C2E2 Stole My Lunch Money!

Okay, so the title of this article had nothing to do with my literal C2E2 experience – but it could have. And that’s what’s important. Regardless, the following are my thoughts on what happened last weekend in Chicago. At least I think it was Chicago…

So here we are, it’s a few days later and C2E2 is a memory. I’m still new enough to Cons to always be blown away by the energy and enthusiasm they bring. But I’m also experienced enough to know that I’m there for a reason. I’ve now attended two of the larger Cons sandwiching a bunch of Tampa Cons (which pale overall in comparison). That’s not to thumbing my nose at the Tampa shows, but historically they’re just not in the same league.

My first Con exhibiting was back in 2009 in Baltimore. I had no expectations and I had just released my first book so I was brimming with optimism. I was sharing a table with Rob Stenzinger of Art Geek Zoo whom I had met earlier in the year at NEWW, so I wasn’t alone. This past weekend I shared a table with fellow Webcomic Alliance member, Dawn Griffin. Coincidentally, the Baltimore Comic Con was where I first met Dawn.

Having had some time to reflect – the difference between the two shows was quite astounding.

Da’ Crowd

I’m pretty confident we saw many more people this weekend than I did at Baltimore. This is important because in Chicago the entire “Webcomic Pavilion” was in the back corner and on the outside of artists alley. In Baltimore, Rob and I were right down the main row and very close to the main bathrooms – we were also basically on the other side of the room from Artists Alley, along the outer wall.

So in my opinion attendance was very good. My fellow WA members agreed – this year versus last year was better.

Da’ People

While I enjoyed the people of Baltimore, they seemed reserved. I had often felt out of place with my comic – as it was too cartoony for the Con. In Chicago, not the story at all. Everyone who came through seemed engaged and embraced it all. It was really very cool to feel at home. Maybe it was that the Webcomics were part of their own group or because I was with my Webcomic Alliance brethren and sisterthren. Maybe because I had prepared for four months and had sent everything in advance to WA Senior Member Byron Wilkins. Whatever the reason, I was more relaxed and had a great time meeting people.

Da’ Results

On one hand, I think I may have set my expectations too high. Since I didn’t do really well in Baltimore, I figured that with two books and a Super Stickman comic book, not to mention being more comfortable with my art and my comic overall than in the past I hoped I would do much better. Needless to say, I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, but again, I think my expectations were not realistic. Don’t get me wrong, I sold more books than I did in Baltimore and all the Tampa shows combined. Additionally, I gave away more flyers and bookmarks than I had expected. On Saturday all but two of the books I sold were a direct result of someone coming back with the flyer saying they liked the comic and wanted a book. Literally. Of course after running out, that made me wish I had more flyers for Sunday.

Da’ Problem

While I had planned and finished everything that I was going to showcase and present at C2E2, there was one aspect I fell short on. And you could argue that if you’re going to a Con, it may very well be the most important. After four months of getting ready and talking about the Con, I hadn’t prepared anything for this one aspect at all – not one iota. Ironically, this was my weakest attribute and I hadn’t even considered improving it. And that is…

Da’ Pitch

If you’ve listened to the podcast (and you should), you know that I’m going to talk about what’s always been my biggest hurdle and that’s the pitch. That is what you’re going to say to someone when they come up to your table and look at your stuff. Unfortunately, just blurting out ‘Retweet Please’ doesn’t work. I would also recommend against shaking someone’s hand vigorously in hopes of having their wallet pop out. I was actually very lucky because my fellow Webcomic Alliance members pushed me to improve my pitch. Kurt Sasso was extremely patient and kept trying to get me to work past the wall I had set up in my head. Dawn observed and offered some great tips and advice including not staring directly at a woman’s chest while talking to her and repeatedly asking “what were you saying?”

Da CONclusion

In all seriousness, this was a fantastic learning experience for me. Here are some things that worked for me and/or started to show some results.

Quite by accident, it turns out I had a great opening line when handing out the bookmarks. It was funny and literally true.
Hammering out a quick and good elevator pitch (snapshot) of your comic. Mine as of now is “Rick is a misfit stickman living in a cartoon world and he thinks everything that everyone else is the problem”. It needs work, I know.
If someone didn’t immediately flee from the table, I added “anytime anyone like you draws a stick figure, he gets a royalty. He’s a direct descendant of the original stickman” and “his parents were killed in a drive-by erasing”. Again, they need work – but it’s a start!
If it were a younger person, I’d ask them if they draw stickmen. Most kids could easily relate to that.
The flyers. Since I showcased five comics on a single page, it was a good sampling and people walked away while actually reading the danged thing.
Looking directly at people and engaging them. I offered free sketches and always included the person’s name in a little word bubble while I tried to make a funny. More than a few times, someone picked up a second book and bought that as well during that time.
Having a smaller and cheaper “exclusive” or “sampler” book (don’t call it a sampler because as Dawn pointed out to me – people will think it’s free).

That’s all folks! I hope if you’ve read through this it’s helped you!

Ken Drab sporting the thin faced lookKen Drab (me) has a small brain but a savant-like interest in branding, marketing and design. He better, that’s what he gets paid to do in real life. In make believe – he’s a webcomicker.

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  1. I think you and I learned a lot Ken! Funny how we seem to have different flaws.. my table space was too cluttered, but my pitch is pretty polished. I think how you upgraded your table space was HUGE, and once you iron out that pitch and feel confident about delivering it, you’ll really make a killing!
    IMO, if you come away from a con feeling as though you learned a lot and can’t wait for the next con to try out the new tactics, it’s a SUCCESS!

    • Thanks Dawn. πŸ˜‰

      I agree – while I would have like to have done well financially, I think the combination of experience, meeting people and hanging with friends was valuable. As long as each step is forward, then I can’t complain – even if it is a baby step!

  2. ” thinks everything that everyone else is the problem” huh. I think there is a word missing somewhere in that?

    “If it were a younger person, I’d ask them if they draw stickmen” Oh so now Rick is pimping you out to earn more royaltys. haha

  3. Is Byron a “senior member” in the sense that he qualifies for a senior discount at Denny’s?

    Good wrap-up Ken. I’d love to have my material in order to be able to do a con. In the meantime, I’ll live vicariously through you guys.

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