Why I’d Rather Showcase My Books at Craft Fairs than Horror & Comic Cons
by Rob Watts
There’s a misconception around the campfire these days that certain products should only be placed in a venue that showcases primarily the same exact products, just in different packaging. The same can be said about writers. We all want to present our work in environments where we are most likely to reach a captive audience. It only makes sense to want to sell our books at events where people attend simply to buy books. Trendy restaurants join other restaurants at local food festivals to sell their food and hot tub salesmen compete with other hot tub salesmen at the local hot tub expos, so why not? For starters, we aren’t hot tub salesmen; we’re authors with our own unique approach in our artistry. There is something very different in all of us that sets us apart from the assembly line produced…dare I say, crap.
Over the years, I have worked at various trade shows with my company and the most important thing I’ve learned is the value of having a unique and distinguished product to offer. Fortunately, my company fits that description, however I’ve witnessed much frustration and disappointment among patrons due to the over abundance of repetitive trade displays such as window installation, granite countertops and vinyl siding companies. So when I began the process of selecting events to promote my new book, I was aiming toward venues where I wouldn’t be just another author pushing my wares. I wanted to find places where an independent bookseller would be a welcomed surprise rather than a usual suspect.
Thanks to the like-minded folks at the NEHW who organize networking events, my vision has been met head-on. Sure, the horror cons such as Horror Hound Weekend and Rock & Shock are festive and fun. Yes, the energy at a comic con is off the hook, but when it comes to actual book selling and valuable interaction between writer and reader, arts and craft shows are an untapped resource for authors. When I spoke to a fellow writer not too long ago, they laughed and asked me if I hated the thought of being in a setting where soccer moms are buying handmade jams, baskets and socks. To which I replied, absolutely not. I would much rather interact with soccer moms than try to convince some teenager, who only has enough money in their pocket to meet Kane Hodder or Tony Todd at their 18th million appearance, that he/she should be buying my book instead. In short, I’d much rather spend my time at events where the chances are much greater that I’ll sell books and make fans.
Even though I write horror, a horror con isn’t always an ideal venue for a bookseller. The same can be said for comic cons. Attendees at these types of events are not really interested in books. They just aren’t. It’s not a slam on them; it’s just the way it is. They are more interested in meeting celebrities, sorting though rare DVDs and dressing up as their favorite characters. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy these events because I do and oftentimes it’s more about who you meet rather than book sales. Just two weeks ago, I had a table at the Toronto Comic Con. Book sales were ok, but the best part was meeting an illustrator who’s going to design for me. So in the end, it was worth the time, travel and cost. It’s definitely worth it to participate in as many events as possible. But they aren’t all at the top of my preference list.
Whenever I see arts and crafts events listed on the NEHW’s calendar, I jump at the chance to attend every one of them. I love that we’re known simply as the authors in the room, not the other authors, or the one out of 20 bookseller tables. We are distinguished and well-regarded might I add. And the best part is, the patrons at these events actually enjoy reading and they love the fact that they are buying the books directly from the person who wrote it. And make no mistake about it, we as writers and independent booksellers fall under the guise of arts and crafts. These events are held everywhere, at any given time of the year and at low-cost. Why not take advantage of it? Don’t just wait for horror events held in the fall. October horror writers are only what Santa Clause is to Christmas. But that doesn’t need to be the case. And if I have the choice between selling at a horror event, where I’m up against Jack Ketchum’s forty-dollar signed copy of Off Season and Robert Englund’s autograph, I’ll take selling next to a table of country-made jam any day of the week.