Tag Archives: orycon

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.

My cold remedy

Most people think this is somewhat batso, but it seems to at least keep me from getting as acute a version of the annual pestilences.  Woke up this morning with my throat feeling like I had been belting out death metal love ballads all night after attending a Husky game.  When it became evident that I was going to get sick, I engaged my cold remedy.  Cold, flu, don’t know and don’t care which; if it produces congestion, this is what I do.

My first act is to pick up the telephone.  I call Round Table Pizza, and instruct them to send me immediately two extra large pepperoni pizzas with chopped garlic and jalapeños.  If I’m pretty nice to them, they may put on a little extra (yet another reason to tip pizza guys and gals).  When it arrives, I consume as much of the pizza as possible (I’ll heat it up and eat off it for two full days).

I also make green tea with lemon, and steam myself in the shower, and Nyquil myself to insensibility at night.  If I cough, just plain Robitussin, no antihistamines.

The pizza achieves several things.  For one thing, I’ve done it enough times that it’s sort of a conditioned signal to my system:  call out the reserves and mobilize for battle.  We aren’t taking this lying down. For another, it’s good for morale; the pizza is good, and it feels like I’m doing something about it, which is better for your attitude than ‘yuck, I’m sick, I’m so miserable, I hate my life right now.’  The jalapeños are just about sure to clear out my sinuses, and while garlic’s mild antibiotic properties aren’t really in play against a virus, it does generally boost your immune system and is quite healthful.  (It’s also good for others’ health, as no one will get within five feet of you after eating all that garlic.)  What is more, you just poured a remarkably noxious substance over the system invaders.  Gonna hang out here a while, eh, you little varmints? Okay, fine.  Have a drink on the house! I can almost picture the viruses saying to each other:  “You idiot!  Why did we ever let you book this trip? I’m never using that travel agent again!  We’ve died and gone to Naples!”  Yeah, enjoy.  Come back if you ever need another toxic sludge lesson chez moi.

What I don’t do is suppress symptoms, except to sleep at night (rest being essential), or unless there’s a severe fever.  As I reason it, the symptoms are your body’s way of fighting back.  Why hamstring your body? Hell, fuel it up for heavy fighting.  I go through a lot of handkerchiefs (I have about thirty, so it’s not like I have to reuse them, and they don’t chap my nose as much as dead trees).  I drink lots of milk, eat lots of cheese, everything that is supposed to make you have to blow your nose more.  My body’s playing bouncer and I certainly am not going to bar the door from the outside.

Does it cure it? Of course not.  Does it lessen the acuity? It certainly seems to.  Does it make it more bearable? Yes and no.  I might feel less lousy during the day if I suppressed the symptoms, but I think I’d stay sick longer.  I’d rather have three days of major suck than five days of medium suck.  I just seem to rebound quicker with less chemicals and more just fueling up my body and letting it do what it was designed to do.

My bride thinks I’m a lunatic.

She might be right, but the ability to do this is a luxury. Other times, it’s okay to just suppress the symptoms. I was marketing my editing efforts at Orycon one year, in company with Randy Hayes of House Chaos Games, when I got a miserable cold. It was either throw away all that preparation by both of us, or bull ahead and try not to be a mucous machine. Had it just been me (I wouldn’t have been doing it, probably, but besides that), I might not have done it, but I couldn’t let down an old friend of nearly forty years willing to drive three hours each way and donate his whole weekend to helping me and evaluating my marketing approach. So I dosed maximum doses and didn’t stick around for the evening room parties.

My wife happened to be out of town, but I suspect she also would have thought I was a lunatic in this case.