books if so inclined.

So when it came my turn… I did okay. I had opened with a joke that fell flat, but the reading itself was good. People laughed where they were supposed to laugh, and often. That, to me, meant success.

After that, it was a long SkyTrain ride home with one of the other authors there, Gib Van Ert. I actually purchased his book “A Long Time Ago: Growing Up With And Out Of Star Wars” because from his reading, I could tell his memoir was of a Stuart McLean style that Gillian would enjoy. We talked about writing, Star Wars, and gaming during the ride home. He’d actually left Star Wars behind to become a lawyer, but in writing this and having a child of his own, he’s learning to let that kid inside of him get out and live again. That can only be a good thing.

So I’m home now, just wrote this, and am going to bed. I’m exhausted. And I need to get back there by 10am tomorrow to do it again.

The Business Cards of VCon 37 (mine included)

By the end of VCon, I guess you could call the sales aspect of it a success. By the end, I sold (or traded) 6 copies of Bleeding Heart Yard and 12 of Trooper #4.

I say traded because since some vendors were offering objects or services of similar value, we just traded items rather than actually symbolically moving money back and forth, it all works out the same. Gillian spent most of my “profit” on books, games, and glow in the dark Christmas ornaments, but oh well. (Editor’s Note: We still have those ornaments!)

A shout out has to go to the vendors immediately around me, since they helped keep things fun and entertaining, even when there weren’t many customers around.

Magic Stronghold Games sold Magic and other card, board and RPG games, staffed by a number of fun lovin nerds. Cat’s Knitting is a Mom and Pop (and Daughter and Brother) operation. Cat puts all her knitting to good use, selling Dr. Who scarves, Dalek blankets and more, while her daughter Melissa sells a variety of other crafts and knick-knacks.

Lisa Simon (next to Batgirl) is an artist who was selling her drawings and jewellery. We kept each other entertained the most, I think, between Friday and Sunday, throwing silly faces at one another and talking about just about anything. She bought a copy of Bleeding Heart Yard from me. Here’s hoping she enjoys it!

Just outside in the Artist Hall was Q. Just Q. Nothing to do with Star Trek or James Bond, just that it’s the 17th letter of the alphabet. She’s got a missing leg and a great story about how it happened involving a Ferris wheel—including borderline sobbing—only to go back to normal as if nothing happened, because it’s completely made up.

(Editor’s Note: Q actually designed the Mossfoot Logo I still use to this day!)

I’ve been to my share of conventions, but it was unusual to be on the vending side of things. Perhaps not as much as it could be, however, because I had a lot of practice readying boxes for Odin conventions and talking to the girls who attended them that I knew generally what to expect. Working at a bookstore didn’t hurt either.

The panels I attended were interesting, but for the most part covered subjects I was reasonably familiar with. Perhaps the most useful was seeing SF Canada.

To quote their website: “SF Canada exists to foster a sense of community among Canadian writers of speculative fiction, to improve communication, to foster the growth of quality writing, to lobby on behalf of Canadian writers, and to encourage the translation of Canadian speculative fiction.”

I had a good chat with Geoff Cole, one of the authors at two of the panels I attended and a member of SF Canada, during a food run to the mall. At this con, they had their own table, and their members were part of many of the panels going on. After seeing them in action, I’m seriously considering joining up. Could be a good opportunity, and I noticed another person published at Mundania is a member.

(Editor Note: I have indeed joined SF Canada since then!)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to collapse and sleep for a couple of days.

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