#23: Baltimore Comic-Con:
Thoughts from my First Big Show- Part II
I'm back to wrap up my reflections on the October 10-11 Baltimore Comic Con. As I said in last week's column, Baltimore was the biggest show I've done so far, and as with any time you do something new, it was a learning experience. So, here are five more take-aways from a great show.
# 6. Get in the habit of good record keeping. Last week, I broke down all the costs associated with attending BCC, and also shared my sales results. Besides simply impacting your bottom line, this is good information to keep track of. Shows can get crazy at times. With hordes of people in attendance, sometimes (if you're lucky) sales can come in at fast and furious pace. So, it's worth thinking about how you're going to keep track of your sales before the show starts. What I've done is include a little ledger book in my conventions tool box. (Note: Here's a great checklist from Brad Guigar of all the things you need in your con box.) In the ledger, I'll record all the things I have to sell and their prices. I start a new page for each day at a convention. I'll also record the costs incurred in this book as well. This makes it easy to total up at the end of the show to get an accurate picture of how I did. The book stays in my conventions tool box, and will serve as a good historical record to help me prepare and budget for future shows. So far, it's a system that works for me.
#7. The drawing other people's characters dilemma. Here's the challenge: Many creators in artists alley are there to promote their own creations: comics they've done, webcomics they put out, characters they've created, etc. I'm in that boat. A successful show for me would be one that increased readership of the comics I do. However, because most people who attend the cons haven't heard of me or the comics I do, that makes it difficult to attract them to my table. One thing that was very successful for me at the show this year was having a selection of sketch cards of popular characters displayed on my table.
I can't tell you how many times people passed my table and pointed to a particular character they liked. "Oooh, look! Master Shake!" "Hey, it's Supergirl, honey." "Deadpool!" I'll tell you, the rumors are true. Deadpool IS the hottest character in comics right now. Dudes like Deadpool. Chicks like Deadpool. Kids like Deadpool, Grandmas...well, not sure about them, but I do know I couldn't keep the the Deadpool sketchcards on my table. As soon as I finished drawing one and placed it on the table, it was gone.
But here's the question creators will have to wrestle with: Is it worth giving up that space on your table to draw OPCs (other people's characters.) On the one hand, when you put OPCs on your table, it's an invitation for people to see something they already have a history with and an emotional connection to. Con attendees go to shows because they want to connect with comics and characters and creators they've enjoyed over the years. So, yes, having a Deadpool sketch on your table can help draw people near, which in turn makes it easier to segue into pitching them on the books you are really trying to sell.
On the other hand, cluttering your table with characters that have nothing to do with promoting your books or your own personal brand may dilute the overall marketing message of your table. Getting that balance right may be one of the challenges of independent creators.
#8. Strive to enjoy every stage of your career. In comics, it's very easy to fall into a trap of measuring yourself against other creators. This is mostly because there are SO many different things to measure. How many books is he selling? How much money did she make at the show? How long are your lines? What're they charging for sketches? How many unique visitors does their webcomic get? And so on and so on... The fact is, no matter where you are in your comics career, there's always going to be someone who is further along than you are...and there's always going to be someone who has a long way to go before they get to where you are. Sure, it's fine to strive to get to that next level, but you should realize that the people at that level still feel they have a lot to prove. No matter what stage of your career, that doesn't really go away. I talked to a popular webcomic creator, one who many webcomics creators would kill to have a readership her size. Yet, she feels under more pressure than ever now. Success has made her comic into a full-time gig for her now. As exciting as that is, it's also pretty scary, too. I also talked to a relatively new Marvel writer who's spent years trying to break in, and now that he's done it, well, he recognizes the real work has only just begun.
My point is that goals and aspirations are great. It's fine to aspire to greater heights. But realize there's always going to be problems and challenges associated with every level of success. So just try to enjoy where ever you are right now, at this very moment. If you're waiting for a certain level of success to come, thinking THEN you'll start enjoying making comics, well, that's trouble.
#9. Good news- There's a steep learning curve associated with tabling at cons. I've only been attending conventions as a professional for a little over a year now. I dipped my toe in the water first by getting very inexpensive tables at local small press, zine, and comic book shows. With that experience, stepping up to BCC was really no big deal for me. In fact, there wasn't a moment of awkwardness for me at this year's show...it's as if I've been doing this forever.
Tabling next to me was Rob Stenzinger (Art Geek Zoo) and Ken Drab (Rick the Stick), two webcomic creators who decided to make Baltimore their first ever convention. Those guys did fine for their first show and did a great job promoting their webcomics. They seemed to be taking a lot of notes from things they saw working for other creators in artist's alley. Rob thanked me after the show, saying that he learned a lot from tabling next to me. That was great to hear. And given Rob's thoughtful approach, and the fact that doing this well is pretty easy to pick up, I have no doubt Rob will be an old pro a year from now, and some newbie at his first show will be picking his brain for tabling tips.
#10. Want to get inspired? Go to a big convention. And finally, my last big takeaway from the Baltimore Comic Con is that I'm tremendously excited about comics and my future in it. As I've said before, creating comics can be a solitary endeavor, one that requires tons of butt-in-the-chair time, whether in front of the computer screen or the art table. Conventions are one of the few places where you get to interact with the comics loving community in person. And I'm coming away from the Baltimore show energized by that community. I'm energized by the creators I met and seeing all the great things they are doing. I'm energizing by the fans I've met, those that bought my books and those that just stopped by to chat and talk comics for a few minutes. I'm energized by seeing the success of others and am confident that if I work just as hard, that success is attainable for me, too.
In short, Baltimore was a great show...I'd continue to sing its praises, but right now I'm too fired up. I've got to go make some comics!
NEXT: Is It Worth It?
Tyler James is a comics creator residing in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He writes and draws Over, a romantic comedy online graphic novel updating every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He also writes Tears of the Dragon, an epic fantasy webcomic. His work has been featured at Zuda Comics, and includes Interrogation Control Element, a political action thriller, and Super Seed, the story of the world's first super powered fertility clinic. When not making comics, Tyler works as a game designer and content producer for a software company.
1: Big Goals
3: The Great Idea
4: Research Part I
5: Research Part II
6: The Killer Pitch Part I - The High Concept
7: The Killer Pitch Part II - The Synopsis
8: Pay Your Artists
9: Zuda Comics- A Tale of Five Submissions
10: Creating Great Characters Part I (Or Why Wolverine is Everywhere)
11: Creating Great Characters Part II (Or Why Wolverine is Everywhere)
12: Structurally Sound- The Beginning
13: Your Reputation
14: Structurally Sound- The Middle
15: Structurally Sound - The End
16: Your First Con
17: Beat It
18: Memorable Scenes
20: Comics Dialogue - Part I
21: Comics Dialogue - Part II
22: Baltimore Comic Con - Part I
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