Apr 212014

This weekend I sold my books at Awesome Con DC. It was lots of fun and I did sell some books, although not as many as I had hoped. Here’s the rundown:

The table cost $250, including two exhibitor badges. I initially had it to myself, but then found a friend, Becca of papertulipstudio, to share my booth. I used both badges, and she bought extra badges for herself and a friend. I’m pretty sure she made more money than I did, but oh well… that’s what happens when you share a booth with a talented artist! She’s a great booth buddy and it was really nice to see her again.

I sold 29 books at $10 each, plus tax. Minus printing costs, that’s not as much as you’d think. It’s DEFINITELY not even close to as many books as I’d ordered for the event, but I may have been foolishly optimistic about sales based on the number of people expected to attend. I didn’t sell any posters, which kind of surprised me. I think they look FANTASTIC and I thought they’d be gone pretty fast. People were buying prints of a lot of art. More on this later though. Only one person bought anything other than the first book in a series, either The King’s Sword or Things Unseen. I had a number of people sound interested in the rest of the series, but not buy before they’d read the first (which is fair enough… it’s what I’d do if I were buying). I sold a lot more of The King’s Sword, which is not Christian but is definitely not anti-Christian, but the people who bought Things Unseen were very happy something Christian was available. I also had a number of people take bookmarks and say they’d check out the ebooks, which might lead to more sales. I can hope. A sale isn’t a sale until it actually happens, but it is still nice when people sound interested.

Projected attendance was 30,000 people. I assumed that probably a third might not make it past my booth at all, because with such a huge crowd, it’s easy to miss something. But even that might have been an overly optimistic estimate. Because the con was so huge, many people were just meandering by looking at their phones or otherwise not paying attention. I got a lot more interest, relative to the number of attendees, as InterventionCon last year. Intervention had 905 attendees and I sold maybe 17 books (I don’t remember exactly). I think the difference was partly just that people get overwhelmed at such a huge con and don’t even look at all the booths. Another factor is that while the number of attendees scaled up dramatically, so did the number of booths, so there was a lot more to compete with.

I spent $40 on parking (total). I’m local, so I didn’t have to pay for a hotel room. I also gave away a ton of bookmarks, which are advertising, which is good, but cost money, which eats into my already minuscule writing profits.

Books don’t spoil, so it’s not like I can’t sell the leftover books later, as well as posters, etc. I’d like to set up a book signing (ideally more than one!), but that’s something for the future.

The con was organized well and lots of people came. However, I realized, especially after talking with Becca, that one reason for my low sales was that I don’t think I had a really good demographic match for the crowd. Awesome Con DC was a general “geek” con… everything from Marvel, DC, and indie comics to manga to anime to video gaming to Trekkies to My Little Ponies to at least one other fantasy author.

Not all those groups are necessarily epic fantasy readers. I was thinking of it in terms of a Venn diagram and realized that manga and anime fans probably have only a very small overlap with epic fantasy fans. Some people love both, but many don’t. Trekkies aren’t necessarily epic fantasy fans. Comic aficionados are not necessarily epic fantasy fans.

I need to be where my readers are. I WANT to be where my readers are.

So where is that? Who reads epic fantasy?

Fantasy book lovers, obviously. And tabletop gamers.

So where can I find those people?

In the future, I’ll be focusing more on small press expos and tabletop gaming conventions. They may be smaller, but the people who will enjoy my books are more likely to be found there.

Will I do Awesome Con again? Maybe. If I can share a table again, it’s probably still worth it in order to get my books out there. I appreciate all my readers, and finding new readers is always a good thing. I enjoyed the con a lot, and would have enjoyed it even more if I wasn’t so uncomfortable, what with being hugely pregnant and all. My brother came up to help and Mr. Brightley stayed home with CutiePants. My brother was AWESOME… it would not have been physically possible for me to handle the loading and unloading by myself. So I would have had to find a babysitter and Mr. Brightley would have come with me to help with the loading/unloading and it would have been logistically more difficult, as well as more disruptive to CutiePants. This way, she got to spend all weekend with Daddy, and she had a wonderful time.

Was it profitable? Um…. not so much. I almost covered the costs of attending. I made nothing for my time attending the con, much less writing the books. I certainly didn’t cover the costs of all the stuff I ordered in hopes of selling it at this con. I’m prepared for future cons with stock already, so it’s not a loss, but it’s not as much of a success as I’d hoped. Given the fact that I’m 38 weeks pregnant and in a decent amount of discomfort/pain with an unhealed stress fracture in my back, it was… um… a trial. Fun, but definitely difficult to get through, even with all the generous help from my brother, Becca, and Mr. Brightley. From a monetary standpoint, it wasn’t “worth it.” But it was good experience, and maybe I’ll get some new fans and friends out of it.

I might also have done better if I had more books to offer – as it was, I had one series with three books and one series with one book available. Another series and/or a standalone book would have probably helped increase my sales a bit. More books = more options for people who are interested in my type of books.  The books I have in the works are the second and third in the A Long-Forgotten Song series, and a fourth book that can stand alone in the world of Erdemen Honor (long after Honor’s Heir, with all new characters). That MIGHT help, but not as much as a completely different series. It’s definitely something to think about for the future. But the books I have started are the ones that I’m excited about now, and I can’t write something just because I think it will sell. It needs to mean something to me.

I also had an interesting conversation with another author about cover art costs, which we’ve discussed previously. My thoughts on it are long enough that I’m going to put them in another blog post, so look for that later if you’re interested.

If you’re a writer or artist, what has been your con experience?


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Apr 152014

I’m hosting guest authors through most of April and May, as I am swamped with Awesome Con DC and welcoming Baby Boy Brightley into the world. This guest post was written by Mike Reeves-McMillan, the author of RealmgoldsHope and the Clever Man, and Hope and the Patient Man.

How to be Optimistic

Dystopian fiction is in at the moment, as is the closely related genre of post-apocalyptic. Everywhere you look (especially in the YA market) you see people struggling in a world where things have gone substantially more wrong than usual.

I could talk about sociological reasons why this might be so, but since I’m not a sociologist I’d just be making stuff up, and that’s not what I want to talk about in any case.

I myself tend to optimism. One reason I don’t read much science fiction any more is that so much of it is pessimistic about the future. Not only does this go contrary to my own preferences, but it’s contrary to the general trend of history, or so an increasing number of people are claiming. Violence is dropping, life expectancy is increasing, the general health, level of education, income level and other indicators of wellbeing of the human population have had a strong uptick within my lifetime. A great many things are getting measurably better, though because of the way “news” works, we seldom hear about that; we hear about disasters instead.

At the same time, there’s a difference between “optimistic” and “utopian”. Permit me a brief digression on the origins of words.

Utopian fiction is named after Sir Thomas More’s 1516 book Utopia, the name of which comes from the word for “no place” in Greek (outopos). More was making the point that his ideal society didn’t exist, but if you spell it “eutopos” (pronounced much the same) it becomes “good place”, hence the formation of the opposite, “dystopos” or “bad place”.

The first recorded use of “dystopian” was by John Stewart Mill, the famous economic philosopher, in an 1868 speech to the House of Commons opposing the government’s Irish land policy. He used it to mean “too bad to be practicable”, just as “utopian” can mean “too good to be practicable”. (Source: Wikipedia.)

And there’s one problem with utopian fiction. It generally presupposes a degree of human goodwill, intelligence and rationality that we don’t, in fact, see in real life. By the same token, you could argue (and the SF writer David Brin frequently does argue) that dystopian fiction generally has an unrealistically low opinion of our collective wisdom and ability to work together. Of course, it can act positively as a form of warning, a kind of “if this goes on” lesson that encourages people to oppose a worrying trend. With government surveillance an increasing reality, we owe George Orwell a debt for the concern he created about exactly that, because it gives us a compelling image of where the trend could go if we allowed it to.

Sitting somewhere in the middle, between utopian and dystopian, is optimistic fiction. In optimistic fiction, things are bad at least in part (it’s not utopia), but they can be improved and, crucially, are improving. Because it’s fiction (although this is also true to life), the brave actions of committed people who believe that change is possible are key to making that change happen.

When I was a teenager, I started worldbuilding for a utopian society with the plan of writing about it, but never actually wrote any fiction in that world. The thing is, a utopian society is not only unrealistic; it’s, fictionally, fairly dull. It’s lacking in a key element of fiction: conflict.

As I’ve come to understand fiction better, I’ve gradually learned to move away from utopianism without abandoning optimism. In my recent novel, Hope and the Clever Man, for example, my first draft showed this situation: the gnomes in general are enslaved by the dwarves, but the gnomes we actually see “on stage” are free, because of the enlightened policies of their ultimate employer, the human ruler of the realm in which the book is set. During the course of the story, they help the other gnomes gain freedom.

As I worked with my beta readers and my development editor, I realised that this wasn’t strong enough as a story. It became much stronger when I decided not to pre-solve one of the major problems and opened with that problem still in place: The gnomes we meet and come to like are still under the control of the dwarves, and are personally struggling to be free. The first draft scenario is more utopian, but the final scenario is a far better story.

It’s also, as I mentioned, more true to how change really happens. Look at any of the advances we’ve seen in the west during the past several hundred years: religious freedom; representative democracy, which with all its flaws is still an advance on rule by a hereditary aristocracy; the abolition of slavery; child labour laws; universal education; women’s suffrage; legislation for the equal treatment of various kinds of humans; awareness of the importance of environmental protection and public health. None of these came without a hard struggle by committed people against entrenched, powerful interests. Most of them cost lives. Most of them are struggles that go on today, to some degree, even though the major fight may have been won.

And that’s the other side of writing optimistic fiction about successful struggles for social change. Doing so not only makes for better fiction, but honours the people who have fought for the world we have, and the ones who continue to fight for a world that’s better than this one.

Guest Author Bio:

mikerm_beard-223x300 Mike Reeves-McMillan has a black belt, which holds up his trousers. He’s not sure why authors make such a big deal of these, but they are certainly convenient, trouserwise.

For someone with an English degree, he’s spent a surprising amount of time wearing a hard hat. He’s also studied ritualmaking, hypnotherapy and health science.

Mike writes strange worlds that people want to live in. He himself lives in Auckland, New Zealand, surrounded by trees.

You can contact him at mike at csidemedia (dot com), his website, and Google+.

His books are Realmgolds, Hope and the Clever Man, and Hope and the Patient Man.


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Apr 142014

Things Unseen EBOOK copy

It’s done! Things Unseen (A Long-Forgotten Song) is out! Things Unseen is the first book in my new dark, urban, Christian fantasy series. You can read an excerpt here, as well as find purchase links for ebooks and paperbacks.

Check out the fantastic cover art! I love it! I even had the full digital painting made into posters in preparation for Awesome Con DC this weekend. I’m thrilled with the cover designer and look forward to working with him on the rest of the books in the series.


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Apr 082014
Guest Post: World-Building and Sequels

I’m hosting guest authors through most of April and May, as I am swamped with Awesome Con DC and welcoming Baby Boy Brightley into the world. This guest post was written by A.J. Maguire, the author of Sedition, Saboteur, and Witch-born. World-Building and Sequels It seems easy enough to start a series. You finish one book and then, [...]

Mar 252014
Guest Post: World-Building and Authenticity

I’m hosting guest authors through most of April and May, as I am swamped with Awesome Con DC and welcoming Baby Boy Brightley into the world. This guest post was written by Ben Blake, the author of Blood and Gold (Songs of Sorrow), The Gate of Angels (Songs of Sorrow), The Risen King, and A Brand [...]

Feb 252014

I wrote this post over a month ago, and I’ve only just now gotten up the courage to publish it. What’s different now? Well… Things Unseen, the first book in the A Long-Forgotten Song series is almost done (I’m working on the final copy edits and formatting), and the third book in Erdemen Honor (which [...]

Feb 182014
Historical Periods I Love

In addition to fantasy, one of the genres I come back to again and again is historical fiction. I also read a lot of international fiction. I love great characters, but I also love that sense of the exotic, something new and different than everyday modern life. Historical periods are wonderful to explore in books… [...]

Jan 282014

If you’re considering self-publishing, you’ve probably been doing some research about how to avoid the various scams and predatory “services” and vanity presses out there fighting for your attention and money. It’s a rough world… there are a lot of people and businesses who are eager to take advantage of authors. Before you give any [...]

Jan 132014

No, this isn’t going to be a blog post about all the wonderful things I would do with a billion dollars… travel the world, devote tons of money to various worthwhile charities (some personal favorites are Gospel for Asia and WorldVision, but there are others I would support too), pay off our mortgage (buy a [...]