It’s a peculiar thing indeed to find yourself sitting behind a table selling things you worked on, put your heart into, and are now hoping that someone is going to validate you by buying something.
What a weird damned sorta thing that is.
It’s a thin line to walk, the line between commerce and art, the line between doing something for passion and doing it for a dollar. It’s a line that more, and better people have rambled on and on about and that I’ll spare you from this time. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion but more that that takes me away from what I wanted to get to, and that’s the strange feeling of selling your work face to face to someone. For me, the magic of doing this is that it always reminds me that, in the end, if I am ever to write as more than just a hobby that I will always have to be selling. This does not mean that I have lost sight of what drew me to writing and what keeps me doing it – the magic that exists between my hands and my mind, where the story really comes together. It’s a sort of dead area where things shake out, take shape, and where they become stories.
I have been doing conventions since I was in my early twenties, and they’ve never stopped being the most amazing and boring things around. Amazing because meeting other people with similar passions to your own and my god, you can’t imagine how many damn hours you sit around trying to lure people to come see your wares. Conventions have been the best and most inane experiences of my lives. I remember my first, when I was there with friends pimping what was to be our one and only issue of a magazine that went natiional. We’d begun as ‘zine nerds and suddenly we were on the brink of, well, who the hell knew but it was awesome to be there as guests. It was a comic convention near Detroit and the feeling of wandering into the ‘green room’ whenever we wanted to get snacks was awesome. It was like we were big shots. Well, the magazine never went past issue one and all of a sudden we were paying customers to the comic convention but the experience had taught me something that has stuck with me and that is that in the end, if people aren’t interested in what you’re doing, then you’re not apt to do it long.
When my publisher went down into the deeps I found myself holding a great mass of books with very few options to sell them. It’s a crummy thing to learn that most bookstores, indie or otherwise, aren’t as excited or interested in indie writers as they may claim. I can see why, I mean, you’d get anyone who can get access to a copy machine putting out these crazed missives about how their cat killed JFK so, I can see why you want to be leery of who you let onto your shelves but, well, damn, give a guy a break. There’s the internet, sure, but, unless you can get people to wherever your books are, and get them to BUY them, well, it doesn’t mean a hell of a lot. You’re another ‘writer’ (or artist or photog or poet or musician or whatev) on the web, doing your thing with no one watching.
And here’s my thing – I love writing and to some degree always will. It’s in me and I am into too many forms of it to not write BUT…when it comes to stories, I am a story teller and a teller is only as good as those he is telling to and when you’re telling stories to yourself, well, you don’t need to open your mouth. The stories take power from those that hear or read them and without the people, well, the stories don’t need as much so, for me, I write for me, sure, but I post and publish and tell for YOU.
Anyhow, I needed to get my work out there and I suddenly realized that, damn, there’s that comic con thing that would be PERFECT to sell my books. Well, yes, and no. It’s a great idea, going to a convention where there are so many indie people into indie things and selling their indie good but, alas, being the only kid on the block selling lemonade when everyone else is selling Coke don’t exactly make you a big seller. So, I never sold much at the conventions but each year I learned a little more and sold a bit better and each time out I met more great people and that was the real value for me – getting to make connections with other people with passion for something.
Recently I did a horror convention, which was the first chance I had to sell books to as close to ‘my people’ as there are apt to be. I mean, hell, I write dark stuff that isn’t for everyone and, darn it, it’s as close to horror as you can get usually so, that was the best place to peddle my wares. This time I was also selling some silly art as well, something I have never felt confident enough to try, to be honest. I had similar results to what I have before but, bit by bit, I am finding 1. how to sell my works and 2. the places to do it. Inch by inch I am getting my work out there.
Sure, I want to be a guy that publishes work and can focus on that and not the sales, I dunno anyone who wants it any other way but, alas, that isn’t how it is. Really though, I love the excitement of seeing the person who is going to give my work a try, the people who are giving ME a chance. I’ll never claim to be an artist with whatever I am doing just because I feel like I just do what I like doing, but I don’t think that my selling would take the art away from what I have done and, honestly, there’s a bit of perspective in seeing that there’s a difference in making art for yourself and in making art for others because, if you do it right, there shouldn’t be a question of who the art is for, just that it’s art, it’s passion, and the rest works itself out.
Now, I got boxes and boxes of passion, books called Back From Nothing sellin’ for five bucks a pop.
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