Conventional Wisdom – Part Two – The Experience

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. Last time I covered getting prepared, now let’s talk about interacting with people at the show.

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I’m happy to report that the past two years at conventions have been my best in terms of sales. Part of that is because I have a lot of books at different publishers going at the same time, but that’s not the only reason I think my sales are up. Doing well at conventions is an alchemical mix of visibility, product, fan base, price point, and salesmanship… and it varies from show to show.

Each convention has its own feel. If you want to make the most of the convention ‘circuit’ you have to figure out which types of shows work best for you and try new ones to expand your reach and engage new readers. Convention culture changes, it evolves. Unfortunately you can’t do the same thing each time and expect the same results. With the growth of fan culture and the expansion of conventions all over the world, a very large and different crowd of people are now attending and if you’re not a major creator doing high profile work you’re going to have to adjust with the times in order to succeed.

Everything is changing quickly thanks to technology and the nature of our collectible culture (of which comics are smack dab in the middle of) is undergoing massive upheaval. It alters the way we consume media and you need to understand that when you’re sitting behind a table trying to sell your wares to strangers.

When we were younger, having a collection was a big deal: music, books, movies, whatever. It was part of our geek identity. Now we all have massive digital movie, book, and music collections at our fingertips and it’s changed the way we value and obtain media. Some people still collect whole hog, but many fans are far more focused/selective than they used to be. Selling entertainment is tougher than ever because it’s plentiful and cheap.

What cuts through all of those difficulties is the value of an experience. People in 2015 don’t just want to buy “stuff”, they want something special. They go to prestigious restaurants with unique menus. They throw elaborate theme parties. They travel to far off places and make sure they snap a photo to prove they were there. More than ever before the experience is just as valuable (maybe even more valuable) as what they purchase.

If people can buy things cheaper online (or for nothing if they pirate it) or more conveniently at their local comic shop, you have to give them an experience and offer something unique they can’t get anywhere else in order to consistently make sales at conventions.

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Here’s how I do it: I offer me; the interaction, the signature, and my genuine appreciation of you, the reader. The experience is enthusiastically getting a comic from the person who makes it. I do everything I can to make that connection and give people a positive convention encounter.

When someone comes up to my table, it’s not just a cold “purchase and go” scenario. It’s a social interaction and it has to be genuine. They might buy something but they’re also having an engaging conversation, something personal and hopefully memorable. I have a handful of seconds to make an impression and, if it goes well, they might be a loyal reader from then on.

Whatever you do, don’t just talk about yourself. Ask people about their day, where they came from, what they’re most excited about at the show. Listen just as much as you speak. If you see that they have an Exhibitor or Pro badge, ask about their work or how the show is going for them. Make it a two way interaction instead of a one way sales pitch and you’ll be surprised how much more receptive people will be to hearing about what you do and possibly supporting it with a purchase.

Don’t stereotype the people looking at your work. Some of the most enjoyable conversations I’ve had at shows were with people who you wouldn’t peg as “fans” in the typical sense. The convention experience is broader and more inclusive than ever before and with shows like The Walking Dead doing record numbers on TV and movies like The Avengers crushing at the box office people are more open to reading comics than they have been in a long time. Talk to everyone and you’ll be surprised how many might be receptive.

Does that sound obvious? Sure, but I still see dozens of creators, new and old, putting their stuff on a table and ignoring people unless money is coming out of their wallet. They make the whole thing commerce first, and it’s a real turn off for most attendees. Worse still, if sales are poor at the start of a show their attitude worsens as the weekend carries on, creating a negative feedback loop that’s almost impossible to pull out of – People suck because sales suck and so the show sucks.

For me, interacting with people is part of the joy of doing conventions. I get to leave my solitary workspace at home and meet people who enjoy what I do while also encouraging new readers to jump on board and read the stories I create. That enthusiasm carries through in how I interact with the people who come by my table and it’s helped me do well at conventions near and far.

When I finish a day at a show, my throat is hoarse and my brain is fried. I push really hard to be ‘on’ at conventions. Ask anyone who’s met me. I genuinely love it, but it can be exhausting. I totally understand if that approach is not for everyone, especially if you’re not normally socially gregarious. I don’t have a foolproof way of generating sales for everyone, just a bit of advice on engaging the audience that’s worked well for me.

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If you have something of quality and want to make an impression, think about the people you’re selling to and make it an enjoyable experience for them instead of focusing solely on the monetary transaction that benefits you.

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 setting up your table, pricing, and travelling to other countries for shows.

If you find my sales and tutorial blogposts helpful, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share them with your friends, and consider buying some of my comics to show your support. Thanks!

Another Castle Interview

I was interviewed by Tom Speelman from Another Castle about a bunch of different things I’m working on, including Wayward, Samurai Jack, Skullkickers, Conan-Red Sonja, and teaching at Seneca. Check it out by clicking HERE.

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Wayward on Space Channel!

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Innerspace, SPACE Channel’s pop culture new program, ran a short segment on Wayward last week. It was filmed during our trade launch at the Silver Snail here in Toronto. Click on through to check it out.

Wayward Vol. 1 Reviews!

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Wayward Volume 1: String Theory arrived in comic shops last week and the response has been incredible. So, so proud of our whole team on this and am overjoyed that current and new readers alike are picking it up and enjoying it. Here’s the response from reviewers so far…

Amazon.com: “★★★★½”

Comicosity: “Writer Jim Zub and artist Steve Cummings go above and beyond, in terms of their research for this series, ranging from Tokyo architecture to Japanese ghost lore and history.”

Forces of Geek: ” Wayward emerges as a coming of age tale about finding one’s own identity as an outsider and adapting to a new world through non-cultural similarities with others, creating a relatable narrative for anyone who has ever had to adapt to a new environment with other people who also are new and/or don’t quite fit in.”

Geeked Out Nation: 10/10 “Wayward is a fantastic series and this trade is absolutely something you need to pick up. It’s for fans of manga, magic, Japanese culture and kick ass female leads. It features beautiful art and thoughtful back matter. “Wayward” is a winner and easily deserves the title of ‘trade of the month’.”

Geeks of Doom: “These first five issues do an excellent job of setting up some good ongoing mysteries as well as an interesting cast and a unique setting for everyone to play in.”

Good Reads: 4/5 “I really enjoyed the first volume of Wayward. It has a lot going for it with an interesting narrative, cool characters, and gorgeous art with even better looking fight scenes.”

It’s Super Effective: “If you don’t read indy comics and you want to start, read Wayward. It’s my favorite series at the moment. It’s absolutely perfect.”

Maxx’s Super Awesome Comic Review Show: “They’re really outdoing everyone now. Crushing it.”

Moar Powah: “the art is fantastic on all fronts. The action is always clear and easy to follow, which works out well for someone who sometimes get confused when it comes to reading panels”

Pop Matters: 8/10 “Wayward is well worth a read – let’s hope this one sticks around for a while.”

Starburst: 8/10 “Cummings’ art is pleasantly detailed, right down to the background kanji, which gives Japanese speakers hints and clues on the plot.”



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Wayward Vol. 1
String Theory

(issues #1-5)

Rori Lane is trying to start a new life when she reunites with her mother in Japan, but ancient creatures lurking in the shadows of Tokyo sense something hidden deep within her, threatening everything she holds dear. Can she unlock the secrets of her power before it’s too late?

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Wayward and Weird Japan Video Now Online

At Emerald City Comicon Zack Davisson (professional translator and mythology expert) and I talked about Japanese myths, spirits, and the strange, along with how I evolved some of those for my creator-owned series Wayward.

Jenna, one of our fans, recorded most of the panel and has posted it online. Thanks, Jenna!

Convention Horror Stories Panel Audio Now Online

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Jamie Coville recorded audio from this year’s infamous Convention Horror Stories panel from Emerald City Comicon that Katie Cook (My Little Pony) and I were on. If you’ve always wondered about what it’s like to meet people at more than a dozen conventions a year and what kind of trouble we can get ourselves into, this one’s for you. Please keep in mind that this audio is most definitely not safe for work and includes quite a bit of swearing.

For a rundown of other panels Jamie recorded at the show, click HERE.

Wayward #6 and Skullkickers #31 Reviews!

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Wayward #6 and Skullkickers #31, both the first part of their respective story arcs, arrived in stores last week and the response has been wonderful! Let’s see what reviewers thought…

All-Comic: 4/5 “…with the masterful art team of Steve Cummings and Tamra Bonvillain at the helm, the story couldn’t be in better hands.”

The Beat: “While there is a hefty amount of Japanese culture depicted in the story, there is also clean lines and bright coloring that move this story closer towards American comic book art standards.”

Big Glasgow: 9/10 “The detail in which Japanese culture is depicted in Wayward is fantastic.”

Black Ship Books: “Wayward #6 is the perfect jumping-on point for new readers, so if you have any interest in Japanese folklore or teens fighting the supernatural, this is the book for you.”

Brittlejules: “If you enjoy Japanese supernatural stories and monsters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ghosts, cats, and troubled teens with strange powers, then you should definitely check out Wayward.”

Comic Book Bin: “This comic book is like one big enchantment that draws me into the story. I guess I am not the only reader who wants to live in the world of this series.”

Comics the Gathering: 10/10 “This art team lays waste to so many other books. I can’t wrap my head around how they’re able to produce pages of this quality so quickly.”

Comix I Read: 4.5/5 “The new arc started very strong and I am very excited to conitnue reading WAYWARD for its Wayworld.”

Fandom Post: B+ “The book is definitely a welcome return to my reading schedule as Jim Zub handles the narration very well, making it engaging and interesting”

Horror Talk: 4/5 “Writer Jim Zub has an incredible talent for character development. Each of the students in Wayward feels like a real person.”

The Latest Pull: 8.5/10 “I went in to this book with a bit of cautious scepticism, but was pleasantly surprised by this new beginning and I expect good things in the future.”

Major Spoilers: 9/10 “Wayward #6, in particular, is a treat for readers of the series. We get to see the world, characters and magical elements we are familiar with, but through a fresh pair of eyes.”

Moar Powah: 4/5 “Wayward #6 brings in teases of what’s to come. We wonder what’s to become of our new and old protagonists.”

Outright Geekery: 10/10 ” So long as Jim Zub and Steve Cummings continue to deliver a great series, I will continue to recommend this series.”

Reading With a Flight Ring: “the characters and characterization is simply superb and demonstrates why I’ll follow Jim to whatever he writes”

Telltale Mind: 8/10 “With an ending to the story that can only be called mysterious, Zub and Cummings draw you back into this world and all that can be said is that it is good to be back.”

Third Eye Spotlight: “It’s great storytelling, great writing, and we can’t get enough.”

TM Stash: 9/10 “I have trouble deciding what impresses me more with this book – the exceptional script or the beautiful artwork”

Under the Comic Covers: “Another wonderfully paced issue. A great mix of mystery and action.”

We The Nerdy: 8.5/10 “The art too, is still fantastic. The battle at the end looks great, and some of the strange paranormal events that Ohara experiences are all great looking.”

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Comic Bastards: 10/10 “You have no excuse why this book isn’t in your life.”

Comics Alliance: “Skullkickers has been one of the great dark horse stories of the last few years, and it’s fantastic to see that it’s been able to go so long and maintain the fun”

Comix I Read: 4.5/5 “Skullkickers #31 channels the energy of a drunken game of D&D with your friends. It takes everything you love about the fantasy genre but throws in a laugh every half a second.”

Newsarama: 8/10 “This issue of Skullkickers, like those before it, makes a great example of how comics can be just fun and still be completely successful.”

Panel Culture: “Edwin Huang is just fantastic on these fight scenes. They’re dynamic, they’re fun, and Misty Coats’ colors are vibrant.”

Unleash the Fanboy: 9/10 “Equal parts lore, story and fun, Skullkickers #31 is a well-rounded stable issue that eagerly kicks back into the swing of things.”

Great Big Beautiful Podcast Interview

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I was interviewed by the gang at GeekDad on their Great Big Beautiful podcast and I’m really happy with how this one turned out. we talk about working with the Disney Imagineering team on Figment, finding the voice for a series, and juggling multiple projects. Give it a listen!

Mega-Zub Comic Release Day!

Thanks to the shipping strike that happened in California and a couple printing delays a bunch of my comic titles have synced up, leading to the craziest new comic book day of my career so far:
6 new books from 4 different publishers all arriving in comic shops TODAY!

Yeah, it’s ridiculous.

Click on any of the covers below to read preview pages from each of the books:

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As always, thank you for your support!

Zub at Emerald City Comicon This Weekend!

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This weekend convention season 2015 kicks into overdrive with the wondrous Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, Washington! It’s one of my favorite shows every year and this time it’s going to be extra-special as I’ll be there celebrating the release of WAYWARD Vol. 1 and the arrival of WAYWARD #6 and SKULLKICKERS #31!

Here is where you can find some of my artistic collaborators and I at the show:


JIM ZUB – Table HH-11
ANDY SURIANO (Samurai Jack artist) – Table HH-12
EDWIN HUANG (Skullkickers artist) – Booth 1702
MAX DUNBAR (D&D: Legends of Baldur’s Gate artist) – Table HH-10
ZACK DAVISSON (Wayward essays) – Table F-14

Image and Emerald City Comicon teamed up to create a limited hardcover edition of Wayward Vol. 1: String Theory for the show. It’s limited to only 250 copies and I’ll be selling them at the table for $30 each as long as they last.

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I’ll also have a selection of issues, sketch covers, trade paperbacks, and variants from my other series there as well: Skullkickers, Samurai Jack, D&D: Legends of Baldur’s Gate, Conan-Red Sonja, Munchkin, Wayward, and more!

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Here’s a list of signings and panels I’ll be on over the weekend:

FRIDAY MARCH 27th
Writers Unite: Pitching and Writing Comic Stories
11:30AM – 12:20PM in Hall F (TCC 304)
Comics are everywhere and publishers are looking for fresh ideas from a new generation of talent. Listen closely as creators Charles Soule (Death of Wolverine, Letter 44), Kieron Gillen (Young Avengers, Wicked + the Divine), and moderator Jim Zub (Samurai Jack, Wayward) discuss pitching story concepts and offer advice on climbing to the top of the treacherous submission mountain, along with writing techniques and amusing anecdotes.

Wayward and Weird Japan
2:50PM – 3:40PM in Hall E (TCC 303)
Dive into the weird world of the hit series Wayward from Image Comics. Series writer Jim Zub and back matter writer and Japanese folklore expert Zack Davisson take you on a tour of the mystical menagerie of Japan’s Yōkai.

4:00PM – 4:50PM Gail Simone and Jim Zub sign at the Dark Horse booth (BOOTH 802)

SATURDAY MARCH 28th
Convention Horror Stories
1:50PM – 2:40PM in Hall E (TCC 303)
Join Katie Cook (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic) and Jim Zub (Samurai Jack) for their fan-favorite con horror stories panel! What’s it like working as a pro in the business on the convention ‘circuit’? Ridiculous, embarrassing, always entertaining. Some stories will make you laugh out loud, some will make you cringe! This panel is recommended for those 18+

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