As I’ve mentioned in the last two posts (and you’ve probably figured out from the title) I suffer with some social anxiety. I love to perform and do public speaking, but I’m not so great when it comes to talking to people socially. This poses a problem when it comes to special events like conferences and conventions. I’m happy as a lark when it’s my turn to be “on” but a scared little bunny when I have to walk around and network.
The third event I attended in June was LibertyCon, another fantasy scifi convention, in Chattanooga. I was really excited about attending. There was a terrific website for it. My books were listed on a page with buy links. My bio had my schedule beneath it with hyperlinks, so people could know exactly where I’d be and when. The schedule was decided months in advance. I spoke on several panels, had two signing table slots, and one reading slot. I was thrilled and eager to go. I even bought a ticket for my husband, and we kicked off our summer getaway with this trip south.
Of the three June events, this was the most pleasant for me for two reasons. One, I had a lot to do. I was onstage every 2-3 hours. Two, my husband was with me to keep me company during the breaks. I used him as a bit of a crutch so I wasn’t wandering around like a lonely stray, hoping someone would notice me.
The problem with this event was that it wasn’t well attended – by teens. There were a lot of folks my age and older there, but the only teens I saw were boys, and they were gamers not readers. I spoke on a panel about “Paranormal Romance” and another about “Creating Wonder in Young Adult Fiction”. There were people in attendance, but they were other authors or people just sitting for a spell to beat the heat. It was clear the target audience for my books was absent from this event. I had a great time discussing these themes with the other authors on the panel, and we got into lively conversations. Later in the day, I led the panel on “What’s New in Pirate Fiction”. No one was designated to run it, so I stepped up to the plate. I think it was the most enjoyable panel I attended that weekend (which was funny because before I got there, I really had no idea what I was going to talk about in that session).
The signings, however, were a bit bleak. No one in my demographic was within miles of that conference. I smiled at the people as they passed by with their manga posters, and chatted with the other authors at the table. One of these authors was Howard Taylor, a graphic novelist and illustrator. He had some fans and was the Master of Ceremonies for the whole event. He told me that he’d been doing these cons for years and had seen the teen population slowly decrease over the years. He said the reason the small cons attract mostly older audiences was because they cater to people who still collect books and posters in physical form. Young people now can see all that stuff easily online and don’t need to come to these events live. He told me the bigger events like Dragoncon still attract teens, but they don’t bring a lot of money with them and aren’t there to buy books. They are looking to meet the actors that do the voiceovers for their favorite anime or video games, or to get signed prints of their favorite manga artists. He said it’s been a few years since he came home from a con with more money than he spent to be there.
At my second signing I talked with an indie author that was a little older. She wrote short story collections and told me she hadn’t done a con in about ten years and was surprised at how they had changed. She said she used to sell lots of books at these events but hadn’t sold a single copy at this one and didn’t know if she’d do it again.
I patted myself on the back for engaging these authors in conversation and taking over the Pirate panel. This was pretty big for me. Even though the conference was a bit of a bust for my mermaids, pirates and ghosts, I had a great time there. Will I go back next year? Probably not. I don’t see the profit in it. What I learned from this event was that I could take a fairly unsuccessful event and learn from it. I got more practice in my presenting skills and made a step forward in my networking, socialization skills. That’s not bad for a shy girl like me.
Have you been to a publicity event that didn’t pan out? What did you do? I’d love to know your thoughts, so please feel free to leave a comment.
D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.