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Christian Larsen
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Christian A. Larsen

On this month's Special Page:

The Horror Zine's Media Director Christian A. Larsen gives valuable advice about book tours

IN THE "SPECIAL PAGE" ARCHIVES:

Joe R. Lansdale
Simon Clark
Earl Hamner
Stephen Jones
Defining Horror
Graham Masterton
John Saul
Ramsey Campbell

Con and Fest Season is Upon Us!

by Christian A. Larsen

cons

Winter is thawing into spring, which may bring the sounds of running water and birdsong to your ears, but there is one surer sign of spring than those: the uptick in festivals and cons. Readers of The Horror Zine know the ones I’m talking about: comic book, pop culture, and horror conventions. Why, just this spring, we’ve got three of my favorites: the Texas Frightmare Festival in Dallas, the World Horror Convention in Atlanta, and Printer’s Row Lit Fest, right here in my own back yard, Chicago. 

No matter if we’re talking big or small, these events are unique opportunities to be among like-minded people, soak in the horror or literary culture, and maybe find a gem or two in the flesh that you wouldn’t have found anywhere else ... except maybe online, and then you’re missing the visceral connection with your discovery. For me, cons and fests are the way to go—as a shopper and a seller.

I’ve been to my share, promoting my novel, Losing Touch (Post Mortem Press) ... and some of them have been real winners. Some have been losers, too. There are any number of elements that are out of your control: poor promotion, bad weather, or too much competition—competition with other, similar events in town, and competition from others at the same event.

But how can you even the playing field with the more experienced vendors at the end of the row?

    1. Invest in your display. Even if you don’t have four-color posters or banners, things like book stands make you look more professional. Have something the reader can walk away with for free–bookmarks are probably the best, but I’ve seen people use postcards, business cards, or even fliers. Also? Bring a tablecloth that’s big enough to cover the entire table.
    2. Stand. Don’t sit. Those dogs can get barking when you stand all day at the vendor booth–believe me, I know. Sit when it’s quiet. But you should already be standing when people amble your way. If you absolutely must be sitting, try to invest in a chair that will have you up a little bit higher–like a bar stool or something. If you’re more engaged, your customers will be, too.
    3. Have your pitch ready. Know what you’re going to say about your book, and practice it. You should probably have a couple of pitches down. Different readers will have a different entry point to your book. Emphasize the aspects of your book that they’ll like. Not sure what they’ll like? I usually start a pitch by asking: “What do you like to read?” Clever? No, but it does the job.
    4. Be ready to take payment. Nothing kills a sale like not being ready at the cash register. Go to the bank and get plenty of singles. And you never want to lose a sale because your customer doesn’t have cash, so invest in a card reader like Square, Inc., or a Paypal triangle. I’ve sold a bunch of books to people, even though they had burned through all their cash, because I was ready to take plastic.
    5. The devil’s in the details. Bring Sharpies to sign your book. Pens and paper to keep track of your sales. Pack a lunch, too. You might get a chance to grab some food–or you might not. If you’re hungry, you’ll be focused on waiting for the event to end and not on attracting and closing sales. And try to stay off your laptop, tablet, or phone, unless it’s related to a sale.

You might have thought of these already and thought, of course, Chris—or maybe something a little less charitable, but just winging it and relying on common sense is not the same thing. You’ve got to be ready, not just know what being ready is. Practice that pitch in front of a mirror, be sure you’ve got the change you need to sell to those cash customers, and above all, be ready to enjoy yourself. 

Because if you’re not having fun, what’s the point? Unless you do really, really well, and I mean really well, you could probably earn more money putting in a shift at a day job, and unless you’ve done that well consistently for years, you’ve got a day job right now, so when you’re at an event or a con, it’s your time off. Sure, it’s work, but it should be fun, too. You are among your people—the nerds, the geeks, the literary dweebs. Time to embrace it!

 

 

Christian A. Larsen grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois and graduated from Maine South High School in 1993. He has worked as an English teacher, radio personality, newspaper reporter, and a printer’s devil.

His short stories have appeared in such anthologies as Shrieks and Shivers (Post Mortem Press), Of Devils and Deviants (Crowded Quarantine), and Qualia Nous (Written Backwards).

In Larsen’s debut novel, Losing Touch, Morgan Dunsmore’s life is falling apart when he finds he can walk through walls, but it’s not quite the blessing he envisioned. Losing Touch features a foreword by NY Times bestselling author Piers Anthony.

Larsen lives with his wife and two sons in the fictional town of Northport, Illinois. Follow him on Twitter @exlibrislarsen or visit exlibrislarsen.com.

losing touch

shrieks and shivers

 

 

Losing Touch Larsen