Well, that’s over with. I’m surprised by how exhausted I was. Dealing with humans really drains my battery.

I’m happy to say, no one was bitten. Well a few people were bitten. Actually a lot of people were bitten. Honestly I was like wolverine at an all you can eat buffet. But it’s okay, because everyone was fine… most people were fine… a lot of people survived the amputations and emergency triage… there were survivors. Anyway, the outbreak was contained, and or will be contained, or could be. Look, if you’re in Saskatchewan, there’s nothing to worry about, for a while. And anyway, if you’re in British Colombia, you’re safe behind the mountains, and you can escape overseas.

So it’s all cool.

On a serious note: I did the Dealer’s Room experience, many thanks to the unstoppable Casia Schreyer and Scarlett Kol, who let me share a table. I spent most of my time hiding out behind the table, a nine inch space because both Scarlet and Casia are supernaturally slender and Casia can achieve two dimensions if she holds her breath. It was great working with them.

It was good, we each sold a bunch of books. Talked to book lovers occasionally. R.J. Hore was there selling his books. We visited back and forth. I also dropped by and said hello to the two other book sellers. Nice people.

Reflections on the Dealer’s Room experience? It was definitely a nice networking experience and getting to know Casia and Scarlett., and talking shop with them and R.J. I hate to be the neophyte know it all, I might have some small ideas for doing it.

I had moments where I would just talk about some of the books and some of the work, particularly the non-fiction work, and just find enthusiasm bubbling up.

I was a bit of a screw up though. Friday, I stayed up all night, working on notes for my panels. I almost always do a lot of intense prep for a panel or presentation. People are seeing me do something, I’m going to put the hours in to deliver. This time, I didn’t have a lot of time or energy to prep, and so I was trying to pull something together at the last minute.

Then, I forgot all my notes at home. Readings? Forgot those too. Business cards? Forgot them each day. My square? Forgot how that worked – at least I remembered to charge them, but I had to re-learn it all over. Honestly, I’ve been working nonstop, weekdays and weekends, this is my fourth convention in a month and a half, and that includes two trips to Toronto. I’ve been going at the day job, and I’ve got ten different writing projects, that’s books in active advanced development for self publishing, plus marketing and education, youtube, career development, agent searching, new novels for trad.

I’ve noticed I’m starting to make more and more mistakes. I think I need to take a day or two. Soon.

On the other hand, on the not whining, front – the Dealer’s Room experience seems like a loss leader. This represented a commitment of about 18 or so hours over the weekend, including Friday afternoon, pretty much all of Saturday, a chunk of Sunday morning and afternoon. You’re not doing anything else. You’re just manning the table, hoping someone will buy your book, and on occasion, striking up a friendly conversation.

Even selling 15 or 20 books, once you net out the cost of the table (shared cost in this case), and the cost of the books themselves (printing and shipping), the cost of travelling to and from the convention (all recurring) the cost of set up, banners, tableclothes, display, cart to lug things around (fixed and amortizable), It doesn’t net out well. Most of those costs are recurring, only a few can amortize. R.J. and Casia do this regularly, and I admire the hell out of them for it. But it is a lot of work.

In terms of being cost effective, I’m still having doubts. I mean, I sell as many or more, sometimes a lot more, on Amazon each month, as I sold here. R.J. Hore tells me of time he’s done tables at conventions or fairs and not even made his table money back. From Casia’s occasional facebook reports, she’s been in situations where sales have been tough.

This may just be a factor of a tough market in Winnipeg. I’ve heard stories of Indie booksellers bringing boxes of books to table sales at events in the US and literally selling out in a day. Winnipeg is a relatively small market, and we have the reputation of being a notoriously tough marketplace – to the point that there’s a saying ‘If you can sell in Winnipeg, you can sell anywhere.”

Still, I live in Winnipeg. So that sucks. And it costs mucho dollars to take the show on the road and hope to make big sales elsewhere. I’ve sold a few books casually at things like WWC but it’s not much more than lunch money. A serious extraprovincial effort – it’s hard to see it as cost effective.

So why do it? I think in large part, networking. I’m tired of going it alone. I need to reach out, make connections, find people who do what I’m doing and who I can share information with and get advice. There’s a degree of community here. Maybe this will help me. Maybe I’ll have the chance to help others.

And maybe it’s important to get out and be social. I’m a bit of a misanthrope – I’ve met people, didn’t like the experience.

Even hiding out behind the table, I did find it draining. Each day after the dealers room, I basically went home and went to bed, completely drained. So maybe this is something I need to do. Build up my people stamina.

I did have a conversation with a couple of book-lookers and chatted about the convention. I was embarrassed, it turned into a cross examination, and suddenly, they were on the spot, struggling to answer as the questions came faster and faster. I had to catch myself and tell them that they weren’t being graded, and it wouldn’t be on the exam. I really need to work on my people skills.

I mean, dismemberment is FUN FUN FUN but a chain saw shouldn’t be the only tool in your kit.

Anyway, the basics from them – Convention was good, people had fun, rooms were much better, but much more expensive, hospitality suites were very small, almost disappointing. Dealers room was small, no art show, seemed well organized, weren’t interested in the guests, mostly hanging out. Overall positive score with reservations.

As to my own experience of the rest of the convention – didn’t see much of it. I thought it was important to hold up my end and support Casia and Scarlett in the Dealer’s room than to butterfly off to any interesting panels, so apart from attending my own, I didn’t attend much of it.

I did visit the hospitality suites after the Dealer’s Room closed, they were small and cramped compared to previous conventions. A factor of the hotel space. Not much to do about that. Keycon’s strength has always been in its social aspects and its hospitality suites. So I hope people weren’t too disappointed.

No Art Show, which surprised me. But apparently, they’ve been skipping it the last few years. Various reasons. It doesn’t seem to have been missed.

Honestly, there wasn’t a lot that intrigued me. A lot of the programming on the schedule seemed to be stuff I’d seen in previous years, or ‘cute’ or kids/family oriented. No problems with that, just not for me. I was invited to the dead dog party Sunday night, but I was too exhausted.

As for my own panels – They were all tucked away on the fifth floor, down the hall, around the corner, in a recessed, windowless meeting room. The only real signage was a small slip of paper in front of the elevator, and the meeting room sign. No schedule or other signage in front of the door, and poor directions overall. The meeting room furnishings were two tables pushed together with fourteen chairs. It felt like being dumped into a corner, but that’s probably just the hotel.

It was what it was. I was constantly surprised anyone made it to any of the 5th Floor programming. Let’s put it this way – if you made it, you had to be highly motivated. There was no casual walk ins.

My first panel was “Woke Wars” which surprisingly filled the room – all the seats taken, a handful of people stood. Really good discussion, friendly, positive, lively and cordial. I was honestly surprised at every aspect. I thought nobody would show up at all. I thought nobody would find the room. And I expected, if anyone showed up, it would be more fractious. As it was, excellent experience.

“Twilight of Echelon” the presenters outnumbered the audience. I felt bad for Robert Pasternak and Alex Passey, my collaborators who attended. Loverne Kindzierski couldn’t make it, Blaise Moritz was in Toronto, and Matt Joudrey in Nova Scotia. Still, we went through, did the discussion and presentation. I think I’d consider it a rehearsal for a real event, as the book launch approaches this fall.

“Authors of Manitoba Readings” – I was involved in that, the first half anyway. Casia was the MC. I read a very short funny story and then spelled off to the dealers room, so that Scarlett could attend and read.

“Are Books Dying” late at night, I think it was 8 to 9, which is just… dead time. And yet, surprisingly successful. I was shocked. It was a rather intellectual esoteric topic.

Sunday, I had a full hour reading again, this one to myself. Surprisingly, people attended. That’s something. I’ve had readings where no one showed up. I had a full hour, I have no idea. Typically, readings are half an hour, and you try and bunch them up as a reading track. A full hour reading slot is brutal for both writer and audience, I don’t know what they were thinking. But I read a part of ‘Drunk Slutty Elf and Zombies’ the main story, and I got the audience laughing through, so I was happy.

Final panel, “Alternate History.” Went okay, but it was an end of day thing. I was ready to go home.

Overall, with the exception of Woke Wars and somewhat with Books Dying, it was tiny but not nonexistent audiences. The things that interest me just don’t do much for most Keycon people, I accept that.

Mainly with panels and presentations, I just add this stuff to my Arts Resume. Maybe someday it’ll help me get a grant. Doing the convention is supposed to be good for getting your name and reputation out and getting known as a writer. I don’t think Keycon really helps much with that. It’s not that kind of convention. Which is why I’m doing the out of town conventions and conferences.

I don’t know that I’ll do Keycon next year. I’ll wait to decide. This year, I’ve committed to at least eight major events, up from four last year. That’s simply too much. If I don’t see significant career movement, I’m going to scale back. If I do see significant career movement, I’ll still scale back to whatever seems to be working. I’ve only got a few years one way or the other. Either I’ll break through, or I’ll just break.

Overall, good experience. Glad I did it, glad it’s over.

Now, time to work on the “Starlost Unauthorized” Kickstarter.