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Durand Fantasy Expo - Was it Worth it?

Reminder: I’ll be giving away two autographed books in the next day or so, for anyone who hasn’t yet entered.


I spent Saturday at the Durand Fantasy Expo. From ten to four, I spent most of my time in a hard plastic chair behind a table, with a one-hour break to head to the library and do a small writing workshop/chat. Add in almost two more hours of driving time. Counting up the books I sold, I earned somewhere around forty-eight cents an hour … before expenses.

After including the cost of gas, lunch, and the book I donated to the organizer? Well, that’s just too depressing to calculate.

I know a number of authors who don’t do many signings and events, because you almost never sell enough books to make it worth the time and expense. And I admit I don’t push myself to do as many booksignings as I used to five years back.

But looking beyond the immediate financial numbers, on Saturday I also got to:

  • Talk about writing with a small group at the local library, which I always enjoy. (The library had also purchased all four of my princess books, which is a nice bonus.)
  • Meet a Star Wars comic artist and chat about the realities of an artistic career.
  • Meet and talk to a fan who had been trying to get to one of my events for several years. This was his sixth attempt, and he finally made it. (::Waves to Bobotar::)
  • Pick up an $80 Pirates of the Carribean LEGO set for $15 at the library sale. Score!
  • Hang out with my tribe — with people who wore Doctor Who T-shirts and joked about Star Trek vs. Star Wars and played Dungeons & Dragons and thought the costumed Jawa was the coolest thing ever.
  • Chat with a few people from the 501st, including a Stormtrooper whose wife was a fan of my books.
  • And of course, this happened:

This was of course a totally natural and spontaneous moment, and not in any way staged by me. (Side note: I love the 501st.)

So was it worth it? That depends. If you’re worried about the money in hand, then absolutely not. But I enjoyed getting to chat and hang out with folks. I had fun. That’s the important part to me, the part that so often gets forgotten in debates over whether or not these events are worth it.

And from a purely mercenary perspective, fans who’ve met you in person are more likely to become long-term readers, and to spread the word about you and your books. (Unless you’re an asshole, I mean.)

I can’t say whether this sort of event is worth it for everyone … but I can tell you it was worth it to me.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 7th, 2011 01:41 pm (UTC)
I totally agree about the experience being important to the fans. I blogged about WorldCon and how much it meant to me that I got to meet Seanan McGuire, got to talk to Lois Bujold, got to hang out with Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, and got George R.R. Martin to wish my bro-in-law a happy birthday in his autographing of my gift copy of A Dance with Dragons.

Specific to your point and mine: I had no idea that Mr. Martin was such a nice guy until I got into the autograph line. I got a chance to talk to him, and get my picture taken with him. And so now that I've had that experience of meeting Mr. Martin in person, I will now go out and tell everyone that he's a great guy, and he was really nice to me about my photo request, and we should all support such a great guy.

Edited at 2011-09-07 01:55 pm (UTC)
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:05 pm (UTC)
Yep. But I think part of the key is that it has to be genuine. If you're there just to sell books, that comes across, whereas if you're there because you're truly enjoying meeting and talking to people, that also comes through and creates more of that great guy feeling you describe.
Sep. 7th, 2011 01:42 pm (UTC)
I absolutely love that picture. =)
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:06 pm (UTC)
Me too! I said I'd understand if they weren't willing to do something like this, but they were happy to. Love those guys!
Sep. 7th, 2011 01:52 pm (UTC)
Best photo evar. Gah - I'm in Kalamazoo when you're in Durand, I'm in Jackson when you're in Kalamazoo... curses!
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:07 pm (UTC)
I'm in Ann Arbor this Sunday -- does that help at all? :-)
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:32 pm (UTC)
I can try -- this first week of school thing is killer, man. (But I might just be ready to escape my darling progeny by that point, so...)

Sep. 7th, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)
I have a question. Can you makes shirts or something to sell at your table too? At the conventions I do for my web comic I sell shirts with geeky jokes and sayings from my web comic. The shirts sell. The shirts offset the cost. They also remind the people who own them to look at the website. Maybe they could do the same for the books you write. Like someone will see it and think, "Oh I wonder if any more books came out in that series?" and then they will go and check.
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:09 pm (UTC)
I could probably bring some of the Zazzle T-shirts I've made of my stick figure comics, and maybe make up a few designs for the books. But...

...it would mean more work for me, and I also worry a little that if someone shows up with only $X, I want them to spend that on my books, because those are the sales that are most important to me, if that makes sense.

That said, T-shirts would also have the advantage of being walking advertisements, like you said. Hm...
Sep. 7th, 2011 04:12 pm (UTC)
Speaking as someone who owns t-shirts with Raine Benares quotes on them I love book shirts. I'll wear them and talk other people into buying books when they ask about the shirt. Although my dad asking me if I now took my family cars to Mercy's Garage and how did I hear about that one first time I wore the shirt had me rolling on the floor laughing for a few minutes before I could answer.
Sep. 7th, 2011 02:13 pm (UTC)
shashalnikya and I recently did our first con as author-publisher (wooooo, ComiCONN) and we had a blast. Didn't sell nearly enough to make up for the expenses incurred, but we DID get the word out...and buy a number of indie comics and have a lot of fun, which included meeting Cobra Commander and a lot of Stormtroopers. Totally worth it.
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC)
Comic Con scares me a little, but I'd like to get there someday. Glad you had such a great time!
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:20 pm (UTC)
Oh heavens, Comic Con scares me, too. This is ComiCONN, a very fan-friendly comics convention in Stamford, CT.
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:24 pm (UTC)
Ah - got it, thank you.
Sep. 7th, 2011 02:29 pm (UTC)
Absolutely it was worth it.

I've seen firsthand how using the profit/loss mechanism as your sole indicator of whether something was good or not can majorly screw with your (or a company's) head, so don't rely upon that.

Sure, it can be a factor, but it's more important to enjoy the company of your tribe.
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:12 pm (UTC)
For my situation, yes -- I can afford the cost of doing some of these events, and turning a profit isn't *such* an urgent thing. I know other people are in different situations where the cost/profit are much more important, especially if they're working on a particularly tight budget.

For me though, the fun has become the priority.
Sep. 7th, 2011 02:48 pm (UTC)
I know precisely what you mean. For various reasons, Dragon*Con was not nearly as profitable as I hoped it would be -- and, on top of that, I got Con Crudde halfway through, just in time for two of my concerts.

On the other hand, I met with a whole bunch of great fans, had some lovely photos taken, got to hang for a bit with JoCo and Paul & Storm (who cannibalized my no-longer-needed foam cooler into Ghostbuster backpacks for instant cosplay), got a gift from a fan named April who wasn't able to attend (and got the audience to give her a shout out on video), and saw some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in some superb costumes (although my favorite for the weekend was a guy dressed as the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).

Yeah, fun may not pay the bills. But it keeps you going for doing the stuff that does pay the bills. And if the balance is close enough, it's way, way worth it.
Sep. 7th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
Fun pays the mental bills sometimes, helping keep our sanity in the black. (Don't know if that metaphor works or not, but I'm keeping it!)

And there's also the immediate vs. the long-term. We know how much we sold at the event, but we have no idea how many additional sales our presence might lead to in the long run as fans buy more of our stuff or tell their friends or whatever...

Sorry to hear about the Crudde, but glad you had a good time!
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:14 pm (UTC)
What everybody said. I've been to conferences both as an attendee/fan and as an author, and enjoy them despite my chronic lack of sociability and dislike of leaving my cave.

Meeting other authors I admire and mingling with "my people," whether they are Pagans, writers, or geeks, is a huge treat. I'm going to be at Albacon (in Albany) at the end of October, and while I don't expect to make any money, I still think it is going to be a blast. (I'm traveling with author pal Nancy Holzner, which will make it even more fun.)

And that picture ROCKS.
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:21 pm (UTC)
How IS Albacon? I've heard about it, and I'm wondering if they have any dealer tables left, because it's near to me...
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:57 pm (UTC)
I have only been once, on the Sunday, which is kind of quiet, so I'm not sure what to tell you. I can say that despite its small size they have certainly attracted big name folks in the past and some of the art I saw was lovely. They might have tables left, since they seem to be running late with everything else :-)

I will say that the hotel it is in is kind of pokey, and unimpressive, but overall, I think it looks like a fun event, or i wouldn't be going. If you make it, be sure to come say hi! (I'll be doing some panels and workshops, so I'll be easy to find.)
Sep. 7th, 2011 04:24 pm (UTC)
I'll have to check to make sure it doesn't overlap a book launch I'm planning, and see what I can do!
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:45 pm (UTC)
Pre-internet I think these kinds of things were necessary. Now that I can "meet" my favorite authors on blogs/facebook/twitter, it's optional.

That said, I'm glad authors take the option. SF, more than any other genre, is a community.
Sep. 7th, 2011 05:10 pm (UTC)
I ADORE that photo. Very well done. :)
Sep. 7th, 2011 08:15 pm (UTC)
I thought you'd approve :-)
Sep. 7th, 2011 05:47 pm (UTC)
Online relationships between writers and fans has changed things, for sure. But getting to cons and signings in The Real World is necessary and invigorating. Not cost effective? Usually not. But feedback and conversations? Priceless.

Dr. Phil

PS- I've seen some pictures of GRRM -- I may have to get a button that says "I Am Not George R.R. Martin". (grin)
Sep. 7th, 2011 07:02 pm (UTC)
I think the fun is the important part. And the ideas that spring from chatting with likeminded people, who can also help you fix problem areas in stories often quite by chance.
Sep. 7th, 2011 07:34 pm (UTC)
Then that's all that matters -- YOU got plenty of good out of it.

Sounds like a terrific experience. Life needs those. :)
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines

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