Another year and Chicago’s up and coming comic convention is once again behind us. I will start off this article with my thoughts on the convention and my fellow Alliance members will add their 2-cents over the next few days, culminating with our “live” podcast that we recorded at C2E2 coming out on Friday instead of Wednesday. I don’t know about the rest of the gang, but I’m still tired!
Briefly, C2E2 is a comic convention that premiered last year in Chicago. It is put on by the fine folks who bring you New York Comic Con, only without the ultra-thin pizza and crabby-cabbies. They made some changes this year, all for the better. It was held in McCormick Place West this year, which is on the opposite side from Lake Michigan and it seemed so much easier to get in and out of. Thumbs up for that alone! On with my review.
Preparing for a major con is a chore. Ken pointed out we started preparing for this show back in December. But with that said, I didn’t come up with the idea for my poster of Lorraine (click thumbnail for the full view) until two weeks before the show. So, no matter how hard you try, there’s going to be something come up at the last minute.
For me, C2E2 is two things: one, networking, and two, selling. I’m great at One, and not bad at Two. But I accomplished both this year as I was much more comfortable in the environment. Also, with last year’s show being a success, we knew coming in we would have a good audience.
This year, the Webcomic Pavilion was included in Artist Alley. Last year, we were in booths, but separated from Artist Alley. I felt a great deal of our readers from last year went on by us as they searched Artist Alley in vein. So, with a much more open environment of Artist Alley I feel we were easier to find and this translated into better success. Friday was very busy this year and that was a welcome change from last year. Lar deSouza from “Least I Could Do” even commented to me about how on Friday most of the visitors blew past their booth in the front and headed for Artist Alley. Our sales confirmed Friday’s increased attendance as I did nearly half my book sales on Friday. I did more commissions on Saturday and Sunday was rather slow for me as it was Kid’s Day and it’s hard to sell Moms and Dads on a comic that’s based on Sex and Drugs.
The biggest thing for me was having young, aspiring artists come up and watch me draw and ask questions. I was thrilled to have a young girl watch in awe as I drew a sketch. I chatted with her that if she really wanted to draw she could, because if an old fart like me could start drawing again at age 50 and draw as crappy as I do, then imagine what she could do if she applied herself to her craft starting now. I happily handed out my business card to parents telling them to email me with questions. It’s great seeing the next generation of artist being struck in awe by the awesomeness that is comics. And there’s no better place to find that then in Artist Alley.
In a nutshell, my impression was the show was bigger, better organized and better attended. I really didn’t have too many slow periods where I wasn’t drawing or selling. I did better financially too. You can always do better but for where I’m at in my comic/convention career, I think C2E2 was a great stepping stone in my comic career. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. If you can’t buy a table, then it is most certainly worth the trip to network with some great artists and business contacts in the industry. C2E2 finally brings the comic business to the Midwest.
Bullet Points from The Crazy Chick
If you know me, you know how much I love organization, pros & cons, and bullet points. Considering that I left Chicago with the wonderful souvenir of an icky head cold and am about to pass the frig out, I’m going to break down what I have learned this year at C2E2 into simple bullet points:
- Fancy booths may NOT be better for traffic than an artist alley table. That was something that I figured was a given; if you pay more (sometimes twice as much) for a prime location in a pretty booth closer to the front/main section of the convention room, you HAD to get more traffic and sales! Well, C2E2 2010 and 2011 proved that theory wrong. Now, it may just be this one convention… and this was only the second year of C2E2 anyway… however, my sales more than doubled from 2010, when “Webcomic Pavilion” was amongst the booths. I was even worried when I saw the “new” pavilion was shoved in the corner of artist alley.. but in the end that didn’t seem to matter either. I learned that attendees generally go into different “modes” as they meander the room… and when in the booth sections, they are looking for merchandise, the big comic companies like DC or Marvel, and entertainment. They switch into “check out new stuff” mode when entering artist alley, and that’s exactly where we want their mindset to be.
- It really really really helps to have a local friend who is willing to have you ship your books and merchandise to them, and help bring the boxes to the convention for you. You don’t have to pack them, worry if the airline will charge you extra, and hopefully you’ll sell them all and not have to lug them home either! It also helps if your local friend actually remembers to BRING the &^%$ books as well (I kid Byron… don’t feel too bad. Just bad enough to buy me a beer or two next time!)
- It’s awfully hard to find time to eat when at your table. Even harder to leave it– Murphy’s Law dictates that people will line up looking for you the minute you leave, of course. A trip to the grocery store for things like granola bars, bananas, protein bars, mints/gum, and other easy edibles, will prove to be a fantastic idea. As will bringing a water bottle!
- Less is more. Even less than you may think is “less”. This seems to be an ongoing theme in my artistic life. I always tend to over-do it… and have to cut away and simplify. Even with my table (or half of a table, I shared with Ken), I put way too much stuff out and I think people didn’t know where to look first. As much as I enjoy merchandising and selling other alien-themed items like necklaces or Tshirts, at this point it may best to focus on books. More stuff does not always translate to “more successful or established” to the masses who see your table for 3 seconds. On Sunday I cleared away a lot of the extras, and I did have my best day in terms of sales that day.
- Southwest Airlines allows TWO checked bags for free. Great deal if you have to split up your clothes and your books/merchandise. I only checked one very tightly packed bag, and I could have checked two. Just be prepared for goofy attendants who seem like they missed out on a career in comedy– they have a very loose policy with announcements, as well as seating (no assigned seats).
- Lastly, my hardest learned lesson: if you have a crappy immune system like me, be sure to bring Vitamin C or something like Halls Defense or Airbourne to fend off the inevitable germs that are bound to find you at a comic con. Hand sanitizer and even a lysol disinfectant spray are also good ideas. Between shaking hands, the larger presence of children running amuck, and the stress of travel and pushing your comic nonstop, your immune system needs to work overtime to keep you healthy. Give it a hand. I wish I did. UGH.