Gen Con 2016

Doing a day-by-day breakdown seems kind of silly when I essentially did the same thing every day. The only day where something markedly different occurred was Sunday after the traditional end-of-Gen Con annoucement.

But, that’s getting ahead of myself.

2016-08-03 11.44.04Set-up on Wednesday morning went smoothly. I got in and out of the Dealer Hall before the heat and humidity became too oppressive (they don’t turn on the A/C in there until Thursday). Unfortunately, I was missing a key piece of my display because Ix’s legs broke between ConQuesT 47 in May and TeenCon a few weekends ago, despite being in my basement the whole time. I suspect it has been going out on adventures without me or Zack Jackson.

Many of my long-time customers (i.e. friends) came by on Thursday to pick up my latest books. That’s to be expected. It’s always nice to see my first true fan (Hi Dani!) again and the Undergophers (listen to their podcast!). I’m also starting to see returning customers from previous years stopping by, as well, which is very encouraging. Building a fan base takes a long time, so it’s nice to see that foundation come together.

Supposedly, the anthology in which I participate with other Author’s Avenue authors was supposed to encourage people to stop by (at least for a signature on my story). However, I did not see a single customer who mentioned it. In fact, I only saw the book itself for the first time when someone came by my table with two cases of books and told me to sign my story on every copy. No reason was given. I eventually learned they were probably contributor copies. Since that information was not given to me at the beginning, I grumbled and hate-signed every book.

Communication is key. More on that anthology later.

2016-08-07 13.27.25Sales on Thursday generally seemed good. Friday was not as good, but that holds with trends I’ve noticed on previous years. Ix was returned to me on Friday with a temporary repair (you can’t even tell it was broken). It’s so nice that the sculptor is local. One thing that stood out was that Sunday was the biggest credit-card day and might have been the largest day of sales over all for me.

The four days of the convention really seemed to fly by. I didn’t have time to socialize with the various RPG publishers as much as I wanted to. Part of my duties as ENnie Awards Submissions Coordinator was to do that, but I felt like it was too difficult to step away from my table for extended periods of time this year. I’ll just have to rely on social media for that for now.

After it was all said and done, it felt like the number of sales was steady compared to previous years, or possibly increased. I had a few lower-priced items, so revenues felt like they were down. However, after making all the deposits, it turned out that revenue was slightly UP from last year. It wasn’t my best year ever, but it was a solid showing and I went away happy.

I also came away with opportunities to travel to up to six different Midwest schools and talk up my Zack Jackson series as it relates to science and creative writing. Since part of the whole point of making the ZJ series fairly hard science-fiction, it would seem that I am hitting my target.

Then, at 4PM, the great weekend turned, quite frankly, to shit.

I’m not going to call anyone out by name, as a few things are still pending (communication is always slow the week after Gen Con). Basically as soon as tear down started, a vendor got careless and knocked the wall panel behind my table over. My wheelchair-bound wife was standing there and would have been crushed under it had a friend not also been standing there and caught the wall.

Several pictures fell and broke apart. She jumped, shrieked and sat down HARD in her chair. Since there was debris around her chair now, she couldn’t move it out of the way when the wall wobbled again. This feeling of entrapment triggered her PTSD. Several of us yelled for the person to STOP hitting the wall. The culprit(s) high-tailed it out of there without so much as an apology.

Of course, this delayed my own tear down (and wrecked my evening plans as someone enduring a PTSD attack is no longer up for going out for a nice dinner after tear down). During tear down, a well-meaning, but annoying helper of another vendor came over, began to touch my wife on the arm in a misguided attempt to calm her and describe IN DETAIL how she managed to sneak in each of the four days of the convention.

This particular person had been a disruption to myself, my wife, and other authors the entire weekend, going around and butting into conversation while we were trying to sell our books. Mostly harmless, if annoying. I chalked it up to someone having social interaction issues. But the lack of a badge? Yeah, you can be sure I turned that over to Gen Con, LLC as soon as possible.

I don’t know what possessed this person to brag about not paying to get in for four days to fellow vendors who spent $350 on a table, $90 on a second exhibitor badge, and $92 on an extension cord, but you can be damn sure I am NOT the person who will be sympathetic to cheats.

Anyway, I finally got everything packed away and back to my car. Gen Con staff were extremely helpful and understanding. I made a list of people I intend to compliment to Gen Con management once things are settled and I can start a dialog with them about the incidents.

Then, when all the dust was settled, I looked at the anthology.

What a hot mess. The Table of Contents is inaccurate (let’s not mince words, in some place it’s just flat out WRONG). There are seemingly random blank pages (they’re not, I figured out exactly WHY they’re there, but the lay reader won’t understand). They should at least say “This page intentionally left blank” and be included in the page numbering, but they aren’t. The layout is confusing, and there are errors introduced into my story that weren’t there when I submitted it and there are other stories that appear to be completely unedited and un-proofread. In all, it feels very much like an amateur, vanity product and I am ashamed to have my name associated with it.

I sent out an e-mail listing many of the problems I found, conceding that certain things could be stylistic choices. Thus far, neither the editor nor publisher of the anthology has responded.

I submitted my story as a favor (i.e. I did not get compensated for it), to participate with the group who spend all four days of Gen Con sharing a space. Next year, I do not intend to participate for less than 8 cents a word. Giving a story away for free is one thing. To have my work treated in such a slipshod manner (not to mention the poor communication and marketing demands that were made with no mention of them in the “contract” I signed) is insulting.

I feel sad that detailing the tear-down on Sunday took up more space than describing all the good of the previous four days. Despite a generally good experience, that last hour or so really colored the whole weekend. Oh well, Gen Con wouldn’t be Gen Con if I didn’t learn something to make the next year even better.

I learned many valuable lessons this year. Gen Con 2017, AKA Gen Con 50 will be even better!

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