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Small Press comics: 101...


#1

Disclaimer:

The following “advice” if you want to call it that are purely my opinions and are what have worked for me over the last seven months. It doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you, but I’m just telling you this now, because I don’t want you moaning to me by saying “I did exactly what you said to do in your silly thread and I sold jack” Ok, so take any advice given with a pinch of salt and take responsibility for you own actions.

Introduction:

It is 3:47am, October 7th 2016 and I can’t sleep. This happens to me a lot. It is not insomnia, in the traditional sense of the term, but is because I have stuff bouncing around my noggin that won’t let me get the beauty sleep that I very much need. I’m fugly at the best of times…
I can’t sleep because a buddy of mine on the MillarWorld forum asked me a couple of questions about how I have managed to sell as 1,100 in under seven months.
So, thanks @stuartdn86, you are a dick an because of you I can’t sleep.
You wanted a Small press 101, well you have got it mister…

Only teasing, Stu, a few people have approached me in private about how I am doing what I am.

Rather than having to answer the same question over and over again, I thought, well if I just tell you my experience over the last seven months and the things I have learned then maybe it might help answer the questions you might have. If not, this has been a waste of my time and I could have got some decent kip…

I has been a mental year for me so far, I managed to produce seven individual issues of the comics that I write, and print them. I did my first ever comic con in May and at that event alone I sold 212 comics. Which by all accounts is a pretty decent number. At the time I had no idea because I had nothing to compare it too. But since then thanks to my amazing friends on here, followers on Twitter and some local comic shops, that number has grown and GROWN…so this is what I did.

Where to start:

So, you have finished your first comic, you’ve submitted it to the usual publishers aaaaaaaaand you’ve been rejected.

Welcome to the club.

If you take away one lesson from this incoherent ramble of mine, let it be this:

IT’S BUSINESS, IT’S NOT PERSONAL!

Just because a publisher does not want your comic, doesn’t mean it’s bad, your artist can’t draw feet or you don’t know the difference between your & you’re.
It just means it is not for them.

A publisher knows what their customers (local comic shops) order in bulk. So, if a publisher thinks they won’t get the orders they need to make a tidy profit from your comic, they’ll pass.
Unless you are a complete dick and are annoying the crap out of them emailing every couple of hours asking “So, have you read it yet, pretty good, yeah?”
It is not personal.

It just means that THEY do not thing they can sell it, it means you have to go down the small press route and you just to be Liam Neeson at the end of The Grey!
Screaming to a God who isn’t answering your call for help, eventually realising that you are on your own and quietly muttering to yourself: “F@CK IT, I’LL DO IT MYSELF!”

Ok, I am going to assume that you have a comic ready to print. If you don’t, there are a plethora of decent books out there that can help learn how to make a comic book.
So, lets skip ahead. You have a PDF of your new comic!
Congratulations, I’m proud of you, seriously, I am. I adore creating comics, everyone should do it its fun. But THERE IS NO POINT HAVING A COMIC IF NO ONE IS READING IT.

Now, you need to get the bloody thing printed…

Printing (The Basics)

Do me a favour, go grab an A4 sheet of paper for this example. Got it, yeah? Ok, I’ll carry on. Turn it sideways and fold it perfectly down the centre. It now looks like an A5 leaflet, yep?
You have taken a single sheet of paper that now has four individual pages. Repeat the process a few more times, slotting the folded sheets inside one another and this is how a printer makes a comic.
A regular 24 page comic is actually made 6 sheets, folded over and stick two staples in the spine (its called Saddle Stich) and you have a comic. But that’s just the interior, you need a cover too. Which means your comic is now 28 pages including the cover.
(a comic can be whatever page count you want, as long as it is a multiple of four you won’t have blank pages)
When you approach printers for pricing tell them you want X amount printed of a 28-page comic (including the cover) and if you want it to look like your favourite Marvel comic, ask for it to be a trim 170mm x 260mm. This is standard US comic size. HOWEVER…when you are prepping your artwork to be sent off the print they may require pages to be 176mm X 266mm for production.
Why?
For the bleed, baby, the bleed.
Above I used the folding of the A4 sheet to make and A5 “comic” well a printer will most like use an A3 page on their printing press, which folded over would make and A4 comic, which is not a US standard comic size. So, what they do is after your comic is printed, they trim it down. Again why the bleed area? Ok, imagine a photocopier, as a piece of paper travels through it, ink is laid down on it, the ink doesn’t go all the way to the edge of that sheet of paper, because if it did the ink would clog up the copier and it would constantly jam. So, printers will user larger paper then the document needs and trim it down (off line) after the pages have been printed. Hence the bleed area.

How do I know all this useless information?
I sell photocopiers for a living.

Any good printer will go through all the size information that they need from you to produce your comic in just the way you want it.
Also, always ask for a proof copy too. This’ll slow down your production for at least a week, because the printer needs to run off one single copy for you which is a pain in the arse, but least you can see if something isn’t right before you spend all your savings on your first print run.

Turnaround time

A good printer should be able to turn a print job around within a two-week period. That is on the assumption that you have already seen a proof and everything is ok.

The Press verses the digital revolution

Now don’t quote me on this next bit, because I am not a print historian, but unlike today where most printers use digital print machines (basically high speed photocopiers that can take heavier paper stocks than the regular sort, with better print and colour quality) back in the day, printers used printing presses which had plates and would lay down, colour on top of colour then the “inks” in the final stage.
Now if these plates moved around during the printing and the colour element wouldn’t sit right under the line art and would look like it has been colour by Matt Garvey.

Today this happens less because it is all digital, but doesn’t mean you should send a sloppy coloured book to the printer. It is your reasonability to ensure that your colourists has laid down decent flats (with no gaps) and is able to stay between the lines.
Normally comics are coloured using Photoshop or equivalent software.
The line art is separated from the white back ground. A layer called flats is then underneath the line are to add ironically named flat colour. It is usually done in garishly loud colours so the colourist can differentiate between items on the page for the next stage.
Then, again under the line are but on top of the flats, the flats layer is duplicated and a colourist will change the colours to match the actual scene from the comic script, render and then add shadows to make the comic look good.
After all this is down the image is finally flattened completely making all those individual layers one single layer.

Again all this is another reason why asking for a proof is important, you can physically see you comic and spot any mistakes and they can be rectified before the full job goes to press.

Printing (The cost of printing)

Guys, this is gonna vary depending on who you use. However, the MORE you print the cheaper it becomes.
It is like most things, the more you buy in bulk the more the individual cost per item comes down…washing powder, crisps, cans of pop.
The bigger the pack, divide that cost by the number of items, the cheaper each one becomes.

Ok, for example (this is just for example purposes, so don’t go running to a printer and say “Matt Garvey said that it should only costs me £X to get my comic printed)
Again FOR EXAMPLE you want to get 100 copies of your comic printed, which is a reasonable amount. (Don’t order too many because, remember you have to sell them, so don’t got ordering 1,000 comics for your first comic right out of the gate, especially if you are just going to be selling at con and to friends and family, you have to build up to it)
Say a printer quotes you £240.00, that means each one of those comics cost YOU £2.40 each.
That is your BREAKEVEN point, anything you make back over the £240.00 is profit, cash in your pocket, beer vouchers….
I sell my comics for £3.00 each, which means using this example I would make £0.60 per comic sold…which isn’t a huge amount.
If you are wanting to sell small press comics to make big bucks, then you are mistaken my friend.
Do it because you love comics and you want to share your stories to the world.
Your goal should be to cover you costs (as a minimal) any and all profits you make after go back into making more comics, paying for your table at your next con, paying an artist to draw your comic etc.
Save up that “£240.00” that is your original investment and then forget about it, that’s gone.
Its you “play publisher money”
As long as you make that back from the comics you sell you can always print more as and when you need them without having to save up again for printing.
How do I know this?
BECAUSE I MAY HAVE SPENT MY ORIGINAL INVESTMENT first time around and had to save it up again.
So, you have 100 comics printed and ready to sell, they cost you £2.40 and you sell them for £3.00 each.
If you sell them all at that price point you will make £60.00 profit on top of your original investment…you have gone from £240.00 to £300.00.
Good work!
Well, that is if you can sell 100.
But then maybe you only have 80 left because you gave/swapped 5 copies with other small press comic creators for their books. You sent 10 out to editors at Marvel to showcase what you can do and now they would be crazy not to hire you to write spider-man.
Oh and a couple were damaged in the box, you spilt OJ on one and your mum wanted one because she is ever so proud of you (she’ll never read it, or you hope she won’t because she’ll think you are even more weirder than before)
The point I’m making is, no matter how many copies you have, you always need to have that breakeven/ original investment figure in the back of your head. That is the minimal you have to achieve to keep making funny books.

Now there are few tricks to get your fictional unit price lower than the £2.40 that we spoke about before. For instance, have a colour cover, but mono/greyscale interiors.
Colour costs the printer more, which means it costs you more.
Inside a copier you have four toners, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (or K as its known), if you have a full colour comic throughout, it is using all those pretty colours…having it greyscale, its only gonna use one. Which means its cheaper!

Or maybe you have a buddy who has just finished his/her comic and is looking for a printer too. Club together, get a quote from a printer for both books and try and get a discount.
Always ask for a discount, the worst thing they can do is say to you is NO.
If they do, its no big deal.
Get a couple of quotes too, one printer might be having a slow week and might give you better quote just to get some work.
Some printers, rather than give you money off may throw in 100 A4 colour prints (which will help you sell your comics later on)

Or you can use online printers…but again using a service where you are not speaking to an actual person via phone or email, you need to make sure that you tell them about all your requirement such as sizes that I mentioned above…

Foolishness of #2

I know I haven’t even touched the selling aspect yet, but I thought now would be a good time to talk about printing your second issue.
They will hopefully be a time when you have banked enough of your original investment and along with #1 you will have #2 ready to go to print.
You have a con coming up so you decide to send them to the printers at the same time to hopefully get a discount.
Again, for example you are gonna order another 100 x #1 and instinctively you think you should order 100 x #2.
STOP

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way and not everyone who will buy #1 will not automatically buy #2.
I cannot begin to tell you the frustration of standing behind your table at a con or when an order email pops up in your inbox when a customer orders #1 and doesn’t buy #2 at the same time.
Seriously, it will make you want to scream!
But ultimately it is going to happen, so just be glad you are selling at least one comic.
To help compensate the drop in sales between issues always order at least 20-30% less of #2 then you do of #1.
Again I am speaking from experience and I still have a couple of 1st prints on CHUNKS #2 if anyone is interested.
You need to realise that, not everyone who bought the first issue of your comic is going to enjoy it and their relationship with that title will be oh so brief.

More soon…


How to make a comic: The Book
Looking for an artist for comic collaboration
Question about starting a comic-book
Oh, for HUCK's Sake!
Oh, for HUCK's Sake!
How to Pitch to MillarWorld
#2

Great stuff Matt. Can’t wait to hear more.


#3

Cheers Dave,

Just really wann encourage as many people as I can to make comics!
ITS FUN!
Also Avoid the pitfalls I fell into! :smiley:


#4

Hi Matt,

Apologies for keeping you awake at night, lol. It was worth it though as this post is brilliant. As someone that is about to get my work printed this is very timely and very informative. I owe you a pint at some point!

How long do you typically give it between sending the file to the printers to the con you are attending? Allowing time for proofs etc.

I read that it’s important to flat under the inks in case the plates move when printing. With your knowledge of printers, is this still the case?

Keep the good stuff coming!

Cheers,

Stuart

P.S - You should definitely make this into an e-book / pamphlet.


#5

Give me half a chance, fella!
:wink:

Your questions will answered in part 2!


#6

Just helping you with your outline :wink: lol.


#7

Dick! :wink:


#8

I’ll be the idiot to your idiots guide


#9

He’s Stuart. Dick is the other guy.


#10

I’ve been up since 3am…I REALLY need you!
:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


#11

Erm. Not sure how to take that lol. Will stop asking questions until you have posted again.


#12

I’m just teasing.
Seriously, keep asking questions and I’ll do my best to answer them in each update.
But rathe than get lost in the thread I’m just gonna update the original post and just whack in a #update so people know what’s new.


#13

Sounds like a plan!


#14

updated.


#15

Thanks for this @mattgarvey1981. Just these two posts have already answered loads of questions and given me loads of ideas. I like the idea of Bootstrapping the next project from the proceeds from the first.

I think going for colour in my first anthology was a bit of a vanity thing. For my next comic I mentioned in another thread I’m going to go B&W to keep costs down and break it up into issues to make the art more affordable.

Keep the gems coming!


The store is now….OPEN!
#16

Happy to help, buddy.

Keep the questions coming too.

I’ll get on to actual selling soon…I just don’t wanna jump to far ahead.

:stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


#17

Digital comics and the Comixology age

Everyone loves holding a physical comic in their hands, but a lot of new and occasional readers have really embraced reading comics on their tablets and phones, so it is a path a small press creator shouldn’t overlook. Plus, unlike physically copies, it doesn’t actually cost you anything to sell your comics digitally. Again, you are not going to buy a boat with the proceeds, but is a way of getting your comics out there…internationally too!
Once you have physical stock of your comics you’ll realise that overseas sales will not be as high as domestic and this is down to one simple reason, Postage and pack costs are a pain in the arse.
In a lot of cases, the postage overseas will cost a customer more than the actual comic that they are buying from you. Utilising sites like Comixology, will bypass this.
The only problem with this is it can be a little long winded to set up your account.
You are gonna need your basic bank account details, account number and sort code, but you will also need your IBAN number (International Bank Account Number) and BIC (Bank Identifier Code).
Don’t panic if you do not know these, because they can be found easily, either via your online bank portal or you may have to ring or pop in to your local branch to get them.
I for example use the Halifax, when I log on to the portal and select my account. There is a button that says “more information”, I press that then the next button “account information” BINGO!
Other banks you are going to have to have a little look around the site once you have logged in or as I said before give your bank a call or pop into the local branch.
Once you have all that, the forms you have to fill out tend to be straight forward and you should be able to set up your comixiology account.
Once you have done all that you can upload your comic, but you need to remember that after you have uploaded your comic it can take a while (a good few months) for your comic to go live.
So, please be patient with them.
I personally have had to resubmit comics, because Comixology said that I had too much white space on the comic page outside art work.
So, remember when I said you need a bleed area for the printer, to save yourself some hassle and time, it might be worth creating two PDF documents, one for the printer with the usual bleed areas and one with less space to use for your online submissions.
As well as the actual comic you are uploading, you are going to need an image you want to use that will appear in the reader’s catalogue that is 600 X 600 pixels and in Jpeg format, such as:

You are also, going to need a low res jpeg of the cover of each issue you are uploading.
The rest of the uploading process is pretty standard and you should be able to do that without a problem.
Once all that is done, you will get an email from Comixology a week before your comic goes on sale.
But as I said before, this can take some time.

Setting up shop.

Ok, you finally have your hard copies back from the printers and they look great, don’t they?!
Its time to start selling!
First things first, you need to set up your online store so people can start buying these beauties.
Pop over to www.bigcartel.com and sign up to open a free online shop! All you need are your paypal details, cover images for your comics and descriptions. It is so easy and it’s FREE and you can even link the “store” to your own website if you have one. You can have up to five products on there and it doesn’t cost you a penny to set up or use. If you want to upload more than five and then there is a monthly charge.
As you upload your comics for sale you get to set up the prices you want to charge per comic.
Again, I sell my comics for £3.00 each plus P&P.
So, you need to work out how much your P&P is going to be!
There are a couple of ways to do this, buy a DECENT hard back A4 (C4: 229mm X 324mm) envelope (don’t buy cheap envelopes, because if a comic gets damaged on route you’re gonna have to give a refund), put your comic in the envelope and weigh it on your kitchen scales. Then go to www.royalmail.com/price-finder and work out how much it costs to send one comic 2nd class and try keep the customers costs as low as you can. Stick in another comic and work out the cost to send two, then repeat for three and four. (it’ll save you having to go through it all again later if someone orders more than one)
Repeat the same exercise with overseas costs, however there are no second class options for sending abroad, so just use the cheapest/quickest arrival option you can without sending your comic via a container ship that will take six months to get there.
Work the costs out for the U.S, Europe and Australia at the very least.
Alternatively, you can go into your local post office with your comic and envelope and ask them to give you the costs, but you are gonna annoy anyone else waiting in line behind you!
Working it out at home is a whole lot easier.
Once you have these costs you can add them to your online store and charge people the right amount.
Don’t be cheeky by upping the postage costs to try and make a little more money, it ain’t smart and it ain’t cool. You need to remember you want repeat business as you have new comics for sale.
We have missed something haven’t we?
Our unit cost of £2.40 per comic has gone up, because you need to add the cost of the envelope.
I buy board back pocket peel and seal envelopes online and they cost me £12.00 for 125, that’s an extra 9.6p cost per comic, lets round that up to 10p, So to sell your comics online will now cost you £2.50 each. All these little costs add up and will affect your breakeven point. So, selling your comics online for £3.00 + P&P mean you will now make £0.50p per comic you sell.

But who is going to buy them?
Does your website get a lot of traffic?
Probably not, so we need to…

…Spread the word

I’ll be honest, I not the shrewdest of social media gurus, but I get by. Other than twitter I’m pretty useless. Well, let’s put it another way, up until a month ago i thought “Grinder” was a spices website…boy, was I surprised.
But I’m pretty good with twitter, I think, especially using it to promote myself and my comics.
What’s the secret? It’s easy,
Promote other people’s small press comics and art as much as your own.
Don’t be a dick. You do have to be your own biggest cheerleader, but remember no one likes a ME ME ME attitude.
Guess what?
If you RT and like other people’s work, they might in turn return the favour.
I see twitter as a great way to communicate with people who share a common interest with me, comics. A lot of people on there have become really good friends and AMAZING supporters of my comics.
Many of these people actually buy my comics too, which is really humbling.
It happened organically too.
You have to take as much interest in other people’s creativity as your own.
This way it becomes a community rather than a tool, because communities support each other.
It is not an overnight thing either; you have to work at it.
DO NOT insult other people’s work or pick arguments with someone who has different opinion on who was the best artist on Batman.
Play nice and respect other people.
I have got to the point where if I send a tweet out about a new comic, I know it is going to be RT’d and liked by at least a dozen or so people, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but if each one of those people has at least a hundred followers that we don’t share that’s another 1,200 people that will potentially see my work along with my own 1,700 followers. It may not mean one single sale, but word is spreading.
DO NOT ask professional comic creators who work in the industry to RT your work.
You can if you want, but I think it makes you look like an arse.
There is nothing worse than looking in my twitter feed and seeing the same small press creator replicating the exact same message 20-30 times asking different professional comic artist/writer (who do not follow them) to RT their new comic for them.
To me it looks desperate and needy.
If you and the professional comic creator do follow each other, if you are going to ask them to promote your work. Do it in a DM, so the world cannot see, but again, I personally wouldn’t cross that line.
I only want people to RT my work if THEY think its worthy.
Not trying to sound egotistical and I am not a name dropper, I have a few professional comic creators who follow me and I would never dream of asking them to RT my comics.
Even If i knew them outside of Twitter and they were a REAL friend, I still don’t think I would ask them, because a good friend would do it anyway.
Why on Earth would I ask a complete stranger, who doesn’t know me outside of my tweets to risk their reputation retweeting my work to their followers?
My comic could suck and they could get crap for recommending a book that isn’t good because they were just trying to be nice…us geeks have a tendency to turn on creators very quickly.
So, for me, it’s a no no.

Hastags are a great way to spread the word of your new comic, stuff like #NCBD (new comic book day) and #Makecomics will get more hits on your tweets.
If you are using twitter on a PC rather than a ipad or phone, they now show you the statistics of your tweets and how many people are interacting with what you have got to say.
They are all averages, but at least you can see just how many people are clicking on the links to your site or looking at the pages you a posting.

Twitter is also a great way to get in touch with comic review sites and podcasts who may be interested in reviewing your work. A good review goes along way and again reaches a wider audience. Find them on twitter and follow them, see if their profile has a link to their sites where you can submit your comic for review.

A free PDF goes a long way

Even though I sell my comics digitally on Comixology, I have still given away hundreds of free PDFs to people on twitter.
Why?
Everyone loves a free comic and it helps builds relationships with people.
It shows them you are just not out to make money from your followers.
I regularly do a “who would like a free PDF of XXXXX #1?” tweet and I give away loads.
A lot of those people end up buying physical copies of my comics too, either because they really liked it and it is worth their cash or because they now think I am a good egg and wanna support me.
It works in another way too.
If you have the second issue of your comic coming out soon, why not give away free PDFs of issue one?
If people like issue one, they might go and buy your new one.
Or if you have the fourth issue of your comic coming out, give away PDFs of issue three. It means to catch up, customers will have to go and buy issues one and two and may buy #4 to find out how the story ends.

The Hard truth

Now, before I start going into how to sell your comic, FINALLY. It is time for some tough love. I hate to be the one to say this to you, but the chances of you being called up to the majors to write Batman is So incredibly slim it may never happen. It could happen, it really could, but let’s be realistic here and not have delusions of grandeur.
The reason I am saying this is not to crush your dream, because if that is your dream, never lose it, you might be the one that actually makes it come true.
I’m saying this because, I want you to be honest with yourself and what you want to get from making and selling your own comics.
If you realise that getting to the big time might never happen, I honestly think you’ll enjoy making and selling your own comics a lot more.
JUST MAKE COMICS BECAUSE YOU LOVE COMICS and you want to tell your own stories…if the industry does come knocking that is amazing. If it does, you grab that opportunity by the short and curlies and live that dream for the rest of us.

Now for more bad news!
Selling small press comics isn’t easy, reading this thread isn’t going to magically make your comics fly off the shelves. You have to work hard…I’ve sold 1,300 comics in seven months and I’m not saying that to show off, I’m saying it because I have had to work my arse off to do it.
If it was that easy, everyone would be doing it.
You have to graft hard and more than anything you need to remember to have manners.
Be polite, ALWAYS.

Selling your comics

I’m a salesman for a living, not the best, by far, but the difference between me and other people i have worked with in my career is that I am not afraid of hard work. I worked my way up from being a tele-sales person to a field sales manager and I have signed deals that are worth millions of pounds.
I’ve been sent out in the rain in the middle of winter (I’m not exaggerating) by my bosses to “door knock” to try and find potential customers and I’ve been spoken to like I was something scraped off the bottom of someone’s shoe. Being as salesman can be incredibly soul destroying profession.
In my day job I have to try and convince people to buy something that they can get cheaper online.
It’s rough and the you hit the phone all day and make between 150-200 phone calls, you might find one person who is in the market, but they already have three quotes and are not looking for a fourth.
Activity wise, you have to do the exact same thing every day.

The good news is that you are selling comics to people who like comics and want to read good comics, that is half the battle, right there. You are selling a product they want.
When my wife and I bought our house we went to buy a sofa. We went into a large UK chain that I’m sure everyone has heard of. While we were there and after we had picked our new sofa, I had to deal with a member of staff there who I took huge umbrage with. While he was making small talk as he placed the order he asked what I did for a living, so I told him. To which he told me, “yeah, sales is really hard, but us salesman need to stick together”, my annoyance came from the fact that he thought his job was like mine. I have to go out and work REALLY hard to find my customers, whereas his walk through the door daily, because they are looking for a sofa. I’m not trying to take away from him that his job maybe hard and his targets are not huge. But it was the way he perceived my role as similar to his.

As a seller of small press comics, we are that sofa salesman. Our customers are there, all we need to do is show them our wares and sign them up.

So, how do you do that?

People buy people

My old boss used to say this all the time and it is VERY true. People are not going to buy anything from you if you are an arsehole. I’m guessing that we have all seen Kingsman: Secret Service, If not, one of the movie’s leads, Colin Firth makes an example of some no good hoodlums and teaches them the lesson that “Manners Maketh Man” after they are incredibly rude and try to start a fight that he finishes.
This is the same in all walks of life, it doesn’t matter if you are selling over the phone or face to face, be polite. Even if someone doesn’t buy something from you this time round they will be more than willing to speak to you again if you are nice.

My comics are no better than yours or anybody else’s at the comic con or online, so why have I sold 1,300 comics in seven months?

At the Comic Con

I did my first ever comic con in May of 2016 and I sold 212 comics in three days, I didn’t know that this was anything special until one of my buddies at the same show told me that he is lucky if he sells 30.
I know that when you buy a table at the comic con you get a chair…but never sit down.
Unless you are an artist and you are making your scratch from doing commissions at the con, you should never be sitting down, EVER. (unless for medical reasons you have to sit down)
As people are walking passed you at the con if you are seated they will literally be looking down on you.
Never a good first impression.
I’m not a body language expert or anything, but If you are standing up, it means you are talking to some as an equal. It makes people feel more comfortable and not worried about disturbing you.

Keep your phone in your pocket…if I know you have read this thread and I see you at your next comic con, behind your table, with your phone in your hand, I’m gonna SLAP IT OUT OF YOUR HAND.
Unless your wife is about to go into labour or a member of the family is at deaths door, that phone should not be in your hand.
If you see me with my phone in my hand at a con, it’ll most likely be me checking the time, because I don’t wear a watch. But, if it has been longer than 30 seconds slap away.

So, let’s recap…You are standing and your phone isn’t in your hand.
Sorry, if this all sound patronising, but you would be surprised how many people I see sitting on their bums holding their phones at the comic con as potential customer just walk by.

Next, for the love of God “smile” and I don’t mean a creepy serial smile, I mean just a nice friendly smile. Because you know what, people WILL smile back. If they do, say “Hello”, people are friendly at cons and will usually respond.
You’ll find that so many people at comic cons are looking to connect with other people and talk about what they also love, COMICS.
The same thing happens when you walk into your local comic shop. How many times do you see customers talking with the staff about comics?
Unless the owner is a miserable sod…I’m gonna say you see it a lot.

As people are walking passed and you are being friendly, invite them over to have a look at your comics.
Don’t ram your comics down their throats with a hard sell, while smiling just say “please feel free to pick them up and have a look”
Some will ignore you, not because they are rude, a lot of comic readers are incredibly shy. Some will put their hand up and say “no thank you” and walk passed, but some will come over for a closer look.
Why?
Because you engaged with them, politely!

The Pitch

I cannot begin to tell you how important this is. On the first day of the con in May, I was like a deer in head lights at first because I had no idea what was gonna happen and then I was like a ferret on crystal meth. I was just waaaaay too excited.
It wasn’t until half way through the second day that I had my “pitch” down and it rolled off the tongue naturally.
So, what is a pitch?
A pitch is a short description of your comic that you use to get customers interested.
It shouldn’t take you more than 20 seconds to say and it doesn’t need to have too much detail.
For example, my pitch for Cordelia Swift is:
“It’s a Steampunk murder mystery, with a strong female lead character”
BOOM, ten seconds and its done. It lets you know exactly what to expect from that comic.
That’s all you need.
Let’s look at what information we can take from that short pitch; you have the theme, genre and the description of the protagonist.
Another way to do it is, compare it to something similar. This is good to do if your comic is a bit too complicated to boil down within a 20 second pitch like the one above.
With my new comic Transfer, its Quantum Leap meets Johnny Mnemonic.

Homework time
You need to do this with your comic.
Try and boil down the description to its bare bones of what it is.
Then practice it…over and over again out loud.
It won’t at first and you will screw it up, you’ll get tongue tied, but keep doing it.
Then eventually, click, it will sound natural, like you are saying your own name, I promise.

If you have two or more comics that are completely different, no one wants to hear pitch after pitch after pitch of what you have for sale at your table.
If this is the case, you need to combined them into one.

At my first con I was selling the first two issues of both Cordelia Swift and my comedy comic, CHUNKS.
My pitch was “We have Cordelia Swift, which is a Steampunk murder mystery, with a strong female lead character or (then pointing to CHUNKS) we have inappropriate toilet humour”
Not one person who heard that pitch didn’t smile, because it was short and amusing.
Then people would gravitate to the comic that they liked the sound of more.

A picture speaks a thousand words

If your comic is going to appeal to a niche audience and is not an all ages book, you might need to try and set the bar early with what customers are expecting because you don’t want people to come back complaining that your comic is offensive.
Not everyone is gonna love your comic and let’s face it, some people are easily offended.
CHUNKS is a harder sell than Cordelia Swift because of its content, it is a little bit more risqué, so what I do is I show a single panel with a joke and say to people “if this panel makes you laugh, this comic is for you, if not then might I direct your attention to Cordelia Swift”

You can do exactly the same with your comic, not just to warn people, but to sell your comics too. If there is an amazing panel or a page that sums up the story, use it as a selling tool, ask a potential customer to read it.
Get them hooked.

Make small talk

As a potential customer looks over your comics, just ask them “what comics do you usually like?” people want to talk about comics at comic cons, surprisingly. Even if someone doesn’t buy a comic, have a chat, be polite, people will remember you for the right reasons. I’ve had long chats at my comic table on the Saturday and that person hasn’t bought anything, then on the Sunday they have come back with a friend and said to them “this is the guy I was talking to you about, I think you would like his comic”
Manners work, just be friendly and nice.

Confidence

I know not everyone is a confident as me when meeting new people, how do I know this?
Well, believe it or not, I wasn’t always a confident person…hyperactive, yes, annoying, you better believe it. Confident, not a chance.
I started in sales purely by accident, it is a long story, but I was temping as a receptionist for a courier company while at university. Answering the phone, I spoke to the MD, when he called in to speak to the GM. I didn’t know who he was and I even put in on hold for a while…I like to see the little light blink.
The MD was so impressed with my polite manners on the phone, he told the MD that if a job becomes available, he needs to offer it to me. Then a Tele-sales role came up and guess who it was offered too?
Little old me.
When I got the job I was terrified to pick up the phone and try and sell to a complete stranger. It was the complete opposite to what I was doing on reception. There people called in and I either put them through or took a message, that was easy.
This courier company had a wonderful training program for its staff. I hated it at the time but they sent me away for training days where I had to do the most cringe worthy training excises, such as role play (mind out of the gutter please, children) we had to sit there in room of full of strangers and pretend we were having a phone conversation and one of us had to sell to the other.
What it taught me was, fake it.
Confidence can be faked so easy and if you fake it long enough, you start to believe it.
So, “stand” behind your table, “smile” and pretend you are confident, even if you are incredibly shy.
You might only need to pretend for a couple of minutes while someone is at the table.
But, you know what, you might have a nice conversation with someone who shares your love of comics.

More Soon…


#18

Great stuff, Matt.


#19

thanks, buddy.
It has been a STEEP learning curve these last seven months…but hopefully it’ll help other people.


#20

It’s really great of you to share. I think it’s good to show how much grit you have had to employ and why you make comics. With the limited view I have had in this industry, it doesn’t seem to be one that comes to you but one you have to go get and continue go getting because you love it.