The overall good news is that I have not gone broke. All things accounted for, my promotional efforts are at an overall break-even. And that’s with a few setbacks, most of which were extraneous to my campaign. Life happens and screws up plans. The open question is whether this is the most efficient method of promoting the game or making it viable as a business. Its alternative is using an advertising vehicle. My plan has always been to do both. I’m not sure that I am at the point where I can gauge how much of either I should do. My vending gig is still evolving, and I do not have good advertising leads as yet. My learning curve is damn steep.
Vending at conventions is just as glamorous as I imagined. It is somewhat akin to my previous career as a newsstand operator. The physical mechanics of it are similar. Although us dealers or vendors are similar, we are not all in the same game. Ultimately you want to sell stuff and make a profit. A number of dealers I’ve met are engaging at shows in an effort to drive web traffic. And I have met some vendors who operate at a structural loss, with no seeming profit motive. The good thing about the general fandom convention space is that it is clean of predators and scam merchants. Somethings may not be up to par, some efforts may be delusional, but there’s no one on the make to spring a swindle. And if you are going to deal with the public, fandom ain’t a bad branch to hang with.
My fellow vendors have been very helpful. It’s a happy little tramp village, all in all. Other than weather and locking my keys in the car, the worst thing to happen to me has been an occasional disappointment. When compared to my professional life, this is a vacation.
The following are our list of life lesson learned at each of the following stops:
Gencon: The nice folks at Gamebase7 got us a demo invite. I did four three-hour sessions right in a row. By the end of session four, my voice was shot. Thanks to some spot-on promo writing—which I had little to do with—all four sessions were sold out. Most folks seemed to have fun. And that’s the point. Next con we intend to have a sales venue available and perhaps be on the vending floor. Failing that, we may add Origins to our listing of cons to demo at.
Printer’s Row Lit Fest: Comic books sell to people when people can find them. I have been using a few baskets of the comics I have as a method of helping pay for the table. Although my aim is to sell games, that market is pretty narrow.
Our position was out on the sidewalk in front of a massage parlor, near the public reading of poetry event. To my left was a happy couple selling their line of children’s books. They’ve spent a small fortune on illustrations and printing and whatnot. The books looked nice. They seemed to do fairly well. To my left was Whisky Tit, an indy publisher out of New York. They had a line of paperbacks in various fiction genres and were having quite the social event. In the middle of the road were various tents, denoting the monied players in this parade. Some of these people were flat out delusional--buying two tables to promote one book.
Quick: How can you tell the difference between a best-selling Amazon author and a homeless person?
Answer: You can’t.
Printer’s Row Lit Fest is coming back from the dead, so I cut them some slack. Their security people were johnny on the spot and all knowing. The volunteer staff were… Let’s say they there were issues. I was given every direction to my spot except for the correct one. Luckily, I showed up early so the only additional expense was to my sanity. They didn’t have that much of a turnout. (The claim was half a million. In a pig’s eye. Total foot traffic for all three days was about 60K.) A lot of people walking through the fest were residents walking their dogs.
I talked to a lot of nice people and that’s worth something. If I did not break even, I came close. This was my most expensive venture. I might have done better but… on the third day the Lord said let there be rain.
Unless I can cop some canopy space next time, I am going to give this a pass.
Southside Comic Book Convention: Rockyfest! Rocky rules! Rocky was set up next to me at Windy City Pulp and Paper and invited me to this one day convention in Palos Heights. It set up in a high school gym. Nice, steady flow of traffic. Nice vendors. Sold a few games. My salvation was bringing some collector’s comics with me. People would look at my little display case and they stopped. And some of them pulled out money and bought. A few comics got a new happy home and my tour got a little shot in the arm.
Stranger Con: I have never seen the Stranger Things show, nor have I dealt with the promoter Creation Entertainment before. I did not know what to expect. Media fandom is an odd bunch. Creation stratifies its crowds—the more you pay, the more you get. The promoter monopolizes the concert shirt trade, but you are otherwise free to sell whatever you want. Most of the vendors were what I would call crafters.
Sold a load of comics. Best game sales ever. I am going to look into other Creation cons. I’m still mystified by their approach, but whatever they are doing seems to work. At last, a productive use for tech theater majors!
Windycon: I don’t suppose the gangland shooting in the parking lot on Saturday helped much. Or the Covid surge or the RSV surge or coming off of a similar con which also didn’t draw much. A few of my pals from COD CON and Stranger Con were there. Lots of crafters, some way off topic but there didn’t seem to be a litmus test. We had a smattering of self-published authors (which would include me) and then packs of people selling pots and whips and jewelry and space music. (I bought me some space music.) And old books and movies. And I wasn’t the only game publisher there.
They fed us. The food was good. The programming seemed first rate. Just not enough folks. If this con comes back, I will come back.
Due to sickness in my household, I have had to neglect this blog as well as some of my promotional efforts. I am hoping to start my tour anew in February. We will have announcements of our next shows and whatnot here in the Wonderblog.
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