So, you’ve got your comic all finished, printed, and ready to sell. You’ve spent years going to comic conventions as a fan and now you’re ready to be on the other side of the table, peddling your wares on your way to fame and fortune. Chances are you’ve got a table in the Small Press section (or Artist Alley, depending on the show,) your book and your banner. Now what?
My first comic convention was Heroescon in Charlotte, NC. We had a Small Press table way in the back of the hall and we were ready to sell, sell, SELL! We did that for a few years with a book called GravyBoy and did fairly well. I think we sold 100 books one year at that show — for an indie book in the back of a convention, that’s phenomenal.
However, we made our share of mistakes as we climbed the convention learning curve and witnessed others wrestling with their own peculiar brand of foibles. So how can you sell hundreds of books at conventions?
I really have no idea, we only did it that once (well, twice counting SDCC, but that’s another world entirely) and there were many more shows where we sold 50, 25 — or none — and came away tired with boxes full of books.
Well, maybe it’s not completely true to say I have no idea. GravyBoy has (if I do say so myself) a good hook. It was easy to sell because the pitch intrigued people. So I know that you need 1) a good hook (or pitch) and 2) a good story to back it up.
So, let’s assume you have the comic version of Citizen Kane and you’re sure people are going to be reading it well after your death. That is, if only you could get them to buy it. How do you rise above the din and stand out among so many other independent creators?
Okay, NOW I have no idea. But I can help you not become the bane of artist alley as you try to figure it out for yourself.
1) DON’T BE A USED CAR SALESMAN
I was at a show once where the guy next to me came in acting like he was in between shifts at Willy’s Used Cars and selling watches on the corner of Broadway and 44th. The comic book community is small, and if you stick with it any length of time you’re going to keep running into the same creators over and over. So, try not to annoy the guys and girls who end up being your convention neighbors.
This particular creator’s tactic was as follows
– Make eye contact with everyone walking down the aisle, even if they’re nowhere near his table.
– Start yelling his sales pitch well before they reach his table.
– Pitch his book to people who walk up to my table.
– Keep laying on the used car dealer talk as they walk away.
The last one is what began to wear on me since people wanted to simply get away from him as fast as possible, which meant they were not stopping at anyone else’s tables, including mine.
Also, in the middle of all this he kept calling me “Bri-guy.”
Look, I get it. I know you’ve got to get people’s attention. But even when I walk around the convention halls now I have a tendency to keep my eye out for the used car salesmans and avoid their aisles altogether. Don’t be that guy.
2) DON’T HAVE A LOUD CONTEST/ MUSIC/ SHOUT/ SING OR DISPLAY YOUR MUSICAL PROWESS
Yes, you’re very talented. Thanks for sharing it with us.
People out on the show floor with booths can get away with a lot of noise. Back in the tables, however, it overpowers everything else and the other artists will give you the evil eye as they collectively try to light your head on fire with their stares.
We did a contest when we first started and it was loud. To everyone that was within earshot of it, I’m sorry. Please don’t set my head on fire.
I guess ultimately what I’m trying to say here is be considerate of those around you. Try to be personable, give the pitch to those who are interested, and avoid gimmicks. If your book is good you won’t need them and in the long run it’s better to build solid relationships with those in the trenches with you. Don’t try to drown everyone else out.