Wizard World Philly: Recap

The Summary

I’ve done the Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con  for the past 3 years now. It’s a no-brainer for me to go as it’s only a half hour away. I was worried before my first show here, as I had been hearing how the Wizard World shows are going downhill and they’re not built for aspiring creators, what with all the celebs and distracting pop-culture aspects to the show. But the 2010 show changed my mind. It was also the first year that the crowds doubled and the show really took off here. Since then, each show has gotten better, bigger and more of a draw for more “mainstream” people. This year the headliner was a tie between Chris Hemsworth and all 5 Star Trek Captains (which you could get your picture taken with for the amazing low price of $500!). Being that I have a mainstream-ready kids book series, and my comic is easy to dive right in to for most people, I do well at this show. In fact, this year beat out last year’s Philly Comic Con, as my new record in sales!

Now, that may be because I am getting better at working my Artist Alley table, but I do think the sizable more mainstream crowds help that as well. I am interested to see how I do at a more indie show, such as SPX, which I have planned in September (notable: splitting a table with NEW Alliance member Chris Flick!). I’ll be sure to post a recap here with my results on SPX as well.

This year the show was bumped to 4 days instead of 3, but I would bet next year the show will go back to 3 days. Thursday was slow and casual, and half of Artist Alley was a no-show. Friday and Sunday boasted steady and chill crowds, browsing but not necessarily buying. I must have heard “I’m just browsing today, but I’ll be back Saturday/Sunday to buy something!” at least 15 times on Friday. Pretty typical, especially in these economic times. I’d say half those people actually returned to buy something. Post-show, I heard from a few people that it was so big, crowded and busy that finding me in the mess was extremely difficult. Not a lot I can do about that, except promote the online stores where they can purchase what I had available at the convention.

All in all, a great convention that I’ll be doing every year, for sure. Now, you guys know me… what’s a con recap without…..

 Dawn’s Take-Away Bullet Points

  • Don’t forget the fricking duct tape. You WILL need it at some point.
  • Seriously, going vertical helps a TON. I sold more “Sandbox Avengers” posters once I clipped them to my new collapsible shelves/cubes, and people could see them from either side as they walked down the aisle. Kids and adults alike stopped to look at the poster, then my table.
  • The figurines may not have been a HUGE seller (I did sell 3 of them), but boy did they attract attention and start up discussions, sometimes leading to another purchase. Sometimes the worth of an item is more than just dollar figures.
  • Another sidenote on the figurines: I had figured the only people who would purchase one, would be huge fans of the comic or good friends. When I sold one to someone who never heard of the comic, but just liked original art, I realized how important it is that I hand-painted them myself.
  • Get used to hearing “I’m not buying anything today, I’m waiting for Sunday to make my purchases” on the other days of the show. Just ensure they have a bookmark/business card in their hands when they leave. If you happen to be near a landmark (like right under the “Artist Alley” sign, or by a pillar or the bathrooms), point it out to them. It’s hard to find tables again, but a determined customer may remember to look for landmarks.
  • The new “Kid Friendly” signs grabbed parents’ attention.. they were excited to find me amongst all the adult material! You gotta smack them across the face with signage, otherwise they walk right by.
  • If you know the convention usually does an activity that may benefit you, ASK about it. Don’t wait around for someone to search you out. I missed out on a kid’s scavenger hunt activity that would have driven families to my table, because I didn’t ask.
  • Transporting your HEAVY books is a pain. Make it less of a pain by getting proper equipment. I am retiring the “con trunk on wheels” and getting myself a grown-up hand truck and a couple heavy-duty rubbermaid tubs. You should see the bruises from my “trunk on wheels” bashing the backs of my calves. No more of THAT.
  • If the convention is 4 days, and the Thursday is shortened, the sales will be minimal that day. If it’s more cost-effective to skip that day, do so. Or use the day to network and mingle, take notes on other’s table displays, or check out new comics for inspiration! Keep in mind, however, that some of these big conventions may FORFEIT your table if you are a no-show even on the first day… so do get in contact with your rep/contact prior if you are coming in later.
  • Don’t let lackluster sales get you down. If you sit and pout at your table, you’ll ensure NO ONE will stop. Be happy and friendly and SMILE, even when you want to pack up and leave. All it’ll take to turn things around is one customer who bought a bunch of items … and that tends to happen when you’re engaging and amicable.

    My best table set-up thus far, I think!

  • Prep before a convention is more than packing up your books. Use social media to it’s full extent. Besides a usual blog post with info on the convention,  I started creating events with facebook for each convention I attend, weeks in advance. I invite friends in that general area, and post pictures of my table, info on the convention, a map of the floor pin-pointing my table (if available), and a sampling of what I’ll be selling. Many do not know a comic convention is in town, but have always wanted to attend one.. you’re just letting them know it’s happening and YOU’LL be there!
  • Some illustration styles are more likely to be commissioned; at a comic convention those with the more traditional comic-book-hero style will probably be asked more often for commissions. However, this shouldn’t count out those of us who have a cartoony or more edgy style. Try a fun theme, to encourage people to consider YOU for a commission.  I have been asked on multiple occasions to draw someone’s dog or pet, so I am thinking of making signage (again, SIGNAGE!) to give more people that idea!
  • That said, spending time with your head down drawing up a commission means less time drawing people to your table with your smile & affable attitude! If your goal is to sell books or promote your comic, detailed commissions may take away from that. If you want to earn some extra bucks, but not lose an hour in “the drawing zone”, think of a fun theme that you could do for $5 or $10, with a quick sketch. Also, remember you could take a bigger commission on, but do it later at home and mail it. Perhaps the solution is a simple form for the customer to fill out with an agreement on payment & and their info… and be sure they have YOUR contact info (bookmark, business card)!
  • Test your Square reader before the convention. Between the sensitive apple iPhone headphones jack, and dust that can get into the reader itself, things can get screwy and you could lose a sale. You can order a replacement for free from the website, and it should come in 5-7 business days.


Pictures! Everyone loves the pictures!

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  1. “There’s a snake in my boot!” Great sketch card for Toy Story! 🙂

    Thanks for this Dawn, made me feel I was there. And damn, all 5 Star Trek Captains, I would have been in Geek heaven…

  2. There’s a little-known product that will help with corrosion on headphone contacts. It’s called “DeOxit”, a high-quality contact cleaner and deoxidizer for electronic equipment. It is NOT a lube, and is nothing like WD-40. It chemically destroys oxide coatings on electrical connections, makes them soluble, and floats them away.

    The Deoxit-100 precision-tip applicator will last you almost forever, since you will likely only need a tiny bit at a time. That and some pipecleaners (yes, pipecleaners) and you have the tools for de-gunking an audio jack. Run one end of the pipecleaner in and remove dust. Then drip a bit on the OTHER end of the pipecleaner, run THAT in, and up and down a bit to wipe it around and clean off the dissolved crud, then use a clean, dry cleaner to wipe everything off. Test your connection to make sure it’s better.

    Make sure to use Deoxit on the PLUG as well. It gets a film of oxides as well.

    The rest of the suggestions were BANG ON. I’ve used them for other conventioneering, just not comic conventions…I totally aired them out, the first table I had for my comic, and regretted it utterly. I should have listened.

    • excellent tip, Quarky. I’ll definitely look into this DeOxit stuff. I’d hate to have to replace an iPhone. Odd thing is, I tested my headphones and THEY work. But not the Square Reader. So, maybe it’s the reader that needs cleaning?

      • Might be. the stuff on a magnetic reader IS an iron oxide, after all. If too much has rubbed off onto the reader surface, it might be causing bad reads. So I’d probably put some on a lint-free cloth and slide it through the reader, and see if it got anything off the inner surface of the reader.

        If that doesn’t help, it might have gotten damaged somehow. I’d get a new reader before I looked at the iPhone, after all, it’s the cheaper repair.

      • I thought of something else…

        DEFINITELY try the Deoxit. Headphones are one thing, data is another. Pumping sound through a crude analog connection is easy and brute-force. It doesn’t require a fantastic connection, and the impedance can be really horribly matched and you’re still in the realm of ‘working’, because you can still hear sound in the headphones. But put it on an oscilloscope, and it might look awful in comparison to what it looked like with brand-new, clean contacts…but your ears can’t hear it.

        A data connection, for digital data that has to be precise to within some level of accuracy before it gets tossed out as “bad”, needs to have a clean connection so the data isn’t corrupted by noise on the line. Only so much can be compensated for with error-checking protocols, redundancy, and amplification. Then the software throws up it’s hands and says “sorry, I can’t read it”.

        So the connection in the iPhone may not be *broken*, but it might be *dirty*, and that might be causing it to still be good enough for headphones, because that’s a real simple function — but not good enough for precise data.

  3. I like to go philly con but recently… it was major ripoff. 60 dollars for a day on Saturday and I don’t see anything worth out of $60. No big sponsors like Marvel, DC, big comic book publishing, or any gaming area, video game company sponsors, and such like that. Compared to $80 for 4 days straight. Bullshit.

    All I see is 5 ST Captains hidden in special area which is adjacent to super secret emergency exit door, high security paranoia, bunch of indie comics, local comic shop owners selling off their inventories, and only worth my time there is look at some sexy cosplayers. Nothing more than that. Hrm…

    I actually expected more out of this for a friggin $60.

    • that’s a shame, Damon. WW conventions seem to be more overpriced and lacking of the “comic” part of “comic con”. This is very very true. For whatever reason, I sell well at this convention, at least the Philly one. Haven’t done another WW con elsewhere, yet. It seems like, from the fans’ perspective, hardcore comic fans may find it an overpriced lackluster event, whereas the casual fan who maybe wants to meet a celeb, will be entertained. Possibly collectors who are looking for that last piece, too. For Marvel/DC booths at a REAL “COMIC Con”, I highly suggest the Baltimore Comic Con. AKA- “the antidote to Sand Diego”. It’s slightly smaller than Philly, but it’s ALL comics, no B-list celebs. I love the atmosphere and do well at this show, too.
      Sorry you had such a poor experience. It’s too bad you couldn’t come on Friday or a Sunday… the crowds were less… well, insane, and it would have probably been cheaper for you.

      • also, New York CC is getting pretty close to San Diego, so if you want a con that has EVERYTHING.. video gaming, events, celebs, Marvel/DC, the biggest/wildest crowds I have ever seen, ANNNNND the over-priced ticket (that’s actually worth it). The show is usually in October.

        Tip: NYC hotels are outrageous. Look for a rent-by-owner apartment, using a site like http://www.vrbo.com. Super savings!

  4. While it’s true that it takes time to draw stuff on the spot for customers I would still encourage convention artists to do it as much as possible. On-the-spot drawings and caricatures are easily my biggest sales at cons, making up half or more of my profits.

    The trick is to be pleasant and entertaining WHILE you draw; a long period of silence when you’re drawing is what we are all afraid of, so just talk to your customer while you work. Even something as simple as, “What are you into?” is good (especially if it gives you more ideas on what to draw; trust me, customers who get caricatures LOVE little side details like their favorite characters popped in).

    Speed is another good trait (I got this from working as a caricature artist for theme parks and parties), but this is much, much harder to develop. Truth be told, not everyone works well fast, so if you can’t just bang out a great drawing don’t put pressure on yourself to do so.

    In any event, I would just recommend bringing whatever art materials you like and be ready for anything.

    • oh, no doubt… if you can, draw ’em up while you’re there. I mentioned the option as sometimes the customer asks for something so complex, you may have to have your head in a sketchbook for far too long to be beneficial. Or, maybe they want a caricature, but don’t have a picture of their friend/dog/etc…. I commissioned a job for later (via email) for something like this.

      Doing caricatures myself for an Outback Steakhouse (for waiting customers), with an 8-minute time-limit. That helped speed up my process a lot. It also killed any insecurities about people watching me as I draw. But you are right, some people just never are able to work well FAST… you have to be, well, built for speed!

  5. I’ve noticed over the years that people like hanging iconic comic strip and cartoon characters as ornaments on their christmas trees. I intend to do that with yours when I see ya in August. Just be sure to hold still while I string some lights on ya! [grin]

    • I’ll be sure to pack some pepper spray, thanks for the heads-up. :0)
      But ornaments are a good idea, the only issue would be making them LIGHT enough. I fear my figurines may be to heavy.
      hey… remember shrinky-dinks? Hmmmmmmm….

  6. Just a note – after ComicCon my square went through the wash – what can I say, I was a little tired, but now you can buy them at Walmart, Best buy and staples – I don’t know if mine still works or not but I’m getting a backup. Other than that, I totally agree with your review. This was my first comic con and I thought I did well for the first time and for having something not usually associated with comics. An idea for the “i’ll be back around Sunday” is to give them a special coupon – if they come back Sunday they can save 10% or something, include your booth number so they can find you. No, I didn’t do this but I’ve heard others do this at shows.

    • Hi Dianne, thanks for sharing this awesome idea! Why didn’t IIIII think that one? Sheesh! I’ll have to iron out this coupon idea for my next big con. Maybe $3 off a purchase of $20 or more.

      I did find out that you can get a square reader at Staples (which is right by my house)… but are they free? I ordered my replacement through the site, and it was shipped to me for nadda. I like the cost of nadda. :0)

      In a pinch, a quick trip to one of these chain stores is probably worth it tho!

      • so, just thinking about this square think, if the actual square isn’t dedicated to a specific acct – can you share them? Like could you have borrowed mine during the show and vice/versa as long as we used it on our own phones? I will have to research this! Could come in handy for someone down the road.

        • yup, you can definitely switch out a reader with another person’s. I tried this at this convention, too.. and both didn’t read on my phone. I am purchasing some of the cleaner that Quarktime suggested, as I think my headphone jack is just dirty. I ordered an extra reader, just in case, too.

  7. I would think that you having a few superheroes done in your style…or your characters dressed up as Batman and Spider-man…would do really well there. (Your sketch cards are GREAT.) Also, very smart move with the “kid friendly” sign. Now that I have two little girls, I would totally seek that out. I love Cons, but there IS a fair amount of “no, you shouldn’t see THAT” type of thing going on, and I love it when I find an artist who specializes in kid-friendly stuff. One of my favorite moments from SDCC last year with Katie was when she met the artist and the writer of the new “Strawberry Shortcake” comic and got some cool stuff from them. I’d highly recommend a sign like that for anyone in your situation…”Family Friendly” would work too. I think Irma needs one of those for her table of “Imy.”

    • Thanks for the feedback, Tom! I did try to attach the kid-friendly sign to the top of the banners, but they weren’t even in height (as one was on my con truck, the other on a chair). Going forward, I’ll be able to stack my banners on 2 equal-sized tubs, at an even height. I also had one sign on top of my iPad (not shown in the main pic), which was on top of the storage cubes… so it had some height.

      I LOVE how excited parents (and their kids too, at times) get when they find a kid-friendly artist. My favorite is when a dad brings his daughter over, exclaiming ” SEE?! Girls can do this too!!!” Makes my day.

  8. NIce-looking setup for your table, Dawn. You’ve really got it down pat. The kid friendly sign is great, Maybe one you can clip or stick to one of the retractables? So that people can still see it when there are bodies in front of your table?

    • thanks John! Like I told Tom above, I tried to attach it but I’ll have an easier time with that once I adopt the hand-truck-and-tubs transport system.
      I have a sci-fi fest at a bookstore this weekend! Should be interesting to compare to a comic con!

    • thanks, signage is super important. Price signs, call-out points (like kid-friendly, or maybe something like “for vampire fans!”), and colors that pop and fit your product… all great to catch the eye.

  9. Pingback: Webcomic Alliance - RECAP: Allentown Comic Con

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