Convention season begins
My first event of 2023 was the Apple City Book Fair in Jackson, OH. The event was hosted by Monday Creek Book Publishing (Nelsonville, OH) and the Jackson City Library (Jackson, OH).
When I worked in association management, spring was the beginning of "convention season." Warm weather and the oncoming flexibility of summer break for students had everyone working hard to organize and promote these events. It's no different for authors who participate in various fairs, conventions, conferences, festivals, etc.
A huge amount of work goes on behind the scenes to organize and manage fairs, festivals, conference, and conventions. Even a small event entails coordination with property managers, banquet personnel, program directors, speakers, and more. Small events may be effectively and efficiently managed by one or two people, but larger events with more than a couple of hundred attendees expected really need a team of people.
Because I've been the organizer behind the scenes, I understand the magnitude of work required. That's also why I don't organize events anymore. I appreciate the work they put into making these events happen.
Every event has multiple goals with one all-important ambition: to make money. An event must at least break even, although making a profit is better. Events have many, many expenses. Property must be rented. Equipment (audiovisual equipment, tables, chairs, podiums, microphones, etc.) must be rented. Food must be purchased. Speakers must be paid. Programs and marketing materials must be designed and printed (which costs money, too). And the organizer (and staff) must be paid. Event organizers try to defay costs by having in-house personnel write and design programs and marketing collateral, relying on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to promote the event, relying on volunteer speakers and staff, engaging food vendors instead of providing meals, and more.
When I organized annual conferences, a small conference with upwards of 200 to 250 people easily racked up expenses in excess of $30,000 before staff were paid. And staff worked hard. I remember being on the job by 6:00 AM to ensure all meeting rooms and banquet services were properly set up and working until 11:00 PM without a break. After two or three days of that, my brain would turn into applesauce. Exhaustion does that, you know.
I understand the rigors involved in organization and managing events, which is why I tend to be forgiving of event staff when things don't go quite to plan. There are a lot of moving parts to track. I'll still be upset or annoyed, but I balance that with the understanding that comes from experience. The event organizer always has a chance to remedy the error, and I may be willing to compromise.
That happened recently. An event in which I am a registered vendor not only changed venues, it also dropped me from the vendor list. If I hadn't had the urge to check on hotel accommodations, I would not have discovered that until I arrived at the wrong location and tried to check in. The organizer neglected to notify me of the change in venue or the reassignment of my vendor space.
I was not pleased. However, I contacted the organizer with evidence of my paid registration fee and confirmation of my vendor space. That same day, the organizer apologized and corrected the error. He made it right. I'm satisfied. Now all I've got to do is help promote the event (like every other vendor is supposed to do) and hope that I will at least recoup my expenses.
Event participation requires a lot of time and effort from the vendor, too. This may be difficult for authors, many of whom are introverts (like me). Selling does not come naturally to us. I'm always physically, emotionally, and mentally drained by the end of any event. My expenses cover not just the registration fee, but travel (fuel, hotel accommodations, meals), inventory, and other accoutrements (tables, chairs, table cloths, business cards, signage, etc.). I don't factor the cost of my time into the expenses, because that would just hurt.
Being an author is like any business endeavor: profit is needed to remain in business. While an author has more than one goal in event participation, books sales remains critically important to an author's ability to continue to participate. Some authors work in concert with others. I attend most events with my best friend who's an artist. Not only do we sell my books, but we sell our paintings. My sister-in-law will be participating in a few events with me this year, too. She makes chain mail jewelry. A variety of items attracts a variety of attendees. We can help one another by promoting our different wares, watching over the booth when one of us needs a break, etc. Sometimes, it's my hobby (painting) that enables me to break even or make a profit at an event.
If you're an author, especially a self-published or indie author, and you need some good advice about participating in events as vendor, I highly recommend Working the Table: An Indie Author's Guide to Conventions by Lee French and Jeffrey Cook. I bought their book years ago and it's been a great help!
If you want to see where I'll be this year, go to my EVENTS page. If you'll be attending any of these events and wish to buy books (and make sure that the titles you want are available), then use the pre-order form to reserve your copies. No payment is required to reserve copies of books; however, any books not claimed and purchased during the event will be put back in regular inventory for sale later.
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