Having missed out on the awesomeness of LonCon 3 (WorldCon) due to various disasters, I jumped at the chance of doing BristolCon. While I will always regret the missed opportunity of LonCon, perhaps it's better to start with something like BristolCon with it being just one day and hopefully less overwhelming to an author appearance virgin like me.
I'll admit - I was petrified. I am not a people person. Online, with the safety of a computer screen between me and the rest of the world, I can be pretty chatty and sociable. Face to face? *runs and hides in a corner* But with visibility being the biggest hurdle most authors have to get past, making a physical appearance somewhere, sometime, seems necessary. And I miss going to conventions - hubs isn't a fan, and once the kids came along even the odd trip to London to the Comic and Film Fairs became nonexistent. So I was eager to get back into conventions.
First, a bit about the venue. BristolCon "...is a one-day convention organized by the BristolCon Foundation, a charitable foundation set up to support and promote speculative fiction writing, art and related activities in the South West." It takes place in the Doubletrees Hotel in Bristol town centre, just yards from the Temple Meads Station. A huge part of the attraction for me was my favourite SF author Jaine Fenn was going to be attending and doing some panels, plus my eldest's new favourite author Janet Edwards (YA SF), which meant I easily persuaded eldest to come along (we met both authors at the Women In Scifi panel in London, which coincidentally also covered the subject of lack of visibility). Being included on the guest list alongside them, plus the likes of Mark Lawrence and Gareth Powell certainly isn't too shabby either. ^-^ But if you're curious about the rest of the guests and events, please check out the BristolCon website HERE.
What I took:
1. Download cards. Now, I got a few questions about these before the convention while I posted images of my convention gear as I prepared my kit, so I'm going to go through making them. Firstly, I do have one publisher (Champagne Books) who will issue us with ready made download cards for ebooks, but these have to be ordered in bulk, then shipped. I'm always nervous about having valuable items like that sent through the post and across the sea to boot. My other publisher (Breathless Press) does gift cards via codes, so I asked about the possibility of codes for specific titles ie mine. This was apparently a viable option, and I bought ten codes for each of my two ebooks. These are one use only just for the title they relate to, so no need to worry about multiple downloads. But what to put them on? The codes were printed onto a sheet of stickers. Then for each title I printed off postcard sized cards with the book cover and blurb on the front, and the download instructions on the back, with a space for the code sticker.
This meant I didn't have to print out individual cards for each code, so if I use a couple of unsold codes for giveaways after the convention, I can just take the sticker off and reuse the card (this really saves on costs). So once printed, I put on my stickers, then put the cards onto a display unit with the price and a note of Buy Now Download Later.
And if you can't get codes from your publisher or you're indie? Well, for an indie author, there's the ability to produce codes via Smashwords for a specific title. This would mean you could use the download card idea with a coupon for free download, but the buyer has to purchase the card from you first. Unfortunately I don't think there's any way to make the coupon valid for just one download, so there is the risk of the buyer using it multiple times for that title. This would need more investigation. As for publishers - well, if they do gift card codes, that's an option which would at least guarantee the buyer going to their website, but not necessarily for YOUR title. My philosophy is - if you don't ask, you don't get. Maybe it's something they'd be interested in doing if it means more business for you and for them.
2. Free samples/goodie bags. Breathless/Lycaon Press send us sample PDFs of our books to give away or print off, usually the first chapter. Using the booklet facility in Word 2010, I printed these off for my two titles currently published through them, with the cover and blurb included, plus a link to my publisher's website. I had to invest in an extra long stapler to finish the booklets off properly (there are an awful lot of costs for a first time conventioneer, sigh), but I'm rather proud of the results.
The YA titles are paranormal and scifi respectively, so they each had cards/swag related to their genre. I've left the bags unsealed so that anyone interested in taking them but who expresses interest in anything else on the table can have extras added in. The Brigade stickers were bought from Zazzle, while I made and printed the YA stickers myself.
3. Goodie basket. Thanks to the generosity of my fellow BP author Mia Epsilon, I had a hardback edition of BP's Wonderland Tales, an anthology of stories based on Alice in Wonderland. I also ordered a print edition of Tales from the SFR Brigade, a copy of Ghost Planet by my fellow Spacefreighters buddy Sharon Lynn Fisher (a scifi romance published by TOR), and a notebook with the cover of my recent release - Hallow's Eve - on the front. This was to be raffled off at the event, with ticket money paying for postage.
4. Breathless Press giveaway. As well as providing pencils and sharpeners as swag, BP also sent me some wristbands, with a giveaway attached. Entrants need to post a picture on social media of them wearing the band and tag Breathless Press in the post, to be entered to win gift cards, books etc. I felt having some no obligation stuff on offer would hopefully draw people over rather than just blatant 'we are here to sell you stuff'.
5. Sweets and more freebies. I am not above bribery myself. I bought some star shaped sweets (to fit our SF theme) to help tempt people over, plus we had plenty of free bookmarks and business cards (obviously promoting our books, but heck, we *are* authors trying to promote our works). I also have two clipboards, one for contact details for the goodie basket raffle, and the other for my newsletter.
6. Myself, Misa and my eldest. Eldest and I both wore t-shirts for two of my titles - she had my YA paranormal Restless In Peaceville, while I had my upcoming superhero romance, When Dark Falls. I also dressed up in a bright red highwayman jacket, and wore my lightsaber earrings and sonic screwdriver necklace. Misa had an author banner, something I'll now consider investing in since I plan to do more conventions.
7. What Misa had. Misa also brought download codes for her titles, a print collection of three of her novellas, and bookmarks. She also had a banner (something I need to invest in, though possibly not from Vistaprint after the two of us failed to get the darn thing together, and another author had to help her set it up).
And how did it go?
Come back next week on Wednesday 5th November to find out! In the meantime, if you have any questions at all just give me a shout.