Wednesday, October 10

Before the Show and Page Previews

Preview pages! The comic hits the streets this Saturday at the Asheville Comic Expo!

So, let's say you want to work a table at a comic convention. And let's stipulate you've already gotten your comic written, drawn/colored, lettered, paginated, printed, and in your house. What now?

Here's what I've done to get ready for expo:

1) Advertise
Yes, the people running the convention will get the word out. That's part of their job. But part of YOUR job -- your obligation to market your creation (assuming you want to get some return on your investment of time and money) -- is to make sure people know you and your product will be at the show. Conventions can get confusing, even with a tidy arrangement of tables. They are set up to offer a buffet. You want them to at least sample your entree and, if possible, to exclusively dine upon your vittles. The other guys want to sell their stuff. You want to sell yours. I'm all for friendly competition; the industry (and if you're making a comic, even a mini, you're in the industry) doesn't need more drama. Convention visitors will make up their own minds about what they wish to spend and how much they want to take home. That's their decision, not yours.

Social media is great for people who follow you, people who know you do this sort of thing. But conventions attract many casual comic fans and non-readers. Those are people you'd like to meet. When I decided to make a comic based on a rollergirl, it made sense to advertise where roller derby fans would see it: the bout programs. I've run three ads (so there's advertising budgeting, program communication, and ad creation). I could have also advertised in the local comic stores. Possibly the local alt-weekly, if I had the coin.There's also street corner flyers and bulletin boards and message boards, etc. Get the word out. Build curiosity or interest or demand. When you make your comic, do not assume the world will come to you. Meet it halfway.

2) Make the extras
For the curious folks who attend a convention but have no active interest in buying comics, I want to broaden my market. I like to offer sketch cards with prices for color and black/white art. This means choosing what you want to draw and what might sell. These are not synonymous. I was surprised at HeroesCon to get multiple requests for Black Panther. Luckily, he's pretty easy to draw. Movie Bane? NOT EASY TO DRAW. I printed a reference picture when that request comes in. I also made reference sheets for major movie and TV franchises. It used to be easier to draw The Avengers. Now that the mainstream audience associates those characters with specific actors, they're more likely to buy a sketch if the art resembles the performers. Comic fans are more lenient. They'll take a decent-looking Tony Stark. Movie fans want Robert Downey Jr.

I'm also offering template sheets for folks to make their own character. I drew vague outlines and designed a page encouraging people to try their hand at making a hero. I'll charge a nominal fee to cover printing (and afford supper). It makes for a cheap souvenir or a freebie I can throw in to close the deal of a comic purchase. Buy a five-pack of comics for $10? Have a free sketch card. Maybe a free character template. That latter idea came from my HeroesCon table mate Meredith Randazzo, and it seemed to finalize a number of comic sales.

I'm taking a portfolio of sketches and comic pages for sale. You may think it's junk, but someone else might really love that five-minute Wonder Woman doodle. Set your prices and label the pieces but prepare to haggle. 

3) Plan for the Show
Where's the nearest food stand? Bathroom? Will you have a partner there who can spell you at the table while you eat/pee? Do you want to see the rest of the show? Who's gonna mind the table while you do this? Make displays for your comics to help them stand out. Comics lying flat on the table will not catch the eye of someone more than five feet away. Vertical stands are cheap at office supply stores. I bought photo clips to hold certain sketch cards off the table. I also made price signs. How will you carry all that stuff to the show? Pack at least a day in advance so your brain will have time to remember that thing you need before the show. Pack snacks and napkins. Messes are obligatory.

Since I got my comics last week, I've:
  • designed and printed character templates
  • prepared photo reference sheets
  • started some sketchcards
  • started a sketch on a larger page size to work on during the show (people enjoy seeing the process), designed & printed & adhered labels on the 5-pack envelopes (with suggested comic reading order and website address)
  • bought extra supplies for me
  • bought extra supplies for the folks who might wanna work on their templates at the table (if there's room), and printed more business cards.
  • planned and posted daily reminders/teasers on my social media 
  • created updated listing codes in PayPal for my online listings
  • tweaked this site a tad
Sounds like a job. It is a job. I wanna get paid, yo. 

Also, keep track of what you make and what you spent to get it. Note in on your taxes. You'll probably get  deductions/refunds.


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