I realized I’m a bit late in posting this article, but I felt I needed to speak from actual experience. This year, for the first time, I inquired about Free Comic Book Day at my local comic shop, Showcase Comics in Bryn Mawr, PA, and was there for 4 hours on May 7th to sign, offer free minibooks, whip up some sketch cards, and sell my full books. I’ll admit, I was wondering how worthwhile this would be, as I am about any small convention that probably draws more traditional superhero fans than webcomic comic strip fans. Heck, I felt the same about the big conventions in the beginning.. thinking, “what’s the point, those fans want Spiderman and Wonder Woman, not some little cute aliens dressed as dogs”. Once considering my continued improvement in sales, and the aquisition of new friends, readers and fellow associates, I realized that even my little family-friendly comic strip had its place at a big-time comic convention. And, as I’ve found, it’s just as accepted… maybe even refreshing to see… at the little conventions and events like Free Comic Book Day.
So, I have learned some lessons about these small events. They have different atmospheres and demographics from the big conventions like San Diego, New York Comic Con, or the Wizard World Shows. Sometimes this is a problem, but sometimes the difference is also beneficial for aspiring creators like myself. Lets run through some bullet points, because… y’know… I love me some bullet points.
- Less attendees = less sales, yes. But this doesn’t necessarily mean the effort is wasted. Considering the fact that a lot of these small conventions are free (such as signing at FCBD), or very very cheap to get a table ($20-50), the profit earned may end up being more than what you typically earn at a big convention, where tables can be anywhere from $200-$500+. If you look at it this, it doesn’t seem like a big waste of time.
- Superhero crowds may not be looking for a comic strip/gag-a-day/non-traditional comic. Very true. A lot of people who attend small conventions or FCBD are there to scour the comic book boxes in search for that elusive missing issue for their collection. You, as the creator there to sign, do commissions, or sell your own books, may go unnoticed. However… you may also be the refreshing “break” to their comic book hunt. They may also have a wife, husband, or kids in tow who aren’t interested in looking for that special issue of Fantastic Four. I found that a bunch of my sales went to the bored kids, or more casual comic reader wives or friends who felt like browsing. Just keep that friendly smile on and the negative thoughts in check, and you may attract a casual fan to check out your fresh, different, unique work!
- Never underestimate the draw of a “real” creator, live and in person. This especially goes for kids. If your comic is kid-friendly, you can make a killing at Free Comic Book Day in particular. In my recent experience, tons of fathers brought their kids to FCBD, and got them very excited about all the free stuff. Kids ran rampant, piling comic book after comic book in their dad’s arms, and were even MORE excited to meet a real creator siting behind a table, drawing away. Getting a signed free book from me made their day… and the parents were just as excited to introduce their kids to an artist.
- Never underestimate the power of being “local”. This seems like an Old World idea, supporting local businesses and creators, but it still exists! In fact, I think a couple of my sales came because they realized I lived only a couple towns over. One dad even said “I love to support local creators!” and bought 2 of my books. Whenever I am exhibiting at a local convention, I try to wear some of the sports teams T-shirts or something that promotes the fact that I DO live nearby. It helps break the ice.
- Practice, duh. If nothing else, these little local cons are about the easiest and cheapest ways to get some experience under your belt. ESPECIALLY if you are newbie at exhibiting at conventions and are nervous about delivering your sales pitch. As you have read in previous articles, there is an art to exhibiting and it is different for each person: setting up your table, what freebie hand-outs work for you and your comic, what kind of pitch gets passers-by to actually stop at your table and check out your books. Also, this a good time to get over the common fear of drawing live, in front of people… especially if you want to earn extra cash doing commissions. The ONLY way to learn this is by doing it.. over and over and over… seeing what works and what doesn’t. These little events are perfect to prepare you for that BIG convention in 4 months.
I was a skeptic, about everything. Maybe it’s because I came from a background of syndicate submissions and a total separation from traditional comics and comic conventions. I didn’t even see the 2 forms as being related. But, just as comic conventions have become more than basement-dwelling comic nerds and Superman, comic strips have expanded beyond syndication and newspapers. It’s all out there now, so get out there too… and be a Local Superhero yourself.