Indie Writing Life: S1E7 – Dragon Scouting

Dragon at Large

Welcome to Episode 7 of “Indie Writing Life,” my (mostly) weekly series about my ongoing activities as a writer, i.e. – somebody running a business writing and selling books. My inaugural episode can be found here, if you’d like to start at the beginning. The previous episode is here.

Jonelle Crosse

We’ve had a very nice launch for my new book, Jonelle Crosse, the first book in a series about a woman who’s a mage, demon hunter, and special agent for the Tars Arcanum, a powerful mage-run government organization. It’s showing signs of becoming one of my top-selling books, which is quite gratifying. It’s already covered its production costs, which is very nice since it hasn’t even been out for a month yet.

AwesomeCon Scouting

I attended AwesomeCon on Saturday, March 9th. It’s a large (50K people) media convention held in the Washington DC Convention Center. While I fully intended to have fun (and was successful at doing that), I was really scouting it to see if Martin Wilsey and I would like to get a table there next year.

As conventions go, it’s expensive. For what they call “Publisher’s Alley,” i.e. – authors selling books, it’s $350 for a regular table and $425 for a corner table (and this is still cheaper than artists and other types of vendors). For event sales, that’s a significant nut to be met to break even. Marty and I have both done it, but not often. Then again, 50K people is a good bit larger than our usual event. On the other hand, attendees are more focused on media personalities and comic book artists than SF/Fantasy books.

There were about 20 authors or small publishers there. My guess is that most of them didn’t break even. From talking to some of them, they considered being there a necessary marketing expense. I’m fine with marketing, but I damn well expect to break even. Everything I do is measured against that requirement. I’ll “prime the pump” if I have to, as they say, but I’m in this to make money.

If this sounds harsh, well, there’s a creative and business side to this business. On the creative side, I’m happy to go where my muse takes me rather than being slavishly focused on market trends. But once my book has been published, it’s a product. And I intend to sell my books for a profit.

My take on AwesomeCon is this. If you only have one book to sell, don’t waste your money. You’re not going to recoup your costs. If you have multiple books, or a series, and they have good covers and sell reasonably well normally, then you have a chance to make a profit. But with so much competition (not just other authors but everything else), you really need to up your game to stand out. I’m talking about a custom tablecloth, banners, and possibly a custom backdrop for your table. Maybe some swag, a rack for your books, etc.

Based on my assessment, Marty and I are planning to do AwesomeCon next year. But we’ll be upping the game for our display, making sure we have lots of copies for our books, and doing a corner table. I didn’t feel like the regular tables got enough traffic for our purposes.

R & R

Between the Day Job, writing, and volunteer work, I could be working all the time. Some planned downtime is always essential. First, I saw Dune 2, which was just as good as I expected it to be. Second, my old gaming group, which hadn’t met for twenty years, has gotten back together for a D&D Fifth Edition campaign, run by the 30-year-old son of one of our original players. Last time, we blundered into a dragon, which is where we ended the game.

So, this week, it’s dragon-slaying time. By the way, in the picture, I’m the half-orc barbarian fighter hiding behind the tree right next to the dragon. Tune in next time to see if the hapless Durgash survives his encounter.

Conclusion

In addition to the book launch, AwesomeCon, and the D&D game, the usual work continued. I’m still forging my way through my Work-in-Progress, though I am making steady progress. I’ve also continued my volunteer work with Balticon, helping out with the Programming Track. At 1600 people, it’s amazing how many panels, workshops, and other types of events are featured at the convention. Additionally, my workshop, “Strong Stories Need Strong Heroes” was selected for RavenCon.

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