Webcomic Workshop #48

Solving Webcomic Issues We All Face.

This podcast we discuss:

Robin: Convention Booth Alchemy.  I know all the theories — go for vertical, make display attractive, “write” the booth the way we read, get eye-catching colors, make clear signs, etc.  Except that the most common tale I’ve heard is “I was at the con and the 1st day we sold nothing.  Then we re-arranged things and magically, the next day, sold everything!”  What are the secrets to this Con Booth Alchemy?  What behavior in passer-bys should I be on the look-out for?  How do I know if my booth set-up is living up to the greatest potential?

Chris: What is the craziest, wildest promotional idea that you ever had? No limits on money, popularity or anything like that. Just the craziest promotional idea you would like to do if there were no limitations.

Drezz: Radio silence. As a long form webcomic, I’m seriously thinking of avoiding promotion of new comics on twitter, G+, etc and just focusing on delivering a chapter in full. there seems to be too much distraction and wasted time spent sending out links every second day to the same groups of creators and fans. For strips and initial promotion its fine, but for stories that take longer to develop, its a big burden and time suck. Do you feel this is suicidal, or better suited for producing more quality content.

Dawn: An interesting notion brought up recently: Major publishers don’t want anything to do with an “all ages” material. The only exception: popular newspaper comic strip collections. You need to have a clear-cut label, like pre-teen, teen, 5+.. to be able to bring in a new title. Z&F isn’t really a kids-only comic, there’s plenty of topics raised that adults will enjoy too. The best place in a bookstore for it would be the humor section, not the kids section. I fear if I want to get signed with a publisher, I’ll have to kill any adult topics and stick to cheeky kiddie stuff, so they can label my books properly, for kids only. Thoughts on this? Yet another reason to say “screw the publishers”, or should I consider making kids my sole audience and write for them?

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9 Comments

  1. good episode.
    conventions are a constantly evolving creature. you may go to two different cons but have two completely different reactions to your table set up. I have personally found no real perfect layout, and instead try to direct eye traffic in certain patterns with specific colours.
    be like water, with each convention.
    like water.

    as far as all ages work… it is a hard sell. at least to conventions. I do a teen+ series and an all ages series, and instead of labeling my work one way or the other i let the audience that wants to read it read it. the best way it seems to pitch an all ages story is to put it in the teen+ demo group and then let the groups around it discover for themselves that it’s actually an all ages book. word of mouth can work both at cons and online. I just don’t believe if your book is an all ages book you have to say it is. it’s like a big question mark. and people will assume it’s for 5 and up or something instead of like 8 to 80. but a teen+ doesn’t always make people think of violent content, or even mature content. honestly it’s just a way to get your foot (book) in the door.
    cheers.
    C:

  2. Hey Smars…
    You make a good point about table set ups and different cons. I would go one step further and say that you can go to the SAME con on different years and have nearly the identical set-up and still have different results.

    Now, that’s assuming your set-up is the same but you have all new merchandise (like new books, for instance).

    And, I’ll go even one more step farther than that… You can offer the same thing at the same con (but different year) and get a completely different reaction. Case in point: Two years ago, I created an exclusive Pittsburgh Comic Con poster. That year and last year, it just didn’t move but I kept having faith that eventually it would. The poster was the DC Villain Penguin wearing a Pittsburgh Penguin hockey jersey.

    This year, they flew off my table and I had to disappoint some people because I ended up selling out of those posters. I’m thinking the fact that the Penguins were playing in a seven game playoff series MAY have had something to do with it??? 🙂

    But the point is, you never can tell what will be a big seller and what won’t. And sometimes, you just have to be stubborn like me and not give up on something you think is a good idea. 🙂

  3. Hello WA crew!

    I’ve been following the Alliance since early 2011 in terms of the cool advice articles, and have been listening to the podcasts since podcast 37, and have been catching up on previous episodes. I have learned a lot from y’all and really appreciate it.

    I’m the creator of Bunnies in Space—a long-form, satirical sci-fi webcomic telling the story of the super-intelligent bunny rabbits who surpass humanity and become a spacefaring species—which is up to page 15 now.

    I’ve been doing comics for over two decades, from age 9 to present, featured in the local newspaper (Mobile, Alabama) as crippled “boy cartoonist” in one maudlin human interest story in 1992. But that doesn’t exactly count as a credential for New York Comic Con’s Artist Alley. (I applied anyhow, though I didn’t mention the thing when I was 9, I just figured I have enough comics to pull it off and applying was worth a shot. Didn’t get in, but I plan to go anyhow; I’ve been in New York City since 2008, and NYCC will be my very first con)
    I’m an unusual case. 
Muscles paralyzed and dependent on a ventilator to breathe since age 12 (I’m 30 years old now) I can only draw with my trackball mouse nowadays, but as an older guy I have the advantage of digital art tools and the years I studied creative writing in college. Initially with my web stuff, I tried to JUST WRITE comics, and team with an artist because I’m not so confident in my penciling, but that fell through, so… All me, nothing but me.

    Podcast 37 resonated with me. I wanted to introduce myself & my webcomic to the W.A. & reply to podcast 37, but it didn’t post—I put my message into *both* boxes, just in case 😛 —perhaps my including links triggered a block. Anyway, here’s my response to podcast 48 really spoke to my comic too.

    Dawn: about classifying comics into age-groups, especially in the case of sci-fi comics, it can be really tough. I’d put Z&F beside the Calvin & Hobbes in humor, no question. Bunnies in Space, I dunno; it has adorable rabbit characters, it doesn’t have any bad language, no sex, and excepting one political assassination on pg7, all bloodshed is limited to “off-screen villainy.” Still, a lot of the satire would go over kids’ heads, especially the chapter one stuff. I guess it’d fit alongside other long-form space opera-type comics, like Star Wars, etc., on a shelf, but in terms of age… 13 and up? Tough.

    Robin, responding to Sad Drezz: what you’re describing is what, on Bunnies in Space, I call “Bonus Material,” little bonus details that are not essential to the story, but fill in understanding, like the animated map of Bun population spread, or are just fun, like my HOP and Change campaign poster or Bunlympics strip. I recommend this approach Robin described.

    Robin: I so want to talk to you about inventing languages. I have to invent an alien language for pg18.

    I really am looking forward to getting involved with the Alliance, talking to you all more. Y’all are awesome!

    All the best,

    Nick

    • Greetings Nick! Sorry for the issues of posting a comment, not sure what the issue is, but at least you got this one to work!

      It is really hard to get in to NYCC as an artist, lots of competition. But attending will be fun but also challenging as the place is usually packed which makes getting around hard to do. I know some friends who have had tables there and just going to the bathroom took like 30 minutes due to the place being so jammed.

      Glad you’re along for the ride and look forward to your future comments.

      • Yeah, given what I hear about NYCC, it grows in an explosive, exponential manner each year. So, NYCC 2012 will be packed wall to wall, insanity. More than a little intimidating for my first con.

        I really could use your advice. I don’t have a table, so my goal is first and foremost to share some copies of Bunnies in Space #1 with other creators, or, if a miracle occurs, an indie label/publisher (Bunnies in Space #1 is just chapter one, only like 20 pages and I’m only going to print like 20 copies). Over and over, I’ve seen advice columns recommending webcomic creators go to cons, trade your comics with other creators and network. So, how do I do that?

        Given the complexities of getting me, my wheelchair, ventilator, etc. out of the apartment, plus accessible van costs, which—even though I live relatively close to the Javits Center—are insane, I can only go the Con the first day. So I really need all the guidance I can get to maximize my only day, my one shot.

        All my best,

        Nick

      • My main question is: given I don’t have a table, and I’m a newbie in a crowded arena, what’s the best way for me to share my work with other creators? what’s the etiquette? what’re the DOs and DON’Ts?

        • Handing out bookmarks or business cards is cool as long as you don’t interfere with traffic flow. I would be cautious handing them to artists unless they ask for them. Trust me, as an artist who’s laid out $600 for table at a convention, there is nothing more upsetting then somebody trying to pitch ME their comic. “Hey, I paid for the space, get the F@#$ out!” is my usual response. Though most folks will be nicer.

          So, having stuff to hand out is cool, just don’t make a scene or the Con itself may ask you to leave. Seen it done.

  4. I’d never disrupt, in fact I’ll have difficulty communicating at all. I couldn’t be heard in the college cafeteria eight years ago, and my voice is even weaker now. And the Javits Center is cafeteria x300 noise.

    Given the physical and logistical challenges I’m facing, I’m very nervous. I’m really hoping me, hooked to machines, will seem relatively normal for the first time compared to the robots, Jawas and Klingons I hope will be there.

    I’m teaming with a fellow Mobile Bay area artist to go to NYCC, and his help will be pivotal helping me navigate and communicate. Amazing I found another artist originally from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_Bay area like me, living here in NYC, willing to team up.

    Will anyone from the alliance community be at NYCC? I’d love to stop by and say hi.

    The big power wheelchair will likely create *some* problems in terms of impeding traffic flow no matter what, but I’m fairly adept at zigzaging and keeping moving.

    ONLINE communities are great for me because I don’t have to worry about all the obstacles I face in “meatspace.” This is actually one of the first times I’ve ever written about the subject.
    But it is important people like me participate, show that yes, we not only exist, but even someone on a ventilator can create visual stories and produce something of value creatively.

  5. I’m trying to get caught back up with you guys so I’m archive-diving. Hi, guys!

    Gotta agree with the small preview books. I’m actually going to try to do something like that for Adrastus after noticing at SPX that the 5-10 dollar price range did a lot better than my thicker, more expensive books. I think I would have done a lot better with also having a smaller book, so I’m going to work on a story set in the Adrastus world but not part of the main story that I can sell for a cheaper price and get them hopefully hooked in to the Adrastus world.

    If I could do anything for promotion for my comic, it would be to get someone to dress up as Adrastus and walk the convention floor/be at my table. And probably a Sarah/Andromeda cosplayer too.

    Shadowbinders does a “Mia’s Journal” as one of their updates a week and I think it goes fairly well for them.

    Great episode, glad I started on this one to get caught back up!

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