Monday: I ended up in…

Monday: I ended up in an impromptu panel on writers in mid-career; interesting. I felt a bit like an imposter at first, but it turned out that they were defining mid-career as 'no longer trying to break in' and 'still actively trying to write.' So okay. Other than that panel, most of the rest of the day was running around packing various things -- clothes and art and books from the co-op table. I did have that interstitial arts conversation very quickly with Ellen and Delia that day, which may allow some interesting propositions for collaboration between our two foundations. The most imminent one is that we may end up administering their Endicott Studio retreat space for them, giving writers access to a beautiful place to run away to and write for a few days. It's a small space -- big enough for one writer or a very friendly couple. Lots of details to talk about before we can figure out if we can take it on, but it sounds promising right now. I do still want to put together a list at some point of potential larger workshop spaces...eventually. There will be time.

Here are the numbers on the SLF Small Press Co-op at WisCon:

Participating Presses: 14 (roughly)

Total small press income: $991.00

Total SLF memberships sold: 25 (at discounted price of $20 each)

Total SLF income after table cost and discounts on books (we gave 20% to SLF members on books we were selling at the table, which comes out of our profits, naturally, rather than the presses'): $473.00 -- I see a travel grant in our near future :-)

Summary:

Generally, sales ranged from none (for some large trade paperbacks from one press, some of Kat's postcards and greeting cards, and a few zines) to very strong (for my books, the Rabid Transit chapbooks, Kat's bookmarks, and David Lunde's poetry chapbooks). We sold out of my cookbooks and my new Silence collection by the third day; we sold out of our five copies of the Strange Horizons book by the second day.

It was very clear that your items were much more likely to sell when you were working the table yourself. We took shifts, and for example, most of David's chapbooks sold while he was actually there. And the bulk of the SLF memberships were sold when I was actually there, probably because I was the only one actively asking every person who walked up to the table whether they were interested in learning more about the SLF. We'd also get a run of requests for a title after the author had been on a panel or done a reading, unsurprisingly -- but I was surprised to see just how clear a correlation there was. And finally, cover design clearly played a large part in the random sales that occurred -- certain books got picked up and looked at much more often than others, and when I asked why, the response was generally that the cover art or design layout looked attractive or intriguing.

I feel a bit bad about the one press who shipped in books that didn't sell at all; we were planning on shipping them back COD, but I'm going to ask if she'd rather we held on to them and tried to sell them at our table at World Fantasy (assuming we get one). Overall, though, I'd call this a rip-roaring success, and I'm really glad we did it. Next year, two tables! And more help staffing. :-) Though the staffers we had were absolutely terrific -- they were reliable, prompt, and made set-up and break-down a breeze. Good job, all!

2 thoughts on “Monday: I ended up in…”

  1. Re cover art: I know that only a few people (like me) really care about nitpicky details of internal layout, but I think it’s a good point that most people (in this sort of convention context) care about the outside of the book: if a casual passerby isn’t familiar with the author or the title or the publisher, and the person behind the table doesn’t explicitly point the passerby to the book, then the cover is the only thing that they can initially judge the book by.

    (Though this may not be so true in bookstores, where the spine may be the only thing visible.)

    So maybe in addition to the SLF’s layout guide, you ought to get a book designer to put together a cover-design guide. It could cover (heh) at least three things: (a) the rudiments of creating an attractive and eye-catching overall design (layout, color choice, positioning of text and art, etc); (b) how to create artwork that will look professional on a POD cover (’cause some POD books have really low-resolution computery-looking cover art, while others have very nicely reproduced art; I’m not sure how one ensures that the reproduction will look good) (but this may be another thing that only a few people care about anyway; certainly some art that looks low-res and cheaply reproduced to me looks fine to other people); and (c) the importance of having good-looking cover art (granted this is a very subjective matter, but I’ve seen some small-press books where the cover art itself looked to me like it’d been drawn by an amateur artist, which doesn’t give me high hopes for the quality of the content, even though I know I shouldn’t judge the book by the cover), with perhaps some pointers on where to find good artists (ASFA, maybe?) and what one can expect to pay, etc.

  2. Well, I’m really pleased that the SLF sales were so notable 🙂 Also, always nice to hear that Strange Horizons as well as your Lethe titles did well. Hopefully next year someone from Lethe can be on hand to help out.

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