RT Convention: For the SFF people, let’s talk Money

This will probably be my last post on the RT convention, and I will leave my gentle reader to draw their own conclusions.

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(This photo came off Twitter, and I was unclear on the credits for it.)

I’m going to talk money.

Recall the fortune cookie from the previous entry with its obscure message about spending money to make money? (I think that’s what it meant, at least…) The whole RT convention is an exercise in this.

I’ll put up a rough list here. Because I drove, I have parking expenses instead of paying for airline flights. I also split the hotel room, but had dog boarding* to pay as well (which is not, I understand, tax deductible.)

These numbers are rounded a bit for simplicity, and I’ll assume arriving Tuesday, leaving Sunday

Admission to RT:                                                         489

Payment to do the Book Signing :                               10

Hotel Expense:                                                             480

Parking: 27 per day                                                      135

Food: Let’s call it 50 per day                                        300

Tips: Big hotel, lots of tips                                              50

Total:                               1474

That’s pretty pricey for a con. More than SFF people are accustomed to paying.  In addition to that, I paid 162 to be one of the hostesses of a party (Other members of FF&P-RWA were kind enough to invite me to join.)  My publisher supplied 25 books to give away at that party. That would have cost me a lot if I was providing them myself.

Was it worth it financially?

This is the question we ask after every con, with no way to know the answer.

I frankly don’t know if it will pay off as opposed to, say, World Fantasy Con. I did get to meet some great Urban Fantasy authors that I haven’t before. I got to meet Mary Balogh, of whom I’m a fan.  But did I meet enough readers to make a positive impression? That I can’t say.

I will say that I think I would have done better if I’d gotten on some panels. I was too late to do that, honestly.  In addition, there were some meet and greet venues that I also found out about too late, although several authors told me that they didn’t do those.

As I noted back on Tuesday, WOM is the best promotion of all, so I hope that a few read my books and like them.  That would be the best result.

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The most interesting thing about this is that there are readers–hundreds of them–who do this year after year. That’s a fascinating phenomenon to me.  They go wherever the convention goes.  It’s their Superbowl.

That was an eyeopener to me.  And it’s kinda cool ;o)

#SFWAPro

ETA: *Dog Boarding was 440, which pretty much thrust this con over 2,000 for me. :(

RT15 Swag Summary + Apt Fortune Cookies

I’ve returned from the Romantic Times Convention in DFW, and after a week of considering promotions, I’ve come to a few conclusions.

First of all, I can offer my own evidence:
100_2204I went to the con with about 250 pens, came back with 63. In fact, I’ve actually told a bookseller and a couple of librarians that I would send them some, so I’ve already ordered MORE PENS.

I probably gave away about 150 bookmarks, 100 of which went into the bags at the Mad Hatter party (in other words, I forced them onto people rather than people taking them.) I will need more, as I’ve offered to mail some to, once again, a bookseller and some librarians.

The business cards didn’t do as well. Other authors suggested that a) they needed to have a ‘fantasy’ element on the cover. They also needed to say FREE EBOOK somewhere, which I’d left off because I can’t guarantee that Amazon will continue the price match.

So over all, I think that my pens were most successful, and since they’re pens, people are likely to hang onto them.

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I have a degree in marketing, and I know that there are two important aspects to any form of promotion: 1) people have to look at it and remember it, and 2) people have to recall who or what it was intended to advertise. There are plenty of commercials on TV that people adore, but the viewers can’t recall what they were advertizing.

I’m trying to apply those principles to my promotional choices, and invest my promo dollars wisely.

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So what do I think works?

Pens will be kept, and people cannot escape what they advertise.  Another item that I adored was these: lens wipes.

100_2192I have these courtesy of Jenna Black (whose book I bought), Julie Kenner (I’ve already read those), and INscribe Digital. The lens wipes run about 50% higher than pens, but they are things that people will keep and use. They start around 60-65 cents each, making them pricey, but perhaps they’re worth it if they’ll keep a name in front of potential customers.  (FWIW, you can chose not to put them on swag tables, but if you put them on the table during a panel, people will come up and take one, thereby giving you a chance to make a connection.)

Oddly, I received this fortune cookie last night, which seemed apt to this situation.

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(OK, it’s a bit cryptic. Or perhaps it’s simply an example of poor grammar.)

Other ‘keepers’ that have been suggested to me are notepads and notebooks. Again, these are more expensive. Also, some have said that buttons work, but they need to be distinctive. In other words, they should be traceable back to the author somehow. There was a really clever one floating around RT, but I have no idea what company or author gave it away, so it was a wasted effort.

Oddly, here’s an inexpensive one that I thought was great:

These are packs of beechies chewing gum (2 per box.) The author here, Samantha Chase, informed me that these were only a few cents each (from Oriental Trading) and she affixed the labels herself. (They are reproductions of her covers.)

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While this particular box will get thrown away (I threw mine away), it served as a fantastic conversation starter, and I saw her engage with readers and end up giving them other things.  So I think that little candies/gum can be a great starter as long as the writer is present.  (In other words, not the best for a swag table.)

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Some final notes here: someone noted that different venues do better with different swag.  For example, bookmarks are great for libraries and booksellers. Not as great as other things at cons, it seems.

A bookseller told me that Romance readers want a bookmark small enough to fit entirely inside the book. SFF readers will take a larger bookmark (like mine.) Having looked at a lot of bookmarks there, I think she’s correct about that. Therefore, I’m contemplating making mine smaller next time.

I am going to look into lens wipes, notepads, buttons, and a few other smaller things.  Just so you know I have been paying attention this week ;o)

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However, I will remind everyone that NOTHING works as well as old-fashioned Word of Mouth. I would give up all of the above if only Oprah, Ellen, or Brad Pitt would mention my books. Or NPR. Or nice readers on Facebook and Twitter….that’s what really works best in the long run.

#SFWAPro

Mad Hatter Party at RT15 (Still about the promo)

Among other things, I’m a member of two RWA chapters and via one of those, I was invited to participate in one of the events at this con, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (for Fantasy Romance writers).

Now first of all, I need to specify that I did none of the back-breaking organization involved in this. That fell to the other hostesses who made arrangements with RT, arranged for decorations and cookies and all the goodies and handled all the monies. (All the authors contributed to help cover the cost.)

In addition, my publicist arranged for me to have 25 copies of The Golden City to give away there!

The other authors and I got together at 3:30 to start decorating for a 5:00 party. (BY THE WAY, by 3:30 there were already people waiting to be in the first 100 to get into the party and thus get a goody bag and a free book from one of the authors.) We ran around like chickens with our heads cut off setting up the tables:

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Each party goer was also given a trivia challenge.

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Here are the lovely Tameri Etherton and Debra Kristi, two of my co-hostesses (see table of freebie books in the back.) Notice their cool hats….I has a sad that I don’t have hats.  I must work on that.

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And here’s a full line-up of the hostesses -before- we get started:

From left to right: Debra Kristi, Tameri Etherton, Grace Draven, Elizabeth Hunter, Mina Khan, Rebekah Ganiere, L. H. Nicole, (ME..with NO HAT :(…) and the charming Jeffe Kennedy (who is the queen of hats!)
2015-05-13 14.57.39At the appointed hour, we started letting people in, where they each got a ‘goody bag’ full of swag and chose a free book from one of the authors.  Since I’m new to this type of con, I was gratified that anyone took my book.  I got this shot below on my phone, though, and only realized this morning that two of the ladies there are, indeed, looking at The Golden City!!!!!   (see the shameless arrowage)

Mad Hatter Party

The event was packed, we had fun with the trivia game, and all the books were snabbled up. I was actually asked to sign several and got to talk to a bunch of readers, plus I also signed my “Penguin Passport” for several of the guests as well.

So over all, I was extremely pleased, which makes the busty author do this: big cheesy grin.  
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So thanks to all the readers and guests that came, thanks to the other FF&P-RWA Fantasy Romance authors who let me participate, to my publicist and publisher who helped provide the swag, and to Diana Pharoah Francis (my con roomie and all-around amazing author) for helping out and taking all these pics!

It was a blast!

(And as a final note for the SFF con comparison and Romance con comparison aspect, this was held in a banquet room from 5-6PM, unlike genre con parties which are held in hotel rooms from 9PM-4AM. Also, the RT people told us we could go ahead and leave and THEY cleaned everything up afterward. That doesn’t happen at a genre con.)

#SFWAPro

Publicity and Promotion, Romance and Speculative Fiction, Part Deux

So a second half of the promotion post:

We talked to a few people about the promotional items everywhere, and found out a little bit more.

1) An advertising representative of RT magazine (who has nothing to do with the banners, to be honest), said that the banners were sometimes paid for by the writers, sometimes the publishers, and that you could often tell which by the number of mentions of the publisher (0 = paid for by writer, 12 logos and 5 books = paid for by publisher.) So the large banners are paid out from a variety of sources, but many are by the writers themselves.

2) One of the two writers mentioned on the book bags given out to each attendee (Sylvia Day) was willing to tell us that the bags were paid for by the two authors themselves, intended to help defray some of the cost of the convention. Although a specific number wasn’t given (and I would not have pressed for that!) she was willing to say it was multiple thousands of dollars.

3) An editor for a NYC publishing house told us that she thought the attendance this year was 1500-2000, just so that readers of this blog will have a ball park idea of how many people are here….

Now, a couple of added pics of unusual swag items we found in “Promotion Alley” (There’s a pic in the previous post.)

19419_10206970161275528_423600724717239119_nIn the above picture, we have some of the more unusual items. There were plenty of book marks and cards and little bracelets (including a spiked one), but here we have (In almost clockwise order)

1) A couple of paint stirrers

2) A very nice ruler

3) Tissue

4) A pom-pom

5) Little red stress-ball dragon (my favorite!)

6) Nail file

7) Hand sanitizer (with red cap)

8) Chip clip (blue heart)

9) Compact (white)

10) Coaster (saw a lot of those)

11) Chapstick and bandage dispenser.

I talked to author C.A.Szarek (one of my NTRWA mates) for a bit, and she told me that the chapstick and the bandage dispensers (and a nail file on a keyring which I cannot find!) moved better than a lot of the paper goods.

So I’ll be visiting the alley a few times to see what’s moving in the alley, and what readers are willing to pick up and carry off…

(And I promise I will return all the ones that I don’t intend to keep.)

ETA: Pretty much all the unusual swag was gone when I went back down, except for the pom-poms. 

This one below caught my funny bone: A Little Bar of Soap from Clean Reads….

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#sfwapro

Publicity and Promotion, Romance and Speculative Fiction

I’m at the Romantic Times conference this week in Dallas, and one of the things I’m hoping to gain is some insight on how promotion works here in the Romance world.  There’s no way around the simple fact that, on the whole, Romance far outsells Science Fiction and Fantasy.

So how do they do it?

Frankly, I don’t know.  One of the things that I am learning here is that SFF has a very different internal narrative about how to succeed than does Romance.

The SFF narrative reads something like this: publish short fiction, try to win awards, find an agent, maybe sell a book, try harder to win awards, hope that you gain a following by dint of lots of con appearances, blogging, and general good writing.

The Romance narrative seems to be more like this: write a novel, self-publish or find an agent to sell it, promote the heck out of yourself as a writer (not as much the book), and by that we mean serious money, and publish fast and furiously.

Now given, those are VAST oversimplifications. I’ll say that right now. I don’t want you to think I’m an expert or have done any form of real research on this.  But one of the truths of this convention is that there is an obscene amount of money being thrown around.  (I’ll try to get some hard numbers later, although I’m not sure where to source them.)

Obscene.

SFF writers are often taught Yog’s Law: The money must always flow toward the writer. We tend to be frugal because we’re not wealthy.  Most of our cons have a registration fee ranging from $25 to a whopping $150 for WorldCon (if you get it early.)

Here’s my first example: The registration alone for this con is $500.  (OK, its $489). Then there are a lot of separate events that are an additional $59, $89, $99….etc.  The cost of the swag that flies out of here must be mind-boggling.

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This is the first goody bag we got at registration. Not only is the bag itself provided by a couple of authors, all that swag is, I suspect, individually sourced.  (Some may be publisher paid, and I have no way of knowing…but many of these authors are self-published.)

(We get other goodies later…)

Here are some of the banners in the hallways and on the elevator doors. Who pays for these?  I suspect most are publishers.

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Every flat or curved surface seems to have a banner of some sort.

There will also be a ”Promotion Alley” later where writer can leave their swag for potential readers…IF they paid the extra amount for table space.  I didn’t do so, among other things because I found out about it too late, after the registration for that was closed.

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I may try to hunt down a con official later this week to talk about some of these promotional efforts.  FWIW, none of them have moved me to purchase a book, but I’m not the target here.  There are tons of READERS at this convention, and part of the job is to reach them…so they may very well be effective and worth the authors’ investments.

And finally….here’s my Starbucks cup with a zarf provided by an author:

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#SFWAPro

Romantic Times Schedule

Since it’s my first time, I’m not doing any panels (also, I tried to late to get any, I admit), but there are a few places that I can guarantee I’ll be if you want to find me…

WTeaStickersSmall (1)ednesday, May 13, 2015

5:00pm to 6:00pm

Reader Mad Hatter Fantasy Tea Party

J. Kathleen Cheney, Grace Draven, Tameri Etherton, Rebekah R. Ganiere, Elizabeth Hunter, and Jeffe Kennedy

I’ll be one of the hosts of this party, and I hope to actually see a couple of people I know there.  There will be prizes, including copies of The Golden City, as well as novels from the other writers!

So come out and see us!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

11:00am to 2:00pm

Social Event Giant Book Fair

OK, this is the huge signing thing, and I’ll be over in “GENERAL ADULT”, which seems to be mostly alphabetical…so if you want a books signed, come on by!

3:00pm to 4:15pm

FAN-tastic Day Penguin Random House’s Passport to Romance

Penguin will be handing out “Passport” books to the readers during the week, and this will be one place to find all the Penguin authors (like me) hanging out together.  So come by and get your passport signed!

(It only now occurs to me that it would be really cool to have an actual rubber stamp that says Portugal…but it’s a little late, huh?)

Oh well, l’esprit d’escalier…

I do hope to see some friendly faces this week!

#SFWAPro

 

Romantic Times (the convention)

Next week I’ll be attending my first Romance Convention.  Now, I’m experienced with Genre conventions, but I think that RT is a totally different kind of con…

So I’m taking advantage of the dogs being away today to pick out what I’m wearing.  Among other things, RT is a lot longer than a genre con, so it will need more clothing.  Added to that, from the many photos I’ve seen of authors at Romance conventions, jeans and t-shirts won’t cut it.

I have, therefore, compiled all my ‘fancy’ clothes. I eliminated a few because May in DFW isn’t winter.  So I have to be able to pull off a layer.  In addition, I don’t want my feet to explode, so I have to consider what sort of shoes I’ll wear with everything. (I”m hoping sandals with just about everything.)

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I’m helping host a party while there, so that’s where I’ll wear the nice black skirt.  I am not, however, going to dress up for the steampunk party. Nope.

I will do my best to blog about this experience….after all, it is my first one!!!

#SFWAPro