Saturday, October 27, 2012

Baltimore Comic Con - Preparation

OK, it's been a few weeks since Jesus Marquez and I brought our respective books to the Baltimore Comic Con in September, and before it all washes away in the rushing waters of my quickly diminishing memory, I wanted to share how it went, what worked for us, what didn't, and what we learned from the experience.  This will include an overall review of the convention as well as our personal experience as exhibiting artists.

First of all, admittedly, we had never done the Baltimore show before, and had not exhibited at a major show in several years.  We chose Baltimore only after we received the polite decline from NYCC this year, which we knew was a longshot.  We applied kind of late to NYCC and the competition for those tables is fierce, with a very long waiting list.  But Baltimore seemed like it might be a god fit for us - at just over three hours the drive was manageable and the table cost was comparatively cheap.

We'd also heard some very good things about Baltimore, specifically that it is a TRUE comic con, unlike a lot of the shlocky shows these days put on by those hacks at Wizard World and even the "Big Two" in San Diego and New York.  They're not promoting anime, toys, movies, TV and gaming, which sometimes takes up as much as 2/3 of the floor at those other big shows.  No, this is purely comics.  And that's pretty sweet!

Once we were booked, we both had to get to work, booking the hotel room and figuring out how to fill our respective 3 feet of real estate.  When I do shows I like to book a room on the cheap - having been raised on camping, my hotel standards are low and cheap is the goal.  Cheap means more money toward the table and more money toward purchases.  So I booked a hole in the wall in the outskirts about 15 minutes away and it served its purpose.

I already had printed Colossians, so Jesus was furiously working to wrap up Man of the Hour - having these two books at the show was deemed absolutely essential, needless to say, so we wouldn't just be two goofy guys that can draw.  I also packed a set of Megazeens, still have an attic full.

 We had practically nothing in terms of display.  This had not been a huge problem before, since the shows we had done were low-key and non-competitive, but when you've in a room with a few hundred other artists, you've got to make that table look attractive and inviting.  I know what you're thinking, that Jesus and I are attractive enough by ourselves, and I thank you for thinking that.  Anyways, we did a little research on what was an essential packing list.

We bought a black table cloth to cover the table to the floor - while most shows have the tables covered or at least skirted, not all do, and no one wants to look at bony hairy knees.  I should note that we invested in a table CLOTH this time, unlike the black plastic party one I'd bought years ago and spray painted "Megazeen" across the front (oh that was charming).  I also picked up some simple display and office organizer pieces at Staples, so we could display our names, prices, artwork and books upright. 

The biggest investment was a pair of banners - a horizontal "Megazeen" banner with our new logo for the front of the table and a retractable 8-foot Colossians banner for the back. I will note that banner are no longer a unique luxury - almost EVERYONE has one, they're not expensive, and the tables that did not have a backdrop of some kind looked sorely lacking.

 At recent smaller shows, I had been taking my sketch cards and spreading them out on the table to attract people, then laying a few books out front and leaving the back space open to draw on - but that's when I have a 6-foot table all to myself.  The sketch card problem was solved by putting them in a binder and propping it up with a cheap wire display. I'm still not convinced this is the BEST way, but until something better comes along, this will do.

There was a pointer I had picked up from reading Dave Sims "Cerebus Guide to Self-Publishing" that I had been dying to try and I'm glad I did.  We printed up a couple thousand trading cards on a laser printer, the front had a pencil sketch from one of our two books, the back had our website info and, most importantly, our booth number.  For a mere ten bucks, a worthwhile investment.

Finally I printed off a handful of t-shirts for both Colossians and Man of the Hour - figure what the heck.

I packed a few other supplies that I'd been told were important to have - a roll of tape, paper clips, florescent post-it notes, a notebook, and a roll of singles and fives for change.  Some people suggested a cash box, and I would recommend that.  I didn't see the purpose, since I figured my pocket would serve the same purpose and be more secure.  But it's awkward, having to reach into your pocket shuffling for change and pulling out a wad of paper money.  It damages the idea of the "starving artist" when they see the pile of twenties you've accumulated, and it's sloppy, it made me feel unprepared - you go from really cool artist to gas station attendant in thirty seconds.  Keep the big bucks in your pocket, the small bucks in the box, and carry the box out overnight - don't ever leave it alone.

Finally the art essentials got packed, because I've learned that I will sell more art than books at these shows. I've learned to my dismay that my books compete with dollar boxes and discounted event books from Marvel and DC, and that is a losing battle for the bucks.  HOWEVER, there are plenty of fans that appreciate an inexpensive sketch by an indy artist, and that's not something you can find in a dollar box.  So, my small army of pencils, pens, brushes and Prismacolor markers got tucked into a nice neat backpack - the main purpose of the backpack was that this was the easiest way of NOT leaving them in the show overnight.  That caddy contains several hundred dollars of art supplies accumulated over the years, not something you want to risk losing.  A couple of pads of Bristol paper, blank sketch cards, and comic backing boards rounded it off.

Everything got packed into a pair of rolling suitcases and we were off to the races.

Next up - how it went at the show itself, what we learned, what we did right and what we did wrong.  Learn from us.

No comments: