I have to begin this by saying, I’ve never worked at a convention before. Almost exactly a year ago, I was wandering around a pop culture convention and I met author Chris Philbrook who has greatly influenced my professional habits. I knew when Nighthawks was published, I would meet my biggest fans in the place they gather, comic book conventions. The cover artist of Suburban Zombie High, Amanda Kahl suggested I check out BCTC, citing it was one of her best cons to attend. She was right.
I arrived early, enough time to grab dinner with dad at Dysarts, and then it was off to the convention. We got a chance to set up and for a couple of hours, we got a small handful of VIP ticket holders walking through the convention. For a first timer, it was a chance to practice my pitch, and learn how to handle people walking by. I might be aggressive in person, but apparently not in sales. I got a chance to talk with people and many of them would swing by multiple times over the weekend to see how I was doing. I might not have made much in the way of money, but the experience was great and already, my mailing list was growing. I also got to see geeks on parade, great costumes, and people who are just excited to show the world what they’re into.
I should also note, I bumped into Nichelle Nichols, literally. It was a bit shocking to see the woman who broke so many barriers for women and for women of color. She laughed politely as I stood in shock. She’s as majestic a human being as you’d expect.
I found a Starbucks in Bangor. It’s out-of-the-way, but heaven help me, I’m exhausted and I needed it. They screwed up my order and gave me two drinks. It was a much-needed screw up.
There were so many people who came by. Geeks of every flavor stopped by my table just to talk. A female Riddler dropped a riddle on my table, posing me with a conundrum. The people were amazing, talking about their costumes, what brought them there, and the smiles were amazing. I watched as an R2D2 strolled through the aisles and people stopped to take photos. Later I would find out the massive droid is frequently seen in hospitals cheering up the children. This is the Maine I love.
I took a moment to stroll through the gaming room and was surprised to see how many people were throwing jabs at one another while playing Pokemon. In a more literal sense, people were throwing jabs with life-sized Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots. People continued to stop at the table, asking questions about my books and even family from back home stopped by to shoot the breeze. I even had some fans from Goodreads stop by to talk to me about my book. I was amazed at the experience of sharing my excitement about my book with them. The excitement almost always translated into sales, so this was a great moment for me.
More coffee. I dared only a single cup this day. Thankfully it was enough. At this point, I’ve started recognizing the people at the convention. I spent plenty of time chatting with them, talking about new costumes or about something they’ve seen. Three days out of a year, they get a chance to be themselves in the outside world. Here, geek is chic.
Amanda Kahl brought her youngest, a study six-month-old who is too cute to resist. Typically children are terrified of me, but we seemed to bond over our mutual baldness and desire to eat everything within reach. While I decided to use him to help sell books, he wasn’t quite the salesman I hoped for. I did however get phone numbers. I’m not quite sure what to tell the ladies first, I’m gay? Or I borrowed a child? Either way, babies don’t hurt sales!
Sales did well, but now that we’ve all set into a pattern, I find myself talking to more and more of the vendors. I got to learn about other conventions, how to sell more, and how to reach out to comic shops and illustrators. It was great to get into the “we’re into this together” mentality, and people were amazing. They shared information, experience and best practices with no problem. Business cards are swapped and eventually, I’ll reach out for more business practices.
Chris, the guy in charge of the convention looked frantic all weekend. I wasn’t sure if he was preventing Darth Vader from killing somebody or trying to hide the body of a Deadpool cosplayer. Whatever was going on, it went without a hitch. I can’t imagine the stress he dealt with, but he did such an amazing job, I was ready to sign on for next year before the convention was over. Now that I’m at home, suffering my way through the dreaded “con crud” phase of things and wanting to die, I’m excited to see what long-term rewards this experience provides.
Maine, you geek out with the best of them. I’m proud.