Business Of Book Conventions: How One Author Created The Sold-Out ApollyCon

With dozens of young adult and adult novels in the genres of contemporary, fantasy and romance under her belt, author Jennifer L. Armentrout made the decision to take all of her experience and use it to create ApollyCon in 2015, a new book convention for readers and authors. Her desire to build this event all stemmed from wanting to stop signing books alone and start doing so as part of a large group.

“It is possibly one of the most awkward things to go through, going into a bookstore and just hoping and praying that people show up and you’re just not sitting at the store with no one paying attention to you,” she told International Business Times of doing solo signings.

After doing a few independent, or indie, signings with other authors, a blogger suggested to Armentrout that she have her own event to celebrate the release of one of her new series. Taking the advice to heart, ApollyCon was born. In 2015, the inaugural event took place in Philadelphia to both commemorate the first book of her “Titan” series, as well as give readers the opportunity to have some face-time with 40 other authors she invited to attend.

Now, Armentrout is busy interacting with attendees at her sold-out, fourth annual ApollyCon, which is running Friday through Sunday in Washington, D.C.

That first year, though, the event took place over the course of a few hours of just one day, with about 400 to 500 tickets sold. After proving that she was able to create this event and get a decent amount of people to attend, Armentrout decided to continue building the convention, while also still working on the books she writes each year.  Though she was forced to cut down from eight books a year to four, she still writes just about every day of the week. 

Numerous new novels and running a small event weren’t enough, though. She wanted to grow ApollyCon each year, fleshing out fresh ideas and incorporating them for both attendees and authors to enjoy. Despite realizing that “putting together events is not easy” and having a “whole newfound respect for events organizers,” Armentrout set out to make each year’s installment even better, tacking on a second day of events for 2017’s edition and a third for 2018’s.

“Each book signing is like putting together a wedding that you’re expecting 1500 attendees to come to,” she told IBT. “It can be fairly difficult to pull off. One of the things is that, as I did the first year, and then we did the second year in Savannah, I knew that I wanted to grow ApollyCon into something more, that wasn’t just one signing and an after-party. I wanted to eventually combine it into having panels for readers to attend.”

jennifer Armentrout Jennifer L. Armentrout is the author of dozens of novels and the creator of ApollyCon. Photo: Franggy Yanez Photography

She brought in organizers Stephanie Brown and Hannah McBride, who have been in the blogging community for years and attended many events, to help with the expansion. With the new assistance, she’s successfully grown ApollyCon from a one-day event in 2015 with a few hundred guests to a sold-out, three-day convention this year with over 1,400 readers and authors.

“In Orlando, last year, that’s the first year we were able to move it into the two-day event and then this year is going to be the first year that it’s going to be a full three-day event,” Armentrout said. “Depending on how everything goes this year, and whether or not we have it in the budget, we’ll probably end up expanding it, not beyond three days, but having maybe a couple more things added into there.”

Without expanding the event into four days, the author explained that she’d like to possibly add more panels, screenings or parties to next year’s affair, depending on how everything turns out this time around. She’s able to slowly grow the gathering each year because that’s what all of the money from the convention goes towards. All of the money made and profits earned are immediately thrown back into it. That’s why this business of book conventions, isn’t really a business at all, but simply a venture that came out of a personal desire to not sign alone.

“Any type of money that we do make as an extra, which is most of the time a couple thousand, if that, immediately goes into the next year with the deposit on the hotel,” Armentrout said. “ApollyCon costs for 2018, this year, is costing us about $75,000 to $80,000, and that’s in hotel space. Because they’re not cheap to have your events at, especially when you’re reserving multiple rooms and we’re reserving the largest rooms they have because we’re also increasing how many authors we have at ApollyCon this year.”

Just how far in advance does she have to plan these events? In the midst of her 2018 ApollyCon, she’s working to book the hotel space for 2020’s occasion, which means she’s already funneling any of the small profits she made from selling all of the tickets right back into the venture. As one can tell, Armentrout doesn’t work hard on all of this for the money, but she instead does it for herself, other authors and the readers who come out to see them.

While some other book conventions might be able to turn a small profit for keeps, Armentrout makes a bit less than others because she cares more about making sure the event is an accessible experience for all involved. Most conventions require authors to pay a table fee anywhere from $100 to $500 to attend, but not ApollyCon.

“We do not charge the authors anything to sign at ApollyCon or The Origins Event, which is the secondary event that we are starting to run this year,” she said. “As an author I know how expensive it is to attend events, because you have to factor in travel and hotel, many of these authors are indie authors, so they have to factor in the cost of printing these books and shipping them to the venue to sell. Most authors do not make their money back at events… So, one thing I wanted to make sure that with my events, ApollyCon and The Origin Event, was that I’m never in a situation or a position where I then have to charge the author to be able to pay for the event.”

Though many authors don’t make back the money they spend on participating in events, they attend for the exposure they’ll get. Plus, as Armentrout learned last year, it’s not just exposure that authors can get at ApollyCon and events like it,  but also potential movie and TV deals.

“Last year, at ApollyCon, I’m sitting at my table and I think it’s right before my signing started and one of the publicists comes up and introduces me to Joany Kane, as working for PassionFlix, and she talks to me and says, ‘We’re huge fans of your work and we’re really interested in the ‘Wicked’ series and we would like to talk you more about it.’”

Though she’d heard a little bit about PassionFlix, which is a new streaming service focused on licensing romance movies and creating new ones based on novels, she was still a bit suspicious of the encounter. Armentrout had a few of her other books optioned for movie and TV, but nothing had ever ended up working out, which she now knows is common. Plus, she gets emails every day from people claiming they want to adapt her novels, when, in reality, most of them are simply “bored people on the internet.” Still, she wanted to do her due diligence about this opportunity and get more information.

“After they walked away from my table, I had gone outside, because I saw the publicist standing outside,” she said. “So, I go outside and I have very, very bad eyesight, I have a degenerate eye disease, so I’m gonna use that as an excuse. She was standing with someone and I couldn’t see who it was and I walked up and was like, ‘So, that person that you brought me, were they being serious or were they just a crock of [expletive]?’ And it was her standing next to the publicist. And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so embarrassing.’

It all turned out more than okay as Armentrout later spoke with the co-founders of PassionFlix on the phone and found out they just thought she was funny and were not offended. ApollyCon and the subsequent phone call led to Armentrout landing the adaptation deal and her “Wicked” series is now in the works with the streaming platform as its first series, with six episodes set to be filmed and dropped all at once.

While there’s no release date set for the series, Armentrout and her fans have more than enough to keep them busy in the meantime. Aside from ApollyCon this weekend, the author just released “The Prophecy,” the final book in her “Titan” series, has her publication of “Moonlight Seduction” set for June 26 and is gearing up for The Origin Event on Nov. 3.

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