Over the Easter holiday weekend I peddled my wares at the British Science Fiction Convention, also known as Satellite 4 or Eastercon for short. This is my third year of selling at Eastercon, and it remains my favourite show.
Sometimes when I tell people how great selling at Eastercon is, they are confused. But this is my demographic– imaginative readers, fans who are enthusiastic and full of wonder– my work appeals to these folks, and I am one of them. There is a sense of authenticity being there. The cons are volunteer run, putting paid-for events to shame– the difference? Vendors are not seen as paying customers but as fellow fans in the community. I’ve sold at many other events where stalls were pricey and as a vendor you just weren’t treated with respect or consideration.
I don’t do a lot of events, as the my internet shops keep me very busy. Live selling is a different way of working, especially for an introvert like myself. You bring all your hard work with you, you set it up so it’s enticing and then you sit there for hours, days. You’ve gotta have something in common with the folks coming to your booth, something to chat about. Eastercon is perfect for that. Now people know I’ll be there so they come to talk about what they are reading or writing and the panels they’ve been to. There is a real feeling of community. Folks will come modeling new purchases or ones from years back so I can see them. I love this part of live selling– you get to actually see your creations as they were meant to be worn– by people who love them. What also amazes me about this crowd is they immediately get that mine is a small, fan-run, one-woman handmade business and the people who come by my stall want to support that.
Of all the places I’ve sold, Eastercon is the place where I see people in love picking out things for their beloved. This is a regular occurrence at Eastercon– I kid you not! Romance is alive and well in fandom. It’s become my new benchmark for making– could someone give this to the love of their life? If the answer is yes, then it goes on my stall and in my shop.
This weekend I peddled my wares at EightSquared Con, this year’s British Science Fiction Association Convention, held in Bradford. I had been a member of the BFSA since writing my cyberpunk novel, The Desperate Ones. I hadn’t thought of selling there until a friend an fellow writer, David Gullen, suggested I give it a try. Last year the con was in London, and was much larger than the recent Bradford one. My booth was a success last year, but despite the con being smaller this year, it was an even bigger success for me, not just in terms of sales but in many other aspects.
This was the first year I was able to appreciate Eastercon as a real community event. Last year almost everyone who stopped by the booth was friendly and receptive, but this year people came back to chat and were very welcoming. I never had to explain that I was the artist behind the handmade objects– everyone seemed to get that, and there was a real respect for the labor involved. Many said, “Oh I hoped you’d be here again!” and they brought their friends to the table. Others came by to show me the jewellery they were wearing that I’d made– some said they wore their pieces almost every day. It is rewarding to see thing things one makes having a life of their own. Maybe that is when they are really finished? When a pair of earrings or a necklace finds its true owner and suits them beyond what I could have imagined when the item was just a pretty object, before it was theirs.
Another highlight of the con– I actually got to go to a panel. (Sometimes it was slow enough that I could have gone to more, but as soon as I decided to go it would pick up at the booth.) Perhaps I will blog a bit about it on The Desperate Ones.
So much of the process of selling online is done alone. I imagine things, make them real and then document them in hopes someone will like them enough to buy them. Translating the process to go “live” has been a challenge. Little by little I have tried to furnish the stall, make it more like a wonder cabinet, somewhere people can linger and explore. Perhaps the most satisfying thing from this weekend was just being a part of the whole thing, this community of gentle readers with a common sense of humor and wonder.