We lost our virginity today.
You might be thinking “about damn time, loser.” Or you might be thinking, “I’ve always suspected the 40-year-old virgin was real, and that you’d be it, Frank.”
Or, perhaps, you’re thinking, “Eww, gross. Too much information.”
But you’re reading this, so the click-bait headline must’ve worked.
You’re of course aware of Comic-Con, the global brand synonymous with gaming and comic book enthusiasts. You might be aware, too, of the many smaller conventions around the country modeled after that mega gathering. While we were aware ourselves, we’ve never attended one before.
The iMagicon is a home-grown version of Comic-Con in miniature. It’s a celebration of the culture whose origin stories include superhero comics and console gaming. At these gatherings, devoted fans engage in cosplay (dressing as their favorite characters in movies or video games), compete in LAN parties, and meet up with like-minded friends.
Some of them even buy merchandise.
Artwork, custom-made mock-swords, and of course comic books are all peddled by vendors. We became aware of this convention when a local author friend, Bill Heinzen (if you’re into epic fantasy, check out his books), encouraged us to attend. We made excuses about being hermits and skipped last year’s convention. As we slowly built a small but loyal readership, we heard from fans who further urged us to show our faces to the public. “Your Ascending Mage series takes place in Minot, after all.”
Lobbying our egos, the conspiracy was effective. We registered for iMagicon 2020.
Of course, then the pandemic happened and the whole world went into synchronized lockdown. The convention in Minot was postponed to August, which brings us to today.
We didn’t know what to expect for our first convention, so we adopted the New Zealand tourism motto: “Don’t expect much; you’ll love it!” I’m told that’s not really their motto, but everything we know about the island nation we learned from Flight of the Conchords and The Lord of the Rings.
Anyway, with that in mind, we were pleasantly surprised.
We were told by veteran vendors and convention organizers that Friday is the slowest of the three day event, so we were pleased to sell a couple handfuls of paperbacks on this first day. More than simply focusing on sales, however, we found this event thus far to be an excellent way to connect with readers in person.
While mostly a gamer-centric convention, a subset of iMagicon attendees are fiction readers–some of them voracious readers at that. Many of them are aspiring writers themselves. I found it satisfying to hear their enthusiasm when they shared their ideas with us and asked us about the writing and publishing process. Nurturing creators is such an important part of the process, after all.
Along the way, we may have earned a few new fans, too.
One gentleman downloaded our free prequel novel on the spot. An hour later, he returned, picking up a copy of Ascending Mage 1. He was, apparently, sold on our storytelling style. He returned later with a friend who he proceeded to pitch our series to. His friend listened attentively, read the back cover description, and bought a copy for himself.
Those are the kinds of experiences you just can’t replicate through Facebook ads.
As great as that experience was, the highlight of our first day was meeting existing readers of our series. Some of them had corresponded with us via email and social media over the past year. Getting to see them in person, to chat about our favorite TV series and authors…that was pretty magical.
Yesterday, we jested about the fantasy of being dragged away by fans wanting to buy us beer. Imagine our surprise when exactly that happened! Locals Paul and Shauna stopped by our booth and offered to buy us a beer. “Free beer” is one of the best phrases in the English language.
This lovely couple invited us to their favorite drinking hole: Ebeneezer’s, an Irish pub in downtown Minot. They had a corner table reserved where we joined them after the close of the vendor exhibits. We enjoyed Guinness (what else but Irish beer?) and a house specialty: bangers and mash. They turned out to be charming people who we’re privileged to consider our newest friends.
And that summarizes the benefit of attending a convention like this, as authors: it’s an opportunity to earn new readers and build relationships with existing fans. Book sales really just serve to subsidize travel expenses.
We may not have expected much, but we sure are surprised by the wonderful people we’re getting to meet!