As a writer, I try to do a lot of sales at comic conventions (I write mainly SF/F/H genres). After you’ve been to a few you begin to see certain trends in the sorts of people you will meet as you try to pitch your books. Here are twelve of them.
- The Grandparent – This person looks like they have no idea how/why they are here. They are just being supportive for someone they love and when they see you they light up. “Oh! Books! Yes, I’d like something normal, please.” Will they buy a book? Could go either way.
- The Overly Serious Cosplayer – You’d danged well better know who they’re dressed as if you choose to engage him/her in conversation. You can always tell regular cosplayers from the Overly-Serious variety by that glazed look in their eye… they’re not sure if they’re at a convention in real life or if the plot of the hero they love has need of something at this strange gathering. This is why method actors shouldn’t do drugs—this is basically the end result. They are superior to you in every way and can’t believe you don’t love X as much as they love X. In fact, why are you even here? Will they buy a book? No. It’s not going to fit with their super-authentic costume (even though they don’t see a problem with the Adidas backpack slung over one shoulder.)
Pro tip. Do not talk to a Deadpool cosplayer. Ever. Trust me. (You’re also taking heavy chances with anyone dressed as Jared Leto’s Joker).
- Your New Fangirl/Fanboy – you don’t know if they’ve somehow heard of you before or if something in your pitch connected with them, but they are really into what you’re selling. “Are you married? I mean, I see your wedding ring, but is it serious? …ok, but would you consider adopting me?” You’ll probably see this person a lot throughout the day/weekend. They may or may not stick it out and start your new fanclub on Facebook Groups after the event is over, but until then they are basically Madmartigan dosed by pixie love dust and you are his/her “sun and moon and starlight sky—without your book I dwell in darkness! I love you.”
“Excuse me. Wut?”
“I meant I love ramen… um. I’ve got to go. See you in two minutes. I’ll miss you.”
Will they buy a book? If they have any actual money they probably will. If you accept payment in hugs, then definitely.
- Other Vendors – don’t assume that they will buy it. They are probably talking to you in order to network or invite you to the kind of top-secret after-hours parties I never get invited to. Lucky you. Only pitch them if they ask about your books…it’s just a courtesy, and you may see them again at a different event and don’t want to seem like a pushy person. Chances are, if they are located nearby they have already heard your pitch and want to know you rather than your book. Will they buy a book? Maybe—but they may be more willing to barter for it with items from their table. “I’ll gladly trade you one signed novel for that Sword of William Wallace autographed by Stan Lee.”
- Really Bad Genderbender – I’m not sure I’m comfortable with Sexy-Overweight-HarleyQuinn-with-a-5’oclock-shadow. He/she isn’t always comfortable with it either and might refuse to make eye contact with people. If he/she does make eye contact, prepare for a long, cold stare of death as they rush up to tell you “cosplay is not consent, you pervert!” or “stop judging me you arrogant cis-male!” You didn’t have to say a word… somehow they just knew with a sense about as reliable as a frat-boy’s gay-dar. Will they buy a book? Not even after you listen to their unsolicited political rant about gender equalities.
- Blind Bartimaeus – This person knows the deal and refuses to make eye contact with anyone at booths as if they were a circus carnie. They know the deal: they have money and you want it. Often discriminating, they are usually at a con’s merch area for specific things… if you saw them buy something at a different table, it might indicate their interests and open a door—if you can get them to look at you. Will they buy a book? Very unlikely. I settle for just getting their attention and an opportunity to pitch it.
- Ernie the Klepto – while you are pitching your novel and convincing him to buy he says, “It sounds really interesting,” and then walks off with it. If you manage to stop him he’ll respond with, “Oh, I thought you were giving these away for free.” Will they buy a book? Probably not…turns out it wasn’t that interesting.
- Empty Promise Girl – she’s able to convince you of her love as easily as a boy at the Junior prom post-party. It’s just as real too… and just like Brock, the all-state running-back, you’ll never see her again after she leaves. “This book sounds amazing! I’m definitely coming back to buy this… I’ve just got a thing, first.” Will they buy a book? No. You may spot her later walking on the far side of the aisle, trying not to look at you. She knows what she did. (And by this point you’d probably give her a book just to relive that hope that it would get read.)
- The Reporter – They may be writing for a blog, a paper, or (most likely) their diary but they want to know every detail of why you are here, how much you make, where you live, your booth cost, where you ate lunch, if they can get a photo—preferably with no hat and looking forward, like at the DMV, say for a fake ID. “Identity Theft? Hahaha, wut? Noooooooo… I’ve got to go k bye.” Will they buy a book? Maybe, but you’ve got to connect it to something they already like.
- The Perv – Often found wearing “Free Hugs” shirts and smelling like BO (perhaps thinly veiled under a sweaty sheen of too-much Axe body-spray.) They will stare at your boobs/biceps or butt/junk during your book pitch and probably won’t listen. These are not limited to just gross boys—there are plenty of women, too. Pro tip: use your table to keep a barrier to prevent unwanted conduct. “I know they’re free… but I have a medical condition.” Some of these folks need to know that “Cosplay is not consent.” Will they buy a book? If they are a greasy and gross boy—no. If it’s a “bad grandma” type she might just be happy to have had a conversation and buy it anyway.
Sidenote: if it’s an anime-heavy convention, No is always the correct answer to anything involving “tentacle monsters.” Trust me.
- The Collector – he or she is usually here for one of two things: to meet industry celebrities to acquire an autograph or photo or to get free stuff from those tables that lure people over with salt water taffy or free pencils. Will they buy a book? Maybe—although they will be confused at the concept of purchasing at first, so be gentle… they are usually easier to sell to if you can convince them that you will be the next big author. “I met AUTHOR X at comicon back when they were a nobody!”
- The Actual Customer – These are difficult to find. They might look like a normal in a sea of weird that can often be a con… they might also look exactly like numbers 1-11, so you’ve just got to pitch everyone: cast a broad net and hope for the best.
You, to Really Bad Genderbender: “Hey! I, uh, really like your Sailor Moon with a beard thing.”
Him/her: “Oh thank God for an adult to talk to—I’m here doing this for my daughter who’s a huge Sailor Jupiter fan…did you write these? They look interesting.”
Hopefully you get the point: pitch everyone, and you should do it well. Just have some humor about it. I don’t think that it’s just because I’m a sci-fi/fantasy author that I enjoy selling at comicons. The people are fun and there’s never a dull moment, or a more immersive place to engage with genre fiction fans. Just make sure you attend prepared and have taken every opportunity to be your best before you spend money on booth fees. I highly recommend you read my more article with some more serious and practical advice. 10 Important Things When Pitching Books at Conventions, Festivals, Trade Shows, etc.
Did I miss anybody? What funny stereotypes have you always seen at conventions?