The Indie Comics Gauntlet: Cons

 

Welcome back to this Black Ship of ours. For anyone who’s missed my last two articles, I’m sharing my experiences as a newcomer to producing indie comics. For those playing along at home — you’ve decided to take a crack at the comics game; you know who you are and what you’re offering; and you’ve branded yourself accordingly. Now you’re ready to approach the con circuit, though first we gotta figure out which ones to attend, which to table at, and what to do once there.

To begin with, finding events near you might be a challenge. Fortunately, like just about everything else in today’s “smart” world, there’s an app for that. It is called ConCon and, although it runs ads to support its development, it offers a range of filtering options to find what sort of fan celebrations are happening around you.

Now the ConCon app isn’t going to assess which cons are relevant for your interests or pursuits. Anyone can upload the info and not all cons are aimed at the same audiences, after all. Look into who’s showing up. For instance, the Palm Spring Comic Con was new but I saw that Stan Lee and Todd McFarlane were attending. That’s a pretty safe bet. I also attended an event called Fandom Verse Expo. There was nothing to indicate it was a legit event, and once there I found that it wasn’t. Only 30 people showed up and disappointedly dispersed.

The Fandom Verse Expo also highlights another point: the Palm Spring Comic Con was 30 minutes away from where the Fandom Verse Expo was being held, and they were only a few weeks apart. It could very well be that people who would have attended the Expo already went to the Palm Spring Comic Con prior to, and so when the second event came around people were already spent.

You have to know when to move on. You have to understand that not every con will be a success, and not every con will have the readers looking for your work. You should be able to feel out the event by the end of the first day. If it’s just not for you — meaning you did the math and you’ll be losing too much on gas, hotels, or time — then get going. It isn’t giving up; it’s reallocating your time, which is a resource. You’re better off preparing for your next opportunity.

I have gone to events where I didn’t sell much, but people were interested. They’d walk up and talk about my titles, and people would sign up to my email list, following me on my social media outlets. Despite the lack of sales, that’s a con worth staying. You cannot always equate money with success, especially not in this gauntlet. Getting the word out there, making your brand known is very important. Of course some cash wouldn’t hurt, right?

Remember that the more you get people to stop and talk to you, the more other people will flock to your table.

Now let’s say that you’re at a con and you’re selling through the roof. You’re making back everything you’ve spent and then some. Don’t start giving away things. Don’t start lowering the price. The people that have paid full price will not appreciate it.

Similarly, let’s say that you haven’t sold anything. Despite losing money, don’t start giving away things. Again, do not start lowering the price. What that ends up doing is depreciating your work and items. You have to learn to trust your work, and not bend or break it.

Another point to remember is to have a large price range. I’ve seen tables that only had items for $20 and up. Not everyone is willing to make that purchase. I’ve also seen, which I then imitated, tables that had items from $1 to $3 to $5 to $10 to $20. I saw them sell a whole lot of items because their offerings were approachable to all budgets. Also, the dollar items are a perfect up-sell. I cannot tell you how many ‘Kill Your Local Piece of Shit Rapist’ buttons I’ve bundled in with my Super Hero Kim comics.

On that note, don’t forget to package things together. If people were interested in one comic, I would mention the bundle that had all the issues, all the buttons, and a shirt for one solid price, which would save them $5. People like quantity and quality so do your best to offer both!

Approach cons deliberately more than anything. This guide and plenty of others should help prepare you for your first time tabling, and might even help refine your approach if you’re already throwing down in the gauntlet, though at the end of the day the goal should be to share your creativity with like-minded individuals. Nobody can do that but you.

Richard Larios
About Richard Larios (43 Articles)
Richard Larios is an anarchist organizer working out of Los Angeles. He is the owner of Feral Publication, which publishes zines. He also contributes regularly, under his pen name “Until Victory or Death”, for the Black Flag Newsletter, which is put out by the Free Association of Anarchists.

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