Advice About Conventions

Back in August, I participated in my very first ComicCon! Ever since I self-published my first novel (check out Call Me Anastasia!), I’d wanted to sell my work at a convention. After reading some blog posts about conventions, and speaking to a few indie authors at Florida SuperCon, I made sure I was completely prepared.

What I forgot:

FOOD. Bring some food with you, outside of granola bars. It’s a long day and unless you have someone along with you that can go get you something, you’re going to be starving.

Plan raffles and giveaways beforehand, so you don’t look like a putz scrambling around. I found I garnered a crowd by offering a free copy of my book at two separate times throughout the day. It made people stop and look at my booth. Plus, everyone that entered gave me their email, which will come in handy when I eventually get my mailing list together. Those people could turn into your trusted followers! Keep track of them.

Have a grab-bag of things to write inside peoples’ books when they ask you to sign them, again, so you don’t look like a mindless putz. Ideas: “I hope you enjoy!” or “Keep writing!” or something that pertains to the content of your novel.

I had someone ask me who I was and what I was selling. They didn’t realize I was an author, and my name wasn’t visible on my banners, as they were behind my table. Some conventions will provide you with a banner, showcasing that you’re an author. If not, be sure to put it up yourself. That way, when people walk by, they know exactly who you are.

What I did:

I made sure I packed all my books, and got my banners and accoutrements packed in the car beforehand. 

I made myself a thermos of coffee and a bottle of water. Though the convention was only one day, I knew standing, smiling, and conversing with people all day would be exhausting. And I brought my author mug, which earned me a couple chuckles.

If you have a special tablecloth or something, make sure you iron it beforehand. There’s nothing worse than a creased tablecloth. It makes your display look hastily thrown together and not professional. Same goes for your banners. Make sure they’re not wrinkled.

Bring some knickknacks to decorate your table—as long as you have the room. Don’t crowd your table, but also don’t make it cluttered. There’s a fine middle ground.

Make sure you have a “booth babe” or someone with you so you can escape—I mean, use the restroom in peace. Same goes for eating breaks. Plus, these people tend to help sell your books, and can attest to the quality/relate to the potential readers.

Order some jazzy book stands and make your display look nice and neat. Need some inspiration? Check out indie authors’ instagrams. They usually post photos of their booths online. And because they’ve done it before you, they know what works and doesn’t work.

I was told that as a vendor, you should never sit during a convention. You need to be extroverted and open to draw people in. If you sit, or seem like you’re closed off, people will treat you as such. Therefore, wear some comfortable shoes and hunker down for the long haul.

Greet EVERYONE. It can get tedious after a while, especially when the same four people continuously walk past you. However, a guy told other people that I was the nicest person at the convention, which drew in customers. I also had a young woman tell me that she finally stopped at my booth because I greeted her and complimented her on her shirt. It costs nothing to be kind.

Overall, it was a great first convention. I really connected with some great people, and I earned some loyal readers. Plus, three months later, someone recognized me by one of my books, remembering me from the convention!

Advice about KDP Formatting

One of the most time-consuming things when working to self-publish a book, outside of the writing itself, has to be formatting. It’s not that the task is particularly difficult, per se, but every little change you make alters the format, which could throw the entire document off kilter. I’ve discovered a few things that make it all easier, for when you’re finally ready to sit down with Kindle Direct Publishing and do the damn thing:

1. Instead of using a page break when you finish writing a chapter, use the next page option. In Word, just click on Layout, then breaks, and scroll on down to where it says Next Page. This makes the next chapter a new section, and, in turn, makes it a lot easier to format headers and footers when you finally get around to numbering your pages and adding titles to the chapters.

2. Speaking of headers and footers, I find it a lot easier to completely format a manuscript before you decide to add page numbers and headers. That way, you’re not throwing off the numbering or section headings if you end up changing chapters. If you have a little checklist, make the page numbers the next to last thing you do.
3. In the past, I self-published once every year-and-a-half, which makes it difficult to remember exactly what I did previously formatting-wise. So, instead of bumbling around every time, trying to remember exactly how you made it so the text wouldn’t bleed onto the next page when formatting an eBook, create a document and keep track of things you do. Just in case.
4. Following that line of thought, the upmost important thing when self-publishing, regardless of what platform you use, is to be organized. Keep track of everything you do, so if something goes wrong, you know exactly what happened.
5. And finally, just have a good time! Self-publishing can be taxing and time consuming, but at the end, you get to see the fruits of your labor. Keep that in mind for when you’re squinting at your computer, feeling like you’d like to punch KDP in the face if they make you launch the previewer one more time. It’s your baby, and totally worth it.

Monday Writing Blogs

Welcome to the first Monday blog of 2019! Over the years, I've been asked advice about self-publishing and writing. I once held a seminar-type meeting for the creative writing club at UF dedicated to discussing the inner workings of novel writing.

I figured it would be a good idea to start writing some of that advice down! So, peruse the blogs every Monday for some good, old-fashioned advice. But remember, everyone's way of working is different. If you have a better way of doing things, let me know!

Happy writing!