FCBD: Be a Hometown Hero!

 

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.

 

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  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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Posted in Conventions, Featured News, Helpful Hints and tagged , , , , .

6 Comments

  1. I ALWAYS try to get to Local events. I’ve put together a group of 9 creators around the area, did FCBD, and am planning a larger indie event for later this year. If you have a comic reading audience around you, GO FIND THEM! Superhero fans might always want to get their latest monthlies, but that doesn’t always mean that that’s all they read. Many of them want to read some new stories alongside their mainstays. Being in your community is very important, because hey, YOU are part of that community, so most people think it’s cool to see someone, even someone starting out, who makes the stuff they enjoy.

    Also, I made money for lunch on FCBD. Not a bad deal for sitting around and talking about comics all day.

    • Oh also, funny story. I drew up some sketch cards. Some of my characters, some of the Power Rangers, and two of Batman and Thor. The superhero ones didn’t sell. I sold the others, the two PR ones to two kids and their really happy father, and the two of my characters to a reader who likes supporting local guys. I thought the superheroes would go first, but never underestimate your own interests or style. There are people out there who love what you do.

      • very interesting Trevor! It’s always the popular characters on sketchcards that sell for me at big comic cons (ppl generally ignore my own characters), but I did notice some more “local creator excitement” at FCBD… tho I only had popular character cards there, to give to people who bought my book. wonder woman did well.

  2. I tried to do something once with the comic shop in the King Of Prussia Mall once. The manager more or less asked “Are you as popular as PVP or Penny Arcade?” I said no and he told me to come back when i was. He still took my card in case he liked my strip after looking at it online, but i never heard from him again. I noticed the only webcomic related stuff they carried was Zuda titles and Penny Arcade and back issues of the now extinct PVP comic book.

    I will probably try some other shops in the area that are not in the richest mall in the world.

  3. I approached the ONLY local comic shop before 09’s FCBD and was told that they had no interest in someone who didn’t have a publishing contract with DC or Marvel or Even Image. He was afraid that I wouldn’t be a large enough draw to bring in Business and if I didn’t know that was the point of FCBD.

    He was slightly embarassed when he realized that the large clump of comic books I was holding were not ones I was trying to sell to him, but ones I WAS going to buy before he insulted me. I thanked him for his time apologized for not putting back the thirty or so comics in my hand back in their places, and told him I hoped that in the future he could see where Print comics were headed and left him my card in case he ever changed his mind.

    It kind of soured me on FCBD.

  4. To Vince & Thorne– these stories sadden me. It’s such a shame you didn’t receive the open-armed welcome I did from my local comic shop. (I know Vince is actually nearby– I was at Showcase Comics in Bryn Mawr). Maybe it was due to the fact that I was in a little suburb shop who rarely gets creators in for FCBD.. or the guy there was just really nice, but they didn’t seem to opposed to the fact that I wasn’t at “PVP level” of status. Neither did a lot of people who bought a book, or the kids who just thought it was cool as hell to meet an artist.
    Problem with these other comic shop owners is they ONLY see the creators as draws.. and sure they can be, but FREE STUFF in itself IS a draw anyway… and a chunk of people there for the free stuff also BUY stuff.
    Gotta start somewhere. I say keep trying… call ahead and see what they say… we aspiring creators will see our fair share of rejection, can’t let it beat you!

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