Comic Book Resources just posted up a new interview with me all about Wayward. We talk about Japanese culture, anime influences, Buffy, and creator-owned sales. Click on through to give it a read.
I’ve talked about a variety of different subjects related to creator-owned comics- writing craft, networking, promotion, and economics, but one of the areas I haven’t focused on (until now) is a big one: selling at conventions.
I’ve been attending conventions as a professional since 2002 and in the past 13 years I’ve exhibited at over a hundred conventions of all stripes- big pop culture shows, indy comic markets, educational festivals, library conferences, and classic comic cons. Each one has its own feel and its own set of challenges. There’s no possible way for me to give advice that can cover every convention eventuality, but I wanted to put together some key points for things I’ve learned through trial and error that now saves me a lot of stress and is helping get my work out to a larger audience.
First off, let’s talk about expectations and being prepared.
If you’re heading to a convention with the intent of selling or promoting your work and getting your foot in the door but you’ve never done this before, you need to make sure you’re realistic about your goals. You will not make piles of money. You will not sell hundreds of books. You will not be plucked out of a crowd by your favorite publisher and be given a contract that promises fame and fortune. Get that crazy crap out of your head. Conventions are great, but don’t spend money you can’t afford with delusions of grandeur.
If everything goes well you’ll have some fun, make some new friends, and could make a bit of money. As I’ve covered in my post on networking, some of the people you meet may end up being valuable contacts down the road, but it’s hard to tell where these things will lead.
Start local. If your city or a city within driving distance has a convention, that’s a safe bet. If you’re lucky enough to live in a well known convention city (I’m sure we could name a dozen, but off the top of my head let’s say New York, San Diego, Chicago, Seattle, or Toronto) then that’s no problem but with the proliferation of convention culture it’s easier than ever to find somewhere to set up.
Plan as far in advance as you can, especially if this is your first time travelling to a particular city. You’re better off pushing a convention appearance to next year than you are rushing into a show without a plan or proper materials. I can pull together a convention trip last minute now if I have to, but I’d much rather not.
Here’s how my table looked at Fan Expo Canada in 2014:
(My new banner is a set of four that roll up quite small and, thanks to the grommets on each one, I can swap in new ones depending on which projects I’m promoting at each show. I also have a free-standing banner for shows where they don’t have pipe-and-drape set up.)
It’s the largest solo set up I’ve had at a show so far and, thankfully, it ran pretty smoothly because I planned ahead.
Here are some basic questions you should be able to answer while you’re getting ready:
What is the focal point of your table and how are you going to display that in a way that’s clear and easy to interact with? This is where attending other conventions or checking out photos of cons online can be a lot of help.
When you’re just starting out you probably don’t have much product, so this is pretty easy but, even still, early on I would measure a plot on my dining room table equal to the Artist Alley space I was about to get, tape it off and then pre-set up that space to see how it looked from both sides of the table. From there I could make adjustments and double check that everything fit properly. Once you do that a few times you’ll get a good handle on how much space is needed for product and signage.
If you’re going to be sketching at the table, is there enough room to do that? Self explanatory.
Do you have an inventory list and are you keeping track of your expenses? Even if you’re just doing this for fun, it’s helpful to know how much you’ve spent versus how much you make when you’re setting up at a show. It doesn’t have to be high tech. A simple check list for product and envelope to stuff receipts in is good enough to start.
Do you have supplies you might need over the course of the day? Here’s a quick list of basics that are always helpful to have in your convention travel pack:
• A money float so you can easily make change
• Your business cards
• Your portfolio (physical or digitally on a tablet)
• Book or other display stands
• Charge cords for your tech (If you’re a real keener, bring a power bar/multi-outlet too.)
• Pens, pencils, sharpies (thick and regular) and any other art supplies
• Post-it notes, extra paper
• Invisible tape and packing tape
• Clips, rubber bands, and safety pins
• An exacto-knife and pair of utility scissors
• A few feet of dark fabric to cover the table/product when you’re not there
• Granola bars and a couple bottles of water
• A small bottle of Aspirin and/or Tylenol
• Hand sanitizer and breath mints
At the end of each day/end of the show you should look over that list and restock anything that ran out.
Speaking of which, is your set up portable? Getting your supplies and product manageable and moveable is important, especially if you’re setting up by yourself. Get everything you need gathered in one place and make sure you (or you and people helping you) can actually carry it all. Imagine you have to do that while using an escalator or a packed elevator.
On the other hand, if it’s going to take multiple trips to get all your stuff into the show, do you know where load-in is happening and where you’ll need to park? Save yourself frustration and find out ahead of time.
Do you know where things are at the show? Find your table on the map. Write it down so you don’t forget. Locate washrooms and key booths you might want to visit ahead of time so you’re not scrambling trying to figure that out when the show is under way and probably crazy.
Do you know the area around the convention center/hotel? If not, do some research on restaurants, parking, the closest copy shop, and closest post office or Fed Ex. The better informed you are about the area, the easier things will be over the weekend. It’s also nice to be able to recommend places to go after hours.
Going to conventions has proved to be a big boost for my career. Many of the comic projects I’ve done can be traced back to the wonderful people I met at shows and the conversations we had there. A great convention reminds you about the energy and excitement that comes from this industry and, ideally, puts a few bucks in your pocket at the same time.
In future articles I’ll talk about pricing, selling, and travelling to other countries for shows.
Both IDW series I’m working on had new issues arrive last week. Let’s see what critics thought of Legends of Baldur’s Gate #4 and Samurai Jack #16…
• Bleeding Cool: “Jim Zub’s script continues to be incredibly well written, and intense. There’s really never a dull moment.”
• Comics Online: 4.5/5 “There’s a reason that fantasy comics are dominating my pull-list, and his name is Jim Zub.”
• Fanboy Comics: “Dunbar is keeping it tight with the visuals as usual. He’s got such a keen sense of drawing combat; there are no wasted panels or energy, every strike makes complete sense, and the subtlety of maneuvers is stellar to witness.”
• Fanboy Nation: “Dungeons and Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate continues to be a tremendously fun sword and sorcery book recommended to all fans of the genre.”
• Geeks With Wives: 8.5/10 “The creative team isn’t just telling us a story and leaving it at that, they’re beautifully and completely describing and coloring the details of Baldur’s Gate for us to explore with our eyes.”
• Nerdy But Flirty: “There’s an awesome fight sequence in the last section of the book, and I love how Max Dunbar can make static images have a feeling of motion/action.”
• Reading With a Flight Ring: “There’s no doubt in my mind that this is exactly what comics are about and it should be read by all.”
• Shadowhawk’s Shade: 9.5/10 “Legends of Baldur’s Gate is, first and foremost, a story about a band of misfits and screw-ups who come together under some really extraordinary circumstances.”
• Comic Bastards: “I didn’t think that Samurai Jack could get better than the last story arc, but I think the Master of Time could give Aku a run for his money.”
• IGN: 8.6/10 “New artist Sergio Quijada fits right in with the book’s general aesthetic, bringing a real sense of energy to Jack’s quest and plenty of visual gags for good measure. “
• Rock! Shock! Pop!: “All in all, another great chapter – bring on the next installment!”
• Shadowhawk’s Shade: 10/10 “The dialogue is, as ever, sharp and to the point with Jim wasting not a moment on any inconsequentials along the way.”
Over on ComicPow, writer Eric Mesa writes up an editorial/review all about Wayward and compares it to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (like we did in our initial marketing for the series). Click on through and give it a read.
“…this is one comic I’m going to be making sure I make time to read. And for someone without a lot of free time, I can’t think of better praise.”
It’s been a really fun day filled with nostalgia as hundreds of people have posted cover images to four different comics that influenced them growing up. Seeing the variety of comics, familiar and new, and the enthusiasm people have for their favorites has been really inspiring and enjoyable. Thanks for reminding me why I love this community so much.
Here are my four:
Dr. Strange #55: Stellar Michael Golden art and an incredible done-in-one tale of loss and redemption.
G.I.Joe #21: The original silent issue. Masterful storytelling. I pored over every page until my copy fell apart.
Amazing Spider-Man #230: The ultimate underdog story as Spidey battles Juggernaut. I was absolutely riveted by the intensity of this issue.
Uncanny X-Men #190: My favorite super heroes in a brutal sword & sorcery alternate dimension? Yessssss~!
Chris Sims at Comics Alliance has posted up a new editorial all about the Samurai Jack comic series. I’m thrilled with the praise he gives our team for the hard work we put into the series and the way it carries on the legacy of the award-winning cartoon. Give it a read!
“‘Epic’ is a word that gets tossed around a lot, but Samurai Jack lives up to it. It’s a vast adventure that works on multiple levels, and if you haven’t been reading the series, it’s absolutely worth catching up.”
Arriving in April… Pre-order now!
story: JIM ZUB
art: STEVE CUMMINGS & TAMRA BONVILLAIN
cover A: STEVE CUMMINGS & TAMRA BONVILLAIN
cover B: SIE NANAHARA
APRIL 29 / 32 PAGES / FC / M / $3.50
IMAGE’S SUPERNATURAL SENSATION CONTINUES!
Ayane and Nokaido rail against the growing supernatural forces rising up in Tokyo, but are they on the right side of the conflict?
“Wayward is a truly wonderful and beautiful book on every level.” – Mind Capsules
Cover A is part 2 of a 5 part panorama by Steve Cummings and Tamra Bonvillain. Buy all 5 issues of this story arc to fit them together into a massive Wayward illustration.
Cover B is a variant cover by acclaimed Japanese illustrator Sie Nanahara (Shinobigami, Load of Vermillion).
Arriving in April… Pre-order now!
story: JIM ZUB
art: EDWIN HUANG & MISTY COATS
cover: EDWIN HUANG & JEFF “CHAMBA” CRUZ
APRIL 29 / 32 PAGES / FC / T / $3.50
“INFINITE ICONS OF THE ENDLESS EPIC,” Part Two
Monster mashers, elder evil, and now deadly demons… Everyone’s invited for the brawl at the end of it all!
This issue has the first of two connecting gatefold covers by EDWIN HUANG & JEFF “CHAMBA” CRUZ. Get this one and next month’s issue to put together the ultimate Skullkickers battle panorama!
Image Comics has announced a direct subscription mail service for their ongoing comic titles, deliverable anywhere in the continental USA. If you don’t have a comic shop nearby or you just want the convenience of receiving new Image comics delivered right to you then you can sign up for Image Direct. The more titles you subscribe to, the greater discount you’ll receive.
Included in the Image Direct listing is WAYWARD, my new comic series co-created with Steve Cummings. If you’ve been wanting to stay on top of Wayward and don’t have a chance to head to your local comic shop on a regular basis, I hope you’ll consider subscribing.
Image Comics has teamed up with the Humble Bundle team to offer a stunning set of digital comics for a ridiculously low price.
• You’ll get $333 worth of Image digital comics.
• You can pay what you want (but even more comics are available if you pay more than the $15 average).
• The digital comics are DRM free.
• You’re helping to support great charity causes.
Each day there’s also a free single issue you can download even if you don’t buy the bundle, and today’s is WAYWARD #1, so if you haven’t read my new creator-owned series now is the perfect time to give it a shot and enjoy a slew of other comics at the same time. Please help spread the word and share the link!