A COMMON MISTAKE

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Orycon 38 Post Mortem

Whew. Another con down, another mild success, considering. Haha. Skip to the end to ignore my wholly incomplete breakdown.

So Orycon has me in something of a contemplative mood, I have to say. It’s a bit of a weird conundrum and one I didn’t expect to have to consider overall. Basically it’s a question of audience and exposure.

Firstly, everyone I talked to at the con was amazing (except maybe… one or two crazy people? Cons.) and that’s always so encouraging. People have been really positive on the books which I can’t deal with in a mature way because I’m a stunted adult but I want anyone reading to know that I’m appreciative in the least ironic way an early thirties douchebag writer can manage.

But enough of that soppy shit. I still expect angry e-mails. So let’s talk about the con and the logistics of it and why I am struggling with a decision to return.

Firstly, the audience. There is a decidedly older crowd in the sci-fi fantasy fandom. I sort of know this isn’t exactly news to people, but was hoping for more of a mix. And when I say old, I mean old. Greybeards.

Now, before you call me ageist, it’s not about that. Rather, I’m just not convinced I write for that age-group in a meaningful way. I’m basing this on reviews from older people who seemed to take more issue with the violence, sex, or language in my books than other ages. Obviously, this limits my sales potential out of the gate (since maybe three older people had the good sense to realize my books are amazing, clearly). Sales are exposure and at this point I just need to have my book in front of as many people as possible.

Speaking of exposure, that brings up the next point that sort of causes me concern. Overall turnout is fairly small for sci-fi/fantasy cons. This doesn’t make me mad, but sales numbers should be, hypothetically, higher at a con about books than at a small comic convention. Admittedly, I have a small dataset, but NW Comic Fest was basically dead and I still moved more books than Orycon. There’s the long-term question of the enthusiasm of those fans versus the ones at Orycon, so I’m not making any strong judgement calls there, but it does mean I haven’t immediately signed up for Orycon 39 yet.

There are promises that moving to the Red Lion next year will fix some of the issues (with the bulk of the con area being on one floor). Primary among them for me as a book sellin’ machine were that the multi-floor nature of the con annoyed everyone. Elevators were out constantly. Moreover, the hotel has four elevators for 15 floors with 55+ rooms per floor. Insanely low numbers. I’ll be there again for NewCon and frankly I’m not looking forward to it. We’ll see if the dealer room set up makes more sense there.

As for Orycon’s dealer room it faced two major problems. One: It was in the bottom basement with only the art show on the same floor. No reason for anyone to go down there at all. I’d guess that maybe a third of the entire con came through the dealer room over the entire weekend. Maybe I’m underestimating that or overestimating the con’s overall attendance. It’s possible. I don’t have hard numbers. Foot traffic is a killer for sales. I’ve been in shit spots before and you will die there.

The second problem was that the dealer room was split. Not entirely, but myself and five other tables were put OUTSIDE of the dealer room. We were run along the front facing the entrance. To the casual observer this might seem like a fine place to be sat. People will come right in, see you, and go to your booth. The reality of a dealer room is that people go to where the bulk of things are and move their way down. People casually glance at stuff and get interested and THEN come over. The more casually they can glance, the more time they have to get interested, the better anyone does. Same for being in the same area as others. If someone is stopped at a booth, talking, the people with them will look at the booths next to them or across the aisle. With six of us in a row out front, people mostly ignored us. Some glanced, most just charged toward the dealer room proper, where all the other 30 booths were.

CONCLUSIONNNNNNSSSS

Great people. Sales don’t justify the cost for me. Between hotel, food, parking, and the rest, I just don’t move enough copies. That said, I need more data on what I should expect from sci-fi/fantasy cons to know if it’s a bad outcome or not.

I’m applied for Norwescon and Ruscon, but near Seattle. I’m not bailing on those, so if I get accepted we’ll see how they go. If they go well, I will give Orycon another shot. Otherwise, I might focus more on comic conventions since they’re more broadly attended.

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