Conventions » 2008 » Con of the North 2008

Con of the North 2008

We had a blast at this first Con as a publisher.

Post Con of the North 2008 Or, What I learned at my first Con as an indie game publisher.


1): First things first: You can't do this on your own.

Enlist the help of friends, people who actually care about you *and* who are excited about your project. Phaedrus and Mark IV were an incredible pair of guys. They manned the booth, ran demos, talked up the game to passerby, and made me blush (yes, me! I know!) with their constant stream of positive talk with the crowd. When it was slow, they made it a lot of fun. We'd goof off, laugh a lot, and *our* having a good time would drag over curious folks who just *had* to see what the guys in the corner were having so much fun doing.

2): The standard Boy Scout stuff applies: Come prepared.

Arrive as early as possible for load in and set up. It allows you more choice of spots if (er, when) the Con goofs and books too many Vendors, and has to move tables around. This meant that not only was I all set up at Noon (door open), but I was in the perfect corner (that nook behind us rocked) and was sandwiched between Tower Games and the Source.

Have everything packed the night before. Go through setting up the booth in your mind. What do you need? Make a list.

Here's what I brought:

  • Laptop
  • Game prep materials
  • Books
  • Wire Racks ($14.99 at Target!)
  • Book displays
  • Top notch posters/signage
  • Free standing poster displays
  • Tablecloth (yes, they were provided, but bringing my own meant my table had its own look)
  • Calculator
  • Cash box
  • Means to run credit cards (via laptops with wireless, hooked to a secret page on the website)
  • Two rolls of black duct tape
  • Digital Camera
  • Knife
  • Phone
  • Pens
  • Flyer Handouts
  • Product Spec Sheets
  • Extra business cards
  • 40 foot extension cord
  • Surge Protector Outlet
  • Coffee Maker and top-notch bean (Mark IV's, and he works for a roaster.)

What I forgot: Pencils and dice. Yes, I'm a bad gamer.

3): Make Friends

This not only applies to nearby Vendor booths, but to everyone who comes your way. Especially, make nicey-nice with whomever is in charge of Ops. This is the person who can Get Things Done. Stay out of their way, but try to make a good impression. Also? That coffee maker? Offer coffee to your neighbors. Odds are, they could use a boost. Nothing makes friends faster than sharing drugs.

4): The room is trying to kill you.

Where we were, anyway, the air was incredibly dry and it was pretty cold. I wore my pleather jacket most of the time. The guys brought sweaters for Sat and Sun. And I believe I used lip crap for the first time in a decade. We were also munching Halls cough drops like it was going out of style. I almost lost my voice on Sat. Me. The bartender, who has to yell for 3-4 hours over club music 3 times a week. Me.

5): Be prepared to argue for your reason to exist.

Or, perhaps more accurately, have a really good pitch as to why someone should look at your stuff. Have a mentally prepared list of comparisons to other products that they've heard of. "Cross old Mage the Ascension with Star Wars, but make it a retro Film Noir version of 1984." This works a lot better than, "Well, see, we have this game..."

People will challenge you. I wasn't expecting this. People will come up and say, "Why did you need to make up a whole new game? Why couldn't you just play GURPS, or Unknown Armies, or WOD." Be ready to come out swinging. Your confidence will make them think that you know something that they don't (which is true. You know how great your game is. You have to convince *them* that you are a fan of your own product).

6: Have a good time.

If you have the stern discipline of a hardened battle vet written all over your face, no one is going to want to come up and talk to you. Smile. Goof off. Tell jokes. You know, be *charming.* Remember, they haven't heard of you or your game, so name recognition is right out. Have so much fun that they want to come over and join you. Make it so they want to come back the next day, to, you know, visit. Everyone wants to see what game their new friend has cooked up. Few, if anyone, wants to check out the games in front of the uptight, wet-blanket bastard.

Final Summary

We had a great time. We were tired, and sore, and our throats hurt and our lips were chapped, but it was *fun*, dammit. We actually managed a *profit* for the experience, too. And within the first 2 hours of the Con, we were being carried by the Source, which is the biggest gaming store in the State. This last bit really took the edge off, and made it a lot easier to relax and enjoy the whole thing, since picking up that kind of a client just paid for the entire weekend. On top of that, we sold 5 of the main book and 2 of the player's guide, and seemed to have interested a lot more in checking out the website and going for the free Bare Bones download.

All in all, it was a huge boost. I'm very glad I went. And thanks again, guys, for making it work.