Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016: Pros, Cons, Trailers and Playtestings

A doodle Herb Apon drew for our Emerald City Comic Con appearance
Lots of things going on! I had a booth (not an Artist's Alley table, an actual Booth!) at Emerald City Comic Con. Herb Apon, the cover artist for Fish Wielder, joined me in the booth to autograph posters and generally impress people with his mad art skills. And boy, was having a booth a learning experience. I'm glad I built up to it slowly. My first con was the smallish OryCon, at which I had a fan table. My next Con was the pretty big Wizard World Con, where I had an Artist's Alley table. Emerald City was gigantic (80,000 people), and I was pretty nervous going in. I actually hadn't planned to go because it's in Seattle, which is three hours drive from Portland, so I didn't even inquire about a table at the con until very late in the game. I asked about an Artists' Alley table, but they were completely booked and had been for months. In fact, they had been completely sold out since December. I thought about giving up on the idea, but decided I'd send the management team an email, just in case. And then, just about a month before the show, they contacted me to say that someone had dropped out and a booth was open! Of course, a booth was significantly more expensive and higher exposure than an Artists' Alley table, but Herb told me he'd man the booth with me, so I signed on.

That meant that I suddenly had to hustle to make sure I had enough swag to make having a booth worth while and to ensure that I'd have things to give away for the whole four days of the con. So, I ordered another batch of Fish Wielder socks and also put in an order for T-shirts. I'd been wary about ordering T-shirts through any of the online T-shirt places I've worked with before. First, the on-demand printers I've worked with previously didn't always deliver consistent quality with dark T-shirts because each shirt was a one off. That made it iffy to put in a big order. Second, the shirts were very expensive--about $30 each, which meant that I wouldn't be able to order very many shirts. But then Herb recommended a local shop called Bomm Apparel. They turned out to be great and even went so far as to run me a test print on a dark green shirt so I could approve the quality. They were awesome, said they could get the shirts done on time for the con, and could print the shirts for less than a third of the price! So bam!

I went with the same sock guys I used before and they put a rush on the order so that I could get them on time for the con too. Love those guys at Eversox.

In addition to T-shirts and socks, I also got a bunch of copies of my graphic novel The Helm, from Dark Horse, to give away, I ordered another 1,000 buttons (two varieties--Brad buttons and Cover Art buttons), some business cards with a QR code for the book trailer, more Brad stickers, cover art stickers, QR code stickers, and a re-designed tote bag that is bigger, brighter and has a QR code for the website. I also had a bunch of book marks left over from the previous con, a bunch of temporary tattoos, and a bunch of posters as well. And then, my excellent publisher created a series of Character collector's cards and promotional postcards from some new Herb Apon art and put a rush on the order so that I'd have them on time. Here's the whole collection:

SWAG! SWAG! And more SWAG!
So, despite the tight turn around time, and all the things that could have gone wrong, everyone came through and everything arrived on time! I even used Herb's art from the character cards to make up some coloring book pages to give away in case there were bored kids at the convention (I brought boxes of crayons too that I branded with Brad stickers and QR Code stickers).

And the con went great! Well, there was a little hiccough at the beginning. When we got to the convention center on the day of the con, we discovered that there was no booth for us--just a gap where our booth was supposed to be. We found that out with a few hours to go before the floor opened for guests. But we managed to parlay that error into a free second table for our booth! Score.

We met lots of great people who seemed very interested and enthusiastic about the book. We gave away tons of stuff. And, we even met a couple of people who were already familiar with the book and had even read this page!

For those of you who may make your own con appearances in support of your books, here are some things that worked:

1. We put out an email sign up sheet and got several hundred email addresses.

2. We offered our big, bright, branded bags to anyone who walked by with their hands full. We managed to give out 500 bags, each with the book title and a QR code for the website on them--which gave us a big traffic boost to the website and also a lot of exposure at the con from people walking around with our bags.

3. The coloring book pages were actually a big hit, and more with adults than with kids. I guess adult coloring is a super-fast growing publishing segment these days.

4. We mostly gave away the high value swag (socks or T-shirts) to people who watched the book trailer and came back to the booth to tell us about it. That helped drive a lot of traffic to the trailer on YouTube.

As long as I'm on the topic of the trailer, I should mention that there's a new trailer that's going to be released soon. See, the deal with the first trailer was that it was supposed to go live on the day the book went on pre-sale. The plan was to get people excited about the book with the trailer so that they would click a link to buy the book on presale. Only, due to some technical difficulties, the book wasn't ready for pre-sale on time for the trailer launch. But the trailer launch couldn't be cancelled because a whole bunch of blogs and websites had already agreed to link to it on the reveal day. So, we launched the trailer with no book to buy.

A still from the new trailer
That wasn't a huge problem, but it bothered me a bit that we didn't get to use the trailer to drive sales. So... I started thinking about creating a second trailer to launch when the pre-sales actually go live. Once again, I didn't want it to be a standard issue, dissolves-between-still-images-set-to-music kind of thing, so I decided to do another animation. But I did learn my lesson from the last one. Fully animated character's take a long time to set up and even longer to render. I didn't want to make that mistake again and wind up white knuckling it to make a deadline, so I wrote the new trailer using the animation from Monty Python as my inspiration. With any luck, the new trailer and the book pre-sales should both be going live around the end of this week. When they do, I'll put up another post about the making of the second trailer.

And finally, once the new trailer was complete, the con was over and my breathing had returned to normal, I started thinking about other ways to promote the book. One of the interesting things that happened at ECCC was that people would come over to the booth, see the characters cards and assume that we were selling a table top game. The whole card game idea has been banging around in the back of my head ever since my publisher suggested making character cards. So Herb and I fell to talking about card games and Herb told me he'd be happy to create illustrations for a game if I designed one. So...I did. I've been working on it for the last few weeks and am almost done with it now. It's tentatively titled "CARD WIELDER" and it's been through three rounds of play testing so far. In fact, I just ran a playtesting session at my local game store, Cloud Cap Games, tonight. Designing and play testing a card game has been an interesting experience. I've learned something new and had to make modifications to the rules every time I sit down to play the game with folks.

I think the prototype and the rules are basically done, and response to the game has been enthusiastic enough that I think now it's time to start figuring out how to produce the game and whether it's something I can afford to do as a promo for the book.
Card Wielder, the epically silly Fish Wielder epic card game!