Sunday, July 31, 2016

Plastic City Comic Con--A Recap

A few months ago, one of my dear friends from high school, Kristen, had posted on Facebook about an event coming to the local area: Plastic City Comic Con. Leominster, Mass. is the Pioneer Plastics City--you know those pink flamingos in your yard? Yeah, those were made in Leominster--and with a character resembling Plasticman wearing Johnny Appleseed's steel pot cap on its signage, I thought it was a marvelous idea. There are some folks in our area who can't get to a "bigger con," i.e Boston, Connecticut, New York, and I also thought it was great for them to be able to experience a local show.

But for a small city, the Plastic City Comic Con was HUGE. Allow me a few graphs to explain.

Sensing opportunity--and knowing how well some of my NYT writer friends sell and sign at these types of shows--I contacted them to see if it was at all possible for a local author to get a table, shake some hands, and sell some books. And seeing as my breakout character is a comic book character residing in the pages of a thriller novel--my pitch was, "She's basically James Bond meets Lora Croft meets DareDevil."--I thought it was a good mix.

I emailed Keith Gleason, the promoter behind this convention, and I must say Keith was incredibly amenable to me coming to the show. He said it would be mainly comic books, getting back to the feel of the older cons--i.e. San Diego--which have just morphed into springboards for certain properties to show off their newest ideas, movie trailers, products, etc. Again, very cool idea. Keith has, as I understand it, been in the trenches, so to speak, at cons. He's been in the business for a long time. He welcomed me.

Seeing as this would be my first convention, I really didn't know what to expect. I certainly wasn't expecting a line from my table going out the door. I ordered 25 copies of CHEMICAL AGENT, my newest Jaclyn Johnson novel. I wanted to make sure I had enough. I didn't want to have too few for an eight-hour show. Jen had asked me if I wanted to do a few other books, and I hesitated... no, I had said, I just want to do CHEMICAL... just to get my feet wet. I didn't want to break the bank on product that wouldn't sell. More on that in a second.

And speaking of getting my feet wet....

I wanted to do as professional a job as I could on my meager budget. I needed a banner explaining who I was; I thought they would be too expensive, and I managed to get a good one at Staples the day before the convention. I wanted to do bookmarks, just as a giveaway to folks; J.A. Konrath always gave away drink coasters at signings. I ended up giving away a sheet with my bibliography on it, all 24 novels plus the next two coming up. As the event went on yesterday, I had more ideas on how to liven up my POP area for future cons.

When Jen and I got to the Leominster Veterans Center, the convention site, just before 9 a.m., we were led to our area in the basement hall, and we quickly set up:

My home for eight hours. Excuse the masking tape. 
The upstairs portion of the convention.

The downstairs.

Vermont Comic Con was there, with Rocket Raccoon from Guardians of the Galaxy.
When the doors opened at 10 a.m., we were flooded with people, and I sold a book right away to an old friend of the family who just happened to be with the first group through. People came, potential readers came up--"You've written 24? Where are the others?!?" one gentleman asked; Keith had said collectors will want them all, and this is where Jen looked to me and said, "You should have listened to me."--and some took my bibliography. Some passed us by.

I wasn't the only author there: I met Scott Goudward, who was right next to me; he runs the New England Horror Writers Association. Also met Jim Dyer, who sells his late grandfather's work. Erik Radvon was across the way. Some of the things they had--Scott had the Square credit card swiper for iPhone, which I immediately typed into my iPhone as a must have for my next event, and he had book stands (I just stood the book up in front of my stacks), too; Erik had his name into his tablecloth, which would have been a whole heckuva lot easier--would have made my displays better, I think. Hindsight. Again, first con. Next year, more product--I'll have three new books by then, plus some of the back list--better POP, etc.

There were periods where no one came up to my table (Jen played on her phone, while I tried to start conversations; some didn't say anything in return). This is where panic sets in; I have all these books, no one's coming over to buy them, I'm a failure, I shouldn't be doing this... but I remained calm and looked to the positive: people were glancing at my banner, they did take in my website; these are all people who had never heard of me before today.

Of course, there were cosplayers up the wazoo: a couple of Doctor Whos--Fourth and Eleven--a Pikachu (there were loads of phone-wielding folks looking for Pokemon), not to forget a 1960's era Penguin, a Dark Knight, and a Michelle Pfieffer-esque Catwoman. My cousin Camryn was a Gryffindor. And there were a few Harley Quinns, too.

We also had a visit from the one and only Bob "R.A." Salvatore:

Bob has been a great supporter of my work for years. He came right through the basement exhibitor door with a buddy of his and came straight to my table. Gave him a big hug, thanked him for coming out, and we got to talking about the business for quite a few minutes. Always a wealth of knowledge, Bob is.

I also guesstimated that we had a massive amount of people going through the aisles; I told Bob around 1:30 p.m. or so that there had to have been well over a thousand people come through by then. Many vendors went home happy.

All in all, I sold nine books, which Keith said was an amazing amount of books for a con this size. Winning? Winning. Also, it was an invaluable learning experience.

I can't wait for next year.