I spent the past week in Nova Scotia, mainly on the Eastern Shore, working and location scouting for my wedding. Because…that’s a thing people do, right?
You can feel the slower pace in your body, in the best way. You don’t have anywhere to be so you don’t go there. It’s a different country than Calgary.
But, I could only stay for a week, and then it was time to get ready for Montreal.
Last year, Jessie and I drove to Montreal from Nova Scotia. This year, Mom and I flew! I coordinated the travel, the AirBnB, and all the baggage…sigh. So many bags. Well, two each, which is a lot when it’s full of books.
On Thursday, Dad dropped us at the airport and it was extremely busy. They took one look at my taped-together banners and were like…yeah we’re going to search that. They were searching everyone thoroughly and after I got through, I had to line up to retrieve items marked for manual examination. Which was…half of everyone’s baggage in line.
My banners are securely shoved in their thin, fabric cases. The only way to remove them is to remove all the duct tape. Duct tape I had spent time securely weaving around the cases so it looked neat and professional. I think the security guard regretted his job that day. He couldn’t just stink the swab wand in, no, he had to remove all the duct tape, and take out the banners and their various accouterments, just for ONE swab. Everything came back fine, and then that left the task of putting everything BACK in the fabric case, and taping it all back together.
Sigh. It was fine in the end, but so annoying. Worth it to have my banners with me.
Once in Montreal, getting settled in was straightforward. We got a taxi to downtown Montreal to the convention centre. While we waited for our accommodations to be ready,
I set up my table. Thank you to Nancy and her partner, who helped us navigate the convention centre! The elevators were unavailable, so we had to wheel my many, many suitcases off the street, up an escalator, and into the convention hall.
Lugging product around is half my life.
We stayed in a similar place to last year, right across from the convention centre. So convenient. Sometimes it’s worth springing for a place close to the venue just so you don’t have to think about coordinating travel within the city.
I was really kicking myself for not bringing my white, sparkling curtains I used at Festival of Crafts! I actually had them in the suitcase…and then I took them out, because I was afraid I’d be overweight. Oh well!
One problem I’m finding, with more books comes less space for signage. You’ll notice I’m trying to create separation between my Sparkstone Saga and Gear & Sea – hard to do when I have to put the sign in Gear & Sea’s real estate!
Also, because I’m lugging around two banners right now, the only way to fit both in the small space is to angle them. This lessens my display power, in my opinion.
I had JUST ENOUGH stock to do this show, flying in from Nova Scotia. I can use last year’s numbers to give me a picture of how much to bring, but you can never know for sure what is going to catch the buyer’s eye.
A lot of people complained that Montreal was down this year. I can definitely feel why that’s the consensus. Montreal was busy. Crowded. And yet, people weren’t really buying. It reminded me of Fan Expo Canada last year, people swarming into the Artist Alley rows just to get to The Next Thing. Crowded rows don’t bring sales. They bring anxious, frustrated attendees who only want to get by.
I also noticed more people paying in cash this year than before. This is an observation I made in Ottawa as well. My table neighbour, Boum, who has been doing Montreal Comiccon since 2011, remarked that she’s seen the quality of artists at this show rise over the years, as well as the size of the show itself. But with that comes a larger venue. It was SO HARD for people to find me. I had one customer tell me he searched for my table for half an hour! Every table has a number, but the aisles weren’t clearly marked. It’s easy to get lost in there.
Compared to last year, I did slightly better. But remember that I also raised my prices and I have a new book. I only had ONE copy of The Violet Fox left at the end! This year my fantasy series sold more than my science fiction series, and Gear & Sea performed well as an impulse buy for those who like Iron Giant and post-apocalyptic fiction.
Parler Francais & Translations
Last year, I had trouble pushing through and speaking English even when people spoke French to me. I was worried I’d bother them or seem rude if I only spoke to them in English. This year, I was better at that. I have some French comprehension – I can get by and understand – but I am definitely not comfortable selling a book in French, when I might have trouble understanding my customer! I felt the language pouring into me, though – a few more days there, and I may have mustered up the courage to speak more in French, regardless of whether I’m good at it or not! Next time?
I had quite a few people ask me if I’d ever consider translating Faery Ink Press books. I’d like to, someday! The question is how I’d go about a translation. Selling foreign language rights can be lucrative, and that’s the easiest way to go. Problem is, most indies don’t have the luxury of having agents or foreign publishers knocking at your door, demanding that. You have to hustle to make that happen.
The other way to go about translation is to hire a translator and create and package that myself. The benefit is I get complete control over the process. The drawback, other than me not being fluent in French? I don’t have a French following. Sure, I could get any of my books translated, create a pretty product, put it out into the world. But my audience is mostly English speaking. I’d have to create a whole new audience. That’s a big, long-term project. Doable? Yes. Do I want to take that on, and take attention away from my core audience? I just don’t know. Definitely not right now.
That’s why I’d kind of rather sell my foreign language rights, when the time comes. I’d rather stick with what I’m good at and let the pros handle what they are good at!
Out on the Town!
The best part of attending Montreal is seeing the sights! Or at least, going out to eat!
Unlike last year, I wasn’t too adventurous – we mostly stuck in the downtown area. But walking around, it’s like being in Europe. The buildings are old, the language is familiar but distant, and it’s mostly tourists. It felt safe.
On Thursday, after setting up and settling in to the AirBnB, Mom and I walked up to Venice, a small California-Asian restaurant. I had a tuna poke bowl. Perfect food for the heat.
Then on Sunday, after the show, Mom felt like pizza so we found a nearby fancy Italian place that also did gluten free pizza, Mangiafoco. It was really good! It was nice to relax and have a gluten-free beer (or a glass of wine, in my mom’s case) after a busy, intense weekend.
I had fun experimenting with my make-up in Montreal! Still enjoying my Violet Voss palette, but I also have this glitter palette I’ve been a little afraid to experiment with – but I’m glad I brought it anyway! I also blew my hair dry each day, which straightens it. Otherwise my hair is SO wavy and gets so frizzy, especially in the extreme heat of Montreal.
I know, I need to do more shadowing in the crease part of my lid and build that out a bit. And oof, my pores! Taking these pictures helps me see where I need to up my game. It’s really fun to create looks that complement my books!
It’s actually first time I can remember where I did a show wearing my glasses! Normally I wear contacts for special events, but I ran out and only had enough for two days. I’ve worn glasses since I was eight. I’m terribly near-sighted. I cannot function without something in my eyeballs. The world is a cozy, deep blur.
This is me taking the temperature for my feelings on the business.
In the extreme heat of Montreal, my thoughts wandered during show time.
I kept thinking, “What am I doing here? This is really my life right now?”
I fly all over the country without really thinking about it anymore, which scares me. Regular people don’t live like this. Not that I want to have a regular life – that’s not what I’m here for.
There’s this futility that comes with being a convention artist. You’re standing for hours, scanning the crowd, hoping to catch the eye of an interested patron. And then when you have them before you, you treat them as well as you can, hoping that your product is the one for them. You make the sale or you don’t. Money comes in and money goes out. You get better at making the sale, moving the product from one side of the country to the other.
Years go by. People come and go. You stick around long enough and you make friends. They understand you because they live like you. They understand the game. They’re creative but they’re also trying to wrap their head around the business side.
Conventions come and go too. You have good years and bad years.
I’ve written some about the convention bubble – whether it exists, whether it’s going to burst. I’ve also recently written about how I feel like I’m living in a fishbowl. Maybe this is my intuition or it’s that voice inside that says, “Keep moving, the next thing is about to happen, be ready.” I feel it in my bones, that my life is changing, that something is happening that hasn’t surfaced yet and I’m still trying to figure out what it is.
I feel like I’m forging a path through a thick snowstorm. I know where I want to go, but I can’t always see the way, I can’t follow in someone’s footsteps because I am first in line. My brain is foggy with it and it colours my experience. I have to cobble together a vision of what I want my business to be because there’s no one guiding or competing with me, at my level. I have to look outside my industry to find models and companies trying interesting strategies and implement them inside an industry where the margins are tight, the readers are discerning, and the rules are constantly shifting.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve been strategic. I’ve been slow, but steady. I’ve built something and it’s real to people now. It’s too real to stop doing it (not that I want to stop). Real people want to read my real books and they look up to me and that’s…a little scary.
I like to think that at some point, you’ll be where I am too, feeling these feelings, so this is just as much to validate me as it is to comfort you.
Will I Go Back?
I suspect this is a show I’d have to do four or five times to make a dent in the Montreal consciousness. Partially because of size, but also because of the language barrier. I could do it. I could return and make a little bit more until I’ve built that solid 40% customer repeat business I’ve started to see from Calgary, Edmonton, and Halifax.
But I also don’t want to. Yes, I’m getting married next summer (if we can pull together our plans) and I don’t want to schedule any summer events before I have the wedding plans cemented. But the thought of coordinating another Montreal trip just makes me tired. I could spend the money and make it back just fine. Or I could write more books and do Montreal another year.
And you know, I’m okay with that.
My next show is Saskatoon Expo! I’m not returning to Fan Expo Canada this year, as I’m taking August to work on my books (and enjoy the summer!). I have a busy Christmas season that requires some mental and logistical gymnastics to complete and I feel a lot better knowing I have two months until my next show instead of…four weeks.