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Convention Tabling 101

Long time, no see! Happy August, everyone, and sorry again for the blip in updates as I took some much needed time off to rest my brain. I can’t say I’m completely back to 100%, but I’m definitely feeling a lot better now than I have in a long while. Thanks to the time off I was able to read a lot of books, watch a lot of movies, spend time with my friends more than I’ve been able to in awhile, and just… experience life for a bit without constantly wondering how much time I was wasting when I could have been working instead. I really needed that, so thank you. Thank you all for understanding and letting that be possible.


But, time to get back to things. I’ve got too many deadlines to stay on hiatus any longer. If this had happened earlier in the year, I might have taken off a third month, but with things approaching fall as rapidly as they are, I really can’t afford it at this point. Too many things need to happen and too many things are on the horizon. Let’s do some updates and get caught up on some of those now.


Let’s get to it!


First: Indy PopCon, my next convention, takes place in late August. This was a bit of a spur of the moment sign-up for me as I don’t typically opt to do Comic Cons, but I wanted to do a few more cons this year and this one was very simple to get into and is somewhat local. I’ll be splitting the table with my good friend and Manjuu artist extraordinaire, Candlehearts (Puffy Heart for her table name) and will have selected titles on tap alongside some of Sun’s A Little Rain oracle decks, prints, and my usual range of merchandise. If you’re in the area, please stop by! I don’t usually see nearly as much support at this brand of convention so any traffic I can get is much appreciated.


Second: As of this blog going live, Youmacon has STILL not opened their Artist Alley applications. I really don’t know what the hell is going on with this convention this year. It’s been radio silent on all platforms and no con staff seems to be responding to anyone’s request for information. I really don’t know what to do at this point. I always attend Youmacon, so even if the applications don’t go up until a month or two beforehand, I’ll still be able to apply and table without issue, but giving you guys warning so you can make your own plans (if me tabling is something that might impact your decision to attend, mind), is difficult. I’ll let you all know as soon as I do what's happening with that via Twitter. As for right now, all I can say is I’ll be bringing my table display with me even if I don’t get in just in case I’m able to snag a no-show table, and if that somehow manages to fall through, I’ll still have my usual meet-and-greet in the Wintergarden. Cross your fingers SOMETHING gets announced. I really want to table at this con again!


Third: We’re nearing fall and with it the October Novella Event. Due to my hiatus, I lost out on some much needed time to get the early start I normally need when it comes to delivering this novella fully in October. That, coupled with Reliquary getting longer by another chapter (7 chapters + 1 epilogue), I’m going to have to extend this event an extra month, making it an October and November event instead. This will mean that instead of a weekly chapter update, it’ll be bi-weekly. I’m not entirely happy about this, but I think that it’ll allow for better pacing of the frankly enormous novella and give me additional time to tweak chapters and streamline things without rushing. With the extra time in between, I’m hoping to get some art or graphics made to post during the off-week in between updates. Regardless, just be aware that’s the reality for this year, and get excited for an extra-long offering, even if it will take extra long to get it all out.


Onto the actual blog. What’s the topic for this month? To be honest, I really couldn’t come up with anything that seemed good. I’m still slowly getting back into the groove of things and therefore decided to ask Twitter what I should do, and the best thing I got back was to talk about conventions!


You all know which cons I’m going to as it is, so it got me thinking about the sort of unique thing I do when I table. A lot of aspiring authors contact me for help on getting started, getting their books published, and things like that, but not many have asked me about tabling specifically. There’s a lot to know when it comes to selling books, especially if you have to travel like I do at times. It may be helpful to some to know what my process is and how to get started, and even if it doesn’t apply to some of you reading this, it may just be interesting enough to satisfy some curiosity regardless.


All of this advice should be taken with the blanket disclaimer that any sort of convention vending is going to involve a certain amount of start-up funds just like any other small business venture, and that is what this is. By publishing a book you are now technically a small business owner, and running the convention circuit compounds that. I’m not going to get into the minutiae of bookkeeping—because there is a TON of bookkeeping involved in starting down this path—so just approach this path with the mindset that you are going to need funds to get started, funds to buy stock, and funds to pay for the accountant you most certainly should acquire once tax season rolls around.


Also: I have been doing this semi-professionally since 2018. I am very well known, recognizable, and have a certain amount of reputation in my convention circuit area and therefore the success I see will likely be different from what a newcomer on the scene will encounter when they first start out. People come to conventions at this point to see me. The more you invest in your craft and appearances, the better your reception will be. So… don’t get discouraged if you read all of this, follow my advice, and don’t do well your first time. Invest in your business and you will eventually see returns if your product is good and your sales pitch even better.


Applying to a Convention


The very first convention I ever attempted selling my work at was 2017 Colossalcon’s Thursday Craft Fair event. It was a free event, first come first serve for tables, and involved me carrying in a box with 12 copies of Brontide, setting up my half table by laying down a spider web print blanket and stacking my books on top, and hoping for the best. I sold out before the hall even opened.


I didn’t know if there would be a market for books at an anime con. I’d never seen something like that before and only attempted it because there were 0 real risks in trying. The Craft Fair was free. The books I had on hand were leftovers from signed copy orders and cost me roughly $60. I already attend Colossalcon annually, so getting there and finding accommodations was no issue. If you are just starting out and want to find out if there’s a market for your books in a convention environment, I would highly suggest emulating these components as closely as you can to see if it’s the path for you as well.


But what sort of convention should you look at applying to first? I always suggest aiming for a small convention to test the waters if its your first time vending something like a book. Research local conventions so you have as little overhead as possible, and hey, people love it when you can proudly say you are a “local author” from the area. If you’ve already attended it before, great. Knowing the vibes is half the battle and will help you plan accordingly.


Small conventions will also have the smallest table cost. The lowest I’ve ever seen (besides the one day exception of Colossal’s free Craft Fair) was $25 for a three day table. The most I’ve ever personally spent was $350 at a very large convention in Ohio. Price should always influence your decision when you are first starting out. You’re here to make a profit. That can be hard to do when expenses start adding up just to get a table at the con.


Placement within the convention is paramount as well. A good tip I’ve got for authors wanting to do conventions is to avoid being put in an “Author Den” or author-centric space if the con has that on tap. This may seem like a weird thing, but trust me, it’s not. Everyone goes through a dealer/artist alley regardless of what they like or what they’re hoping to buy. An author den will only see the most diehard of book buyers, and even then… think of your own buying habits for a moment. If you’re at an anime convention, do you go in hoping to find your next 500 page read? Do you see yourself wandering through a dark, barren array of tables with a dozen starving authors seated behind them eyeing you like a shark because the traffic through that space is so thin?


It may seem a bit callous to view it that way, but it’s the truth. I’ll touch on it more in the next section, but authors have to talk to sell their work. Most people don’t want to be lectured at or sold to at an anime convention. They want to window shop, point, and get what they want. If they see an author den, they simply won’t go down it for fear of being trapped in a long convo that will leave them feeling pressured to buy at the end. Don’t do yourself a disservice by putting yourself at that sort of disadvantage. Opt for an artist spot and push your visual merch as reason enough why you belong there, author be damned.


You’ll be able to select where you want to be during the actual application process, usually by toggling a bubble next to what sort of space you want to buy, but that doesn’t mean you automatically get into the con itself. You have to apply. It’s good to be aware that most conventions will require a portfolio of some sort so they can judge your work to see if it’s up to par and meeting their criteria for their alley. Different conventions will ask for different formats. Typically, they don’t want a social media site to function as your portfolio. Using an Amazon sales page works if you’ve got enough on there to show you’ve got a full table, but building a website, Kofi/Etsy store, or a Caard will meet the most requirements format-wise and allow you to show off your merch alongside the books.


It’s a good rule of thumb to try and have at least half a dozen wares on your table, though some conventions may require up to a dozen unique pieces as they don’t want anyone getting in to have a barren table. If you’ve only got one book written, don’t fret too much about it. Specify that you are an author with x number of books—they’ll know that you are a different sort of vendor than the typical print/charm artist and that you can fill a table with fewer numbered stock items—and lean into the niche you’ve got. Alley heads want unique and diverse alleys, and having a book author is about as unique as it comes in a flood of print and charm-centric applications.


Still, it’s good to invest in some merchandise to pad out the table. If you’ve got the money, commission commercial comms of your characters that you can sell in different formats. Prints are very cheap and easy to transport if you keep them smaller than letter size paper, and charms, while not quite as inexpensive, are always big sellers in the time of Ita bags that we now reside within. You come across as more of a “fandom in the making” when you have your own merch of your book series. Lean into and remember, when selling something like a book, you NEED visual items to attract people to your table. We’ll get into this more later on in this blog, but in my experience it is always worth it to spend money on merchandise like charms or prints, even if most of them won’t be purchased by new readers—it’s your returning fans who will appreciate additional merchandise like that.


Note: If the convention rules are really strict about your table merch numbers/you’re worried about filling a whole table on your own right off the bat, check to see if the convention offers half tables or find a fellow artist friend willing to split the space with you. This will help you cut down on costs as well as give you a second set of hands if you need it.


Table Displays + Hawking the Wares


In my opinion, this is the hardest part of the whole tabling process. I’m not really a visual person. I have trouble making things look good spatially, and designing interesting layouts for graphics or table displays is… difficult. I got to where I am now—which in my opinion still isn’t all that great—by looking at other people’s displays and learning from my friends who have perfected the art of selling their own things in these spaces.


Every display is going to be different and vary depending on what you’re selling. I’ve got at least four variations of my own display depending on if I’m splitting with someone, have a 6ft vs 8ft table, am bringing certain merch, or selling 5 books vs 10. Invest in a nice tablecloth, get a table runner with your name on it if you can swing it, and try to have something large, eye-catching, and readable overhead or just around that states what sort of books you’re selling. If there are other authors in the hall, you are automatically competing with them for every book sale you may make, and even if there aren’t any others, you have to make yourself stand apart from the dozens of visual artists who have a leg up on you solely because they’re vending things that don’t need a verbal pitch to sell.


Invest in book shelves, or if you’ve only got one book to sell, get a small easel that can prop up your book for all to see. I can’t find the link to my shelves, but similar ones are available on Etsy. They are individual slats of wood that slide into each other and can be broken down flat, perfect for transporting. Battery powered string lights can add some visual excitement to a display that draws wandering eyes. Don’t be afraid to be cute or extra with it. I always have a small plush hedgehog sitting in my bookshelf next to my Tempest Series books, and I have a small white Ikea rat plush to stand in for Yougei when he’s not tabling with me. That alone draws a lot of attention and gets people to ask me what they’re for.


These are my new favorite thing: https://www.amazon.com/Merchandise-Display-Adjustable-Rotating-Displays/dp/B09Y8MY7H3. My friend Lizzy had a ton of them when we tabled together at Anime Crossroads and was kind enough to share her supply with me. I now own several of my own. These are fantastic for giving short, pithy descriptions of each book or series and can clip very nicely onto the back edge of a book shelf. They’re dry erase and can be switched around or turned over throughout a weekend when prices change or stock sells out and will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.


The number one thing any author needs to know about trying to sell their work in a convention setting is that your work has to sell itself at a glance if you’re going to make it through the weekend in the black. A book is not a print. A book is not a recognizable popular character a passing congoer can glance at, take notice of, and want solely by sight alone. To sell a book you have to sell the hundreds of pages of content inside it, and in a setting like this, you have maybe one minute of a stranger’s attention AT MOST before they are wishing the interaction would just end so they can go back to their browsing.


One minute, guys. Everything you do as a salesman has to make the most of that.

What this means: SIGNAGE AND HAWKING. You need to graffiti the most eye-catching, stop-them-dead-in-their-tracks core themes of your book in the biggest lettering possible so that if a person so much as glances at your table, they know what you are selling and are interested before stepping closer. Is it gay? You need pride flags on your table. Is it horror? You need to telegraph that because gorehounds and horror fans will flock to you if you make it clear you are appealing to their core demographic. Is it smutty? Do not be afraid to broadcast to the world that you’ve got DROW EROTICA on this table. The people who are into it will be INTO it. They will pause mid step and do an about face towards you the second they realize that’s what you’ve got on tap.


Every person who sits beside me while I table loses their mind listening to me sell my work. If I see someone pass by my table and so much as glance at my work, I greet them, loudly, with the phrase, “Hi, I write gay romance and erotica novels.” If they are into it, like I said before, they are INTO it, and if they aren’t they politely—or awkwardly—make it clear as much and move along. The worst thing you can do in my mind is waste someone’s time by making them listen to you talk about your work when they are not interested. No one likes being the customer just trying to window shop who gets trapped in a high-pressure sales pitch that you feel like an asshole saying no to, especially if the person is more interested in what they’re selling than you are.


Be upfront about what you sell, be proud of it, and don’t be shy. But be aware of the vibe. Be aware of the prospective customer’s mood. Don’t get cocky and assume you are god’s gift to literature and everyone wants to talk to you and hear about your book. Let them go if they don’t bite the bait, and if you aren’t sure, hand them a card and invite them to come back later. Always engage but be willing to disengage just as quickly. You will lose dozens of sales solely because that gay romance enthusiast wasn’t paying attention to your table display but might have lifted their head from their phone if they heard the words “BDSM Drow Erotica” hawked in their direction, but you’ll lose a lot of respect if you trap someone who is clearly uncomfortable in a 10 minute long conversation they really don’t want to have.


Likewise, the best thing you can do to help future you while tabling is put the pertinent information on the table in some way so you don’t have to say it 400 times in a row. Clearly mark your prices. Clearly mark your series numbers. Tell people to pick the books up and flip through them so they can do some of the effort of selling the book to themselves—make window shopping possible as much as you can—and let them know if there are summaries on the back covers because that alone will save you a lost voice. Me, I was stupid in my youth. I didn’t do summaries for a good portion of my early books, I did excerpts. My business cards have QR codes on the back of them that take people directly to the books tab on my website.


And you’ll wanna invest in business cards. If someone is in a hurry, seems shy, or it’s Friday and they are still making their first rounds, I hand them a card before they walk off, tell them to feel free to peruse my summaries while they walk and come back if something strikes their fancy. A lot of people come back, and a lot of people bring their friends after reading through my summaries and Amazon previews in their hotel rooms the night before. If someone says “I’m not into gay stuff but I know someone who is,” hand them a card. I call this “investments,” and even if they don’t buy from you now, you will see a marked uptick in online sales after the convention ends.


You can also help yourself out a lot by doing what I recommended above and commissioning art of your characters to sell, or if you can’t afford commercial rights to sell the art yourself, framing some of the art and having it on the table with you (with the artist’s permission and contact info on it, of course!!! Don’t be rude and hijack your fan’s fanart without asking!!!). People will feel instantly more invested in a character’s story if they can see the character physically. So many people come up to my table and point at a charm of Khouri or my Ruari/Corbet charm and say “I don’t know who these people are but I love them/think they’re beautiful/they’re my type.” Do yourself the favor and give yourself the option to give your spiel while pointing at a character as you explain their deal.


Once you’ve gotten the feel for all of this down, the ideal convention experience as a vendor of books is to only have to do one real day of hard selling on Friday, maybe into Saturday morning. You’ve talked to a lot of people by then, handed out a ton of business cards, and planted the seeds that will take root as those people make their rounds and wait until later Saturday and Sunday to buy the bulk of their bigger purchases. At that point, people should come back to you on their own. You won’t need to call out to them, hawk at every person who walks by, or fight for attention. But sometimes you still do. It’s a system, and it gets easier the more you table and become recognizable in an area.


Here’s some fast and hard survival tips for this part of the process:


  • Bring cough drops. You will need them.

  • Get a small cooler for water and small snacks. Aim for things that won’t make your mouth dry, like cheese sticks, nuts, or fruit. My favorite thing is to get small tortillas and sandwich things so I can make easy-to-eat, no crumb wraps. It’s more filling than eating the components on their own and can be held in one hand, mess free.

  • Memorize a short, 15-20 second spiel for every series/standalone book you have, regardless of if there’s a back cover summary. Some people don’t want to read. They want you to describe it to them in your own words, and if you are passionate, clever, and funny enough about it, that could mean the difference between them being intrigued and them thinking “I’ll pass.”

  • Invest in paper bags, even if you only have one book for sale and especially if you have more than one. People are bringing their own bags to cons more and more, but legit this alone can be the difference between someone buying one book off you or 10. Don’t ever underestimate humanity’s distaste for carrying things in their arms.

  • Have some way of having your spiel/summaries available for a table helper to give. If you alone can sell your work, you will not get a break. You will not get to eat lunch. You will not be able to take a bathroom break without running there and back.

  • Don’t get discouraged if you barely sell anything Friday. Friday = window shop day. My rule of thumb is whatever you make on Friday, triple it and that will be your Saturday sales in comparison, and Sunday is the day everyone is hunting for a deal and it can be even more profitable than Saturday if you play your cards right.

  • If you don’t have 10+ books, make it a point to sign the book in front of the buyer. They love that shit.

  • If you have 10+ books, sign the books beforehand for the love of God.

I’ve spoken a bit in the past about the cursed interactions I’ve had while vending. I’d say it’s important to prepare yourself beforehand for a lot of shitty, invasive, or outright ignorant comments and practice your poker face for getting through those moments without throwing hands. The best thing you can do to be a confident author and seller is to just be proud of what you’re doing. Don’t put up with ignorant comments unless they are clearly being said out of a place of earnest attempts to understand, and remember that you aren’t anyone’s teacher or educator if you don’t want to be like that at that moment. If someone asks “Why gay porn?” you can just tell them “It’s what I like to write.” If someone asks “How does writing porn work if you’re asexual and don’t have sex?” you just tell them “Do you think Stephen King moonlights as a child-eating clown demon on the weekends?”


You’re going to have a lot of fantastic conversations. You’re also going to have some not-so-great ones. There is no “the customer is always right” when you’re selling at a convention, and no sale is worth putting up with stupidity at the cost of your self-esteem or sanity. You can tell someone to fuck off or that they’re being rude if they’re being rude, and while you’re definitely going to have to put up with a lot of people info dumping on you about the novel THEY’RE writing, try to be polite, but also don’t let them waste your time if they’re clearly just talking to talk at you as a means of proving their own premise is better than what you’ve got on your table. You are there to run a business and make sales. Be your own best advocate and stand up for yourself if you realize you’re being monopolized or patronized.


Also, just given the general state of conventions these days, I highly suggest using a fanny pack or something like one for your money pouch. I use a zip bag but wear jackets that have hidden internal pockets that keep it close to my body and out of sight until I need to take it out. Thefts in artist alleys are at an all time high and you never know who is looking to rob you. Zip-tie any charms or dangly things to your display, keep all of your small stock behind the table within plain sight, and never get so lost in a conversation that you lose focus on your surroundings. If you don’t have a table helper to watch things while you get up, make friends with your table neighbors and ask them to keep an eye out for you, and if you see something, say something.


Stock and Equipment


Now, I’m sure this is probably one of the bigger topics a lot of authors—and artists, to be honest—stress over the most when gearing up for their first convention. How much stock to bring? How do I take my payments? How do I transport 100lbs of books without dying? How do I keep 100lbs of books organized beneath one 6ft table???


Well, the answer isn’t going to impress any of you for that first question. How many books you bring entirely depends on how big the convention is, how many books you’re likely to sell, how much name recognition you have, how much space you have in your car, how good of a sales pitch you have, how good your cover art is, and how much money you’ve got to spend on stock to begin with.


Books aren’t cheap. Sure, we get to buy our author copies at manufacturing cost, but paying between $4-7 per book (Brontide costs me around $4.70 a copy whereas Letifer is nearly $7.50) is a far cry from the sort of stock costs a charm or print artist pays (<$1 per charm, <10cents per print, if that). The usual rule of thumb most artist alley veterans will recommend is to add up your total cost to attend the con and then add to it the number of books that, if sold, would double your investment + cost of stock—ie, the goal is to make the math work out so that if you sold everything on your table you’d be making back double what you put into the whole convention. You can work out all of that with a spreadsheet and some math.


Pricing wise is going to depend on you. How much does one book cost? How long is it? I sell novellas for $15, normal book length titles for $20, and something big like Letifer for $30. I try to make 3x profit on each book to account for my other expenses, and if it costs $15 to buy on Amazon, I price it a bit higher to account for the signature these copies have but still lower than my online signed copy prices due to not having to ship the book afterwards. Try to base your prices off other items in a regular artist alley, and try to keep it in whole numbers that are easy to handle if you’re given cash. Someone handing you a $20 bill is much easier to deal with than charging $12 and having to deal with singles. During my test run at Colossalcon, I actually sold my books for $15 just to see if I could push them. When they sold out within an hour, I knew I needed to raise prices and bring more books.


If it’s your first convention with your first book and you don’t have much social media presence, marketing under your belt, or much of a following to speak of just yet… how much stock you bring is going to depend on how much money you have to put into things. If you’re smart and testing the waters like I did initially, you won’t have much in terms of convention overhead and you won’t be traveling far with your stock. With my prices, selling 50 books = $1000. BUYING 50 books to sell costs me anywhere between $200-450 (shipping is a bitch) depending on what books I’m ordering. If I’m confident I can sell 50 books at a convention then it’s worth buying 50 books. If your overhead is like, $150 for the full weekend, maybe buy 25 books. Test the waters. Selling out is a good thing, and if you find they aren’t selling, cut your prices a little and add in a free print to sweeten the deal.


You’ll get better at judging potential sales the more conventions you do. I keep a ledger book at my table to mark every sale I make on a given day at a convention so I know what each convention yields sales-wise, what days are the most profitable, and which titles did better than others so I know what to bring more of next time I attend.


If you do your fulfillment like I do via Amazon, I highly suggest signing up for their credit card. You get points and cash back for every Amazon purchase and it really, REALLY adds up when you buy stock. It makes it easier to buy large quantities of books for multiple conventions and lets you dedicate one convention’s earnings entirely towards paying for 6 months worth of cons’ future stock.


Now, how to take payments. Cash, of course, is a must. If you’re just starting out and only bringing ten books, cash payments will be fine, but almost every single vendor at every single con these days takes card. Cash is no longer king, and by only taking cash, you are going to actively miss out on not only sales, but many big-purchase sales because people are more willing to dish out for 10 books when they can put it on a card. Square is the number one POS these days. It’s easy to set up, the card swipe reader is free, and the fees they take are pretty minimal compared to other systems I’ve looked into. If you spend $50 you can even get a card reader from them that takes tap to pay, Apple Pay, and all of those fun no-swipe options. I find it worth the cost, plus it’s Bluetooth! It’s very cool and makes it so you don’t have to hand your phone to a stranger just to swipe or sign something.


These days I opt to use a Kindle instead of my phone for taking payments. Like I said, I dislike having strangers touch my phone, so having a dedicated tablet for something like that just works better. Plus, it’s much bigger, making it easier to read and sign on. It also tends to make life easier when I need to leave the table for a bathroom break, food run, or to stretch my legs. I’m able to take my cellphone with me in case my table helper needs to call me to run back for something, otherwise I’m wandering the world without a tether and that can be frustrating if someone needs me specifically for something.


How to transport books took me a very, very long time to streamline. These days, I’ve got it down to an art and it’s all thanks to Insta Crates. I used to use paper ream boxes like a maniac and oh my god… Those were dark days. If you don’t know what an Insta Crate is, check this out: https://www.costcobusinessdelivery.com/greenmade-instacrate-collapsible-storage-bin%2C-12-gallon%2C-black-or-black-and-red.product.100260385.html. They are heavy duty collapsible crates that fold flat when empty. They lock in and stack on top of each other and can handle a lot of weight. I came across these at Costco with my mom as we were doing a grocery run the day before leaving for Matsuricon. They were on sale and we bought a couple to test them out, and as luck would have it, she’d come to pick me and my table stock up that day so her trunk was full of my books. We bought the stuff, went out into the parking lot, tested a crate with as many books as we could fit into it, and then immediately walked back into Costco and bought another four crates. I think I currently own… ten of them? I keep one in my car at all times for groceries, and I use them to store not only books but also the entirety of my table display. They’re honestly perfect for this kind of thing. As soon as you’ve sold out of a crate’s worth of books (~50 books), you just flatten the thing and store it beneath a full crate.


As for moving 100lbs of books, you’ll definitely need some kind of hand or push cart. Sometimes conventions have carts for you during load-in and load-out, but at this point I don’t rely on that. I used to use a really small one but it only had the surface area to hold one crate. I could stack them, but without a foot or raised edge to keep the crates snug, I toppled things off the cart regularly. Not to mention the handle only came up to maybe my pocket so I had to hunch to push the thing. These days I use this: https://www.costco.com/cosco-4-in-1-convertible-hand-truck.product.4000119325.html. It’s fucking phenomenal and can push over 1000lbs in its wagon orientation, and it’s not so heavy that I can’t lift it in and out of my car by myself. Granted, I drive an SUV with fold-down seats and all that, so keep in mind the size of your vehicle and purchase something that fits what you’re got room to haul.


When you can’t fit a cart or are flying to a convention, you have to get more creative with how you haul stuff. You can’t exactly fly with an enormous push cart. I’ve used rolling suitcases before to transport books when traveling to conventions via airplane. Mind, I didn’t FLY with those large suitcases full of books: the weight on them would’ve cost me an arm and a leg to check. I had the bulk of my books shipped to the convention itself and only flew with my small carry-on suitcase full as carry-on’s aren’t weighed. But when I was actually going into the convention itself, all of my books were transferred into large wheeled suitcases to make transportation easier.


This is… not my favorite way of doing it, but when you’re flying you rarely have better options. Suitcases work for short distance transport to and from your car to the hall itself, but not much else. You will never be able to get them fully flat given the metal bars inside a suitcase, and paperbacks are liable to bend at the corners when a suitcase is lifted upright. You also put a hell of a lot of strain on the suitcase itself due to the weight of that many books. If you’re going to opt for this, take care to pad the books and use heavy duty suitcases or they just might break on you.


The final question in this section is how to stay organized beneath a table. This is going to vary a lot depending on how many books you have, if you’re sharing a table or not, how much space is allotted to you BEHIND said table, and whether its 6ft or 8ft.

If you go my route and use Insta Crates for your whole display, you’ll be able to fit 4 stacks of books in each crate with room in between the stacks where upright books can be wedged. I tend to bring 2-3 crates worth of books to a convention and organize by series per crate, then titles per stack. If I consolidate, I’m always going to have the most copies of, say, a first title in a series as opposed to something like Apricity, a 4th book/sorta prequel. I will have one full stack of Brontide, ⅔ of another stack of Brontide, and on top, ⅓ of Apricity in a crate, if that makes sense. The crates holding the books will surround my chair with a crate on either side of me and one directly in front of my feet, or two in front of my feet if there’s no room beside me. All are within reach, but even if its awkward, I manage by filling my shelves with as many copies of each title as will fit. When someone wants to buy a book and I know I can’t easily reach one beneath the table, I tell them to hand me what they want from the shelf and I restock it at my leisure.


I also live out of zipper bags. I’ve been gifted so many over the years that they just make a lot of sense to use. The largest and widest of them hold my framed price guide, any flat paper display tags, and my square readers. The smaller ones may hold a selection of postcard prints, extra pens and sharpies for autographs, spare batteries, stickers if I’m selling any, and other things like that. A large toast bag holds all of my charms, too. Nowhere in my display crate will you find loose equipment or pieces. Everything has a zip bag and every zip bag fits neatly beneath a bookshelf.


The little wooden slatted bookshelves are VERY nifty for storage purposes, and I think the bulk of my organization takes place beneath them. There's a lot of empty space behind them that fit my charms stock, print stock, battery packs, autograph pens, and any other various things I may need within reach. This lets me keep everything I may need on top of the table with me but out of sight and reach of customers. They also let me hide my meals and myself when I need to disengage for a bit to rest. When my mother plays table assistant, she likes to make “stacks” of series bundles as prep for when those orders come in, saving her from having to dig under the table for the right books. Those then hide behind the bookshelves as well.


Keeping organized takes practice and trial-and-error. The more you do it, the more you’ll figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what can be improved once you’ve physically got the situation in front of you.


Let’s open things up to some questions now since anything more specific on my end will need prompting. All questions come from Instagram and Twitter this time.


What are your openers to get passing strangers interested in your books?


I teased it a bit before, but I always open with “Hi, I write gay romance and erotica novels.” If I see people glance as they walk, I will make a big show of gesturing at my books and saying, “Gay romance and erotica” or “gay porn books” to see if they double back or comically freeze mid step. It’s fun doing it this way because I have no shame and it keeps things lighthearted. Those who are into it will have a lot of fun reacting to hearing such a thing said so blatantly and those who aren’t interested will still laugh (maybe awkwardly) or smile because it’s still funny regardless of whether or not you like that sort of content.


Once they’ve stopped in front of the table and are actively interested, I give the basic rundown of my wares: BDSM Polyamory Drow Erotica in a DnD type setting, Survival horror but horny, Werewolf RomCom, Vampire Crime Thriller, and Political Fae Romance (usually stating here that it’s more plot than porn). From there, they will pick up the books and look at excerpts, page through them, or read back cover summaries, ask me for a summary, or step to the side with their phones to read the website summaries.


I’m also known to call out to cosplayers to compliment their outfits or show them merch I have behind my table of the series/character. This works well for HxH or DBH cosplayers since some of my books used to be fanfic from those series.


How do I make my book sound interesting to people?


Describe it the way you’d want it to be sold to you if you were a stranger looking for your next read. You need to highlight what makes it unique, what’s appealing about it. If it’s an erotica book, you need to be open about what kind of erotica it is. Fantasy? BDSM? Erotic horror? If it’s just romance or an adventure book, tell us what is unique about it. I absolutely detest reducing a story down to its marketable components, but you really don’t have any other option in an environment like this.


Take OSSUARY for example. My sales pitch for that one is “If you’re a fan of movies like As Above, So Below, or The Descent, you’ll like this.” Compare your work to more mainstream, popular offerings. If there’s overlap it’ll sell itself. Or is there some big twist or trope inversion that makes it really unique? Does your villain win in the end? Is there protagonist corruption? You can’t be vague, bland, or unoriginal when you only have a minute to get someone to bite, so break out the big guns and give us the fanfic tag breakdown—you’ll find a lot of your readers in an anime convention setting are familiar with those beyond any other sort of descriptor. So, FWB? PWP? Hurt/Comfort? OT3 with A/B/O in a world like LOTR? Use it if you got it, and hell, I have visual displays literally stating “Tags and Warnings for The Tempest Series” to make it clear what the book experience is like and what might squick a reader if they aren’t into say, torture or heavy themes of character whump.


You should also embrace other things about the book that make it cool aside from the written contents. The Tempest Series has all those chapter illustrations inside, so I tell people about that and use it as an excuse to get them to pick the book up and flip through it. I tell them OSSUARY has a lot of really neat formatting because of our inverted black chapter pages and the bone page number motifs, and that makes people pick it up. It shows you’re treating your product like its a professionally produced item with care, effort, and thought put into it. Flaunt it and let it do some of the heavy lifting for you.


What was the last dream you had?


I actually very rarely ever remember my dreams, and when I do they’re almost always nightmares or the sort that involve sleep paralysis. I think there’s actually something wrong with how I sleep… I never wake up feeling restful and I’m inclined to think that I don’t fully hit REM sleep, ergo the lack of dreaming that I ever remember. The last one I can recall… I only remember that my teeth were rotting from the inside and falling out, nothing else around that though I think there were other things going on in it.


But… yeah. That’s the weird Migi fact for the blog I guess!


Convention tabling is such an ever changing beast. I don’t think I will ever be 100% content with my setup or methods as every single convention I table at shows a slightly different display, uses slightly different tools or equipment. So much can vary just based on who I’m splitting a table with, and now that I’m selling copies of Sun’s Oracle deck and a bunch of her mini prints, I’ve also got a whole new directional challenge to account for—vertical.


I’m sure more of you will have questions creeping up after reading this, so feel free to chime off in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.


Thanks again for the patience as I took my little break and for bearing with me as I dust off the cobwebs and get back into the working groove. I’m really excited to start things up again and get things ready for October. My editor is already mourning the new hell I’m determined to put Thierry through, so I guarantee you guys won’t want to miss it. Consider pledging to Patreon to reserve your front row seat today.




Until next time,



T.D. Cloud


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I'm glad to read that you're feeling better! I wish you'd have time to rest even more, but I'm glad you're doing your novella event over two months instead of one. Self-care is important ♥


I've read through all that even though I'm not in the US so cons are not even working in the same way here, but it was interesting anyway. I had some moments of "aha I remember this feeling from helping my mother with..." actually I don't even know if there's a word for that in English Oo Like a garage sale except it's not actually in garages but in the streets and you have to pay for a length of sidewalk to set up your…


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No that's not flea markets either because these are, as you said, local vendors with craft or antiques. I'm talking random people that are absolutely NOT sellers just wanting to get rid of stuff that gathers dust in their basement or attic. So you have furniture and books and dolls and skateboards and video games and clothes etc all on the same stand, and the next one might have vinyls and one motorcycle helmet and ugly plates, etc, etc x') So... kinda a fusion of flea market and garage sales. It's organized by the city it takes place in, and generally it lasts one day and happens every year. We call that "brocante" but I really did look and I…


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