Friday, February 10, 2006

Pros and Cons

A writer friend is contemplating going to a science-fiction convention ("a con") to promote a first novel from a small press. Here's the advice I offered:

I feel I should say a few words, one writer to another, about going to conventions on one's own nickel.

The upcoming con you're thinking of going to will doubtless be a wonderful event: you'll have fun and you'll meet neat people. But I should point out that last year, when I went to the same con, just as a panelist, as far as I could tell, not one single copy of my new novel Mindscan sold in the dealers' room. And even for a guest of honor at a con, selling ten copies of a book over the course of a weekend is a lot.

Also, if you're a small-press author, it's very likely that dealers won't have copies of your book; few dealers stock small-press titles. Even if you're with a major press, you may still find that no one has thought to bring your book; many cons are dilatory about letting dealers know who will actually be on programming. You might want to bring a half-dozen copies of your title on your own, and either sell them directly after your reading or offer them to a dealer to sell for you (normally, dealers take a 40% commission, so you barely break even doing this if you've bought copies at your author's discount, although you do eventually get royalties credited to your account).

I just want you to have your eyes wide open about the return-on-investment of making such an expensive trip. As an author, I can't say that over the years going to cons has had great financial benefits for me. They've been lots of fun, sure -- but I figure I spend at least $500 on any out-of-town con, and the return is never even a tenth of that in royalties. I just want to make sure you understand that going to cons is neither required nor expected from a business point of view. You should only do it if it's something you really want to do for personal enjoyment.

That said, if you are going to go to a con as a pro, I have some tips that I offer to every writer:

On why writers go to cons

More on why writers go to cons

Tips for public readings

A 37-minute podcast with me and Tee Morris on how writers can get the most out of cons and other ways of promoting their books.

Best of luck!


At February 10, 2006 9:06 PM , Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

good information.

At February 12, 2006 9:04 PM , Blogger Sean from DocintheBox said...

Speaking of which, I just finished Mindscan, wish I could have picked up the copy there. My favorite book of yours so far. As always, I’m impressed with the originality of your work and glad to see that you are a blogger too. You catch the Canadian mindset perfectly and make me question the basic values that we hold as human beings.

At February 12, 2006 10:24 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Sean. What a nice comment! THANK YOU! You've made my day!

At February 13, 2006 2:33 PM , Blogger c.rooney said...

Speaking of cons, will you be attending the World SciFi con in Los Angeles (Anaheim) this August?

At February 13, 2006 2:40 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, C.Rooney. Absolutely I'll be at the WorldCon in Los Angeles. The last one there was one of the best Worldcons ever, and I wouldn't miss this one!

At February 13, 2006 11:31 PM , Blogger Sean from DocintheBox said...

Your welcome Mr Sawyer, I'll be in the middle east for WorldCon this year, sigh. Maybe next year.

It's good to see more authors blogging and having interaction with their readers on a one on one basis. Thanks for taking your time to do this:)


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