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What I learned from marketing at Orycon 41

This wasn’t easy for me on a couple of levels. I have a rough history with Orycon (Portland’s annual science fiction convention), for starters: at my first one, I had to make my way past a horrible train wreck, then got miserably ill by Saturday evening. At the second, I knew nearly no one and just never connected; I went home early. This past was not primed to fill me with optimism.

The hard part here was that I attended not for pleasure, but to market my editing work at a station in the dealer room. This put me “out there” in ways that always bring me fundamental discomfort, for I am not good at waving a banner and saying “Come hire me! I’m so great!” Truth told, I neither excel at nor like marketing. Most of the time, this blog and the FB page are as far as I go. People I like; public presentation, not so much.

Along came an old friend, Randy, who was also a client. I don’t know whether or not Randy likes marketing, but he is better and more energetic at it than I am. Through some persuasion, he convinced me to let him help me make a better marketing effort.

As he does with my editorial guidance, I did about 95% of what he said I must (or would have said, had I not realized the need myself, such as having a brochure and some form of banner). The only serious line I drew was the banner content, and I don’t think that hurt me much.

Of course, I caught a cold three days beforehand, so I got to go through this at less than my best. Had it not been for Randy sharing the booth (marketing his gaming system while mainly supporting me and providing feedback), it’s a fair bet I’d have failed in some way. It’s true: if you involve someone else before whom you are unwilling to embarrass yourself by jaking, it can help you go through with an uncomfortable thing.

Not that any discomfort stemmed from anything but my own inner Jed Clampett, of course. Orycon is well run by helpful volunteers, attracts a pleasant extended community of socially nonconforming and generally bright consumers of specific media, and the hotel even had enough parking. If the Max train went to Jantzen Beach it would have been perfect, but we never get everything.

What did I learn from this?

  1. In terms of splash, I had the worst display in the dealer room. It wasn’t even close. I had a white banner proclaiming “Editing Services,” business cards, a brochure holder, and little else. (By my standards, I’d built a miniature Disneyland.) It did not offend me when people pointed out that mine was the dullest. Did I, deep down, feel a certain perverse sense of victory and self-honesty? Damn right. Do I think that the all go / no show balance hurt me? No. I do need a better way to hang the banner, because we sort of McGuyvered it with binder clips.
  2. What would have hurt was a bad attitude. Many of the dealers would just as soon not be there, and it shows. The drag there is that it’s self-fulfilling: they’re not happy, they radiate it, and soon they’re not happy because they aren’t selling anything because they give off a vibe of “wish I were elsewhere.” But didn’t I? Not in the same way. I’d made a commitment to respect a good friend’s time (Randy drove from Seattle, three hours and change, just to do this) and exercise full effort, and I was going to do this like I meant it. The most important potential customer is the one standing before you.
  3. My booth (okay, my folding table with a navy blue cloth and my marketing stuff on it) may have set new ugliness standards, but my one intellectual contribution worked very well: chairs. I had the con set us up with four chairs, so I could put two on the aisle side facing each other sideways. No one else offered anywhere to sit. Not only could potential clients have a seat and talk about their work and needs, but this let us be good neighbors. One lady had dealt with some unacceptable fan group harassment and seemed to need a safe and friendly space for a few moments. A few others just asked whether they could rest sore knees or hips for a bit; sure, that’s why we put them there. There’s a lot of mobility impairment at cons. Randy said I did a good job of engagement, but the only thing he considered inspired was the chairs. I would do that again even if I had to bring my own.
  4. A dealer booth is a great place to people-watch. Orycon situated us between a publisher and a corset vendor, across from a couple of authors. Cons have good people-watching; if you’ve ever wondered just how many different shapes the human breast can assume when guided and shaped (or liberated in a specific direction) by clothing, a science fiction convention is your learning ground. Orycon is very restrictive with regard to anything that even looks like a weapon, or the displays would be much better.

It was as good an experience as I can have spending twenty-one hours meeting the semi-public over the course of three days. And to those of you who met me there and are now reading the blog for the first time, thrice welcome and thank you for visiting my humble but friendly little Orycon presence.