Rant time again, I guess….well, not so much a rant, more like the observations of a comic con newbie.
Over the last few days I have seen a few articles and a load of tweets on what is wrong with the comic village at cons and gripes that sales numbers have dropped in the small press, especially in the light of day after following MCM London the weekend just gone.
Now, before I start (yes, I know “Matt, just get on with it!), I just wanted to point out that I consider myself a newbie selling at cons, because I have only been selling my comics for the last 12 months and only done two comic cons, which both happened to be MCM last year.
I wasn’t able to get a table for the weekend just gone, so my observations are purely based on the two cons that I did…So, here goes.
Again…these are just opinions, which I hear are just like butt holes…everyone has one.
If we are honest, the comics industry is in trouble.
Readership is dropping, why?
Look at the competition that is out there, we live in a world of instant gratification.
Readers are getting older, leaving us and we are not replacing them with a new generation of fans.
Why would a kid need to go to a comic shop and buy a copy of the latest issue of Flash when they can re-watch the box set on demand. Yes, you are gonna get l bump in numbers when the next blockbuster movie comes out, but unless the quality of those comics is consistently amazing or at an issue number which is “accessible” to a new reader, readership is gonna drop….same when a publisher “reboots” its universe….yep, bump in numbers because everyone wants an #1, but eventually the readership on those books drop.
I always wanted to read Green Lantern but found it daunting that the issues numbers were so high, but when Geoff Johns rebooted it with rebirth…I was all over it and loved it, but in the last year or so I have dropped it of my pull list. Readership is going to go up and eventually down.
It is the same reason why publishers are targeting a wider audience, which is great.
Personally, reading squirrel girl doesn’t appeal to me, but if it gets a younger audience into a local comic shop…then I am all for it….because it means the publisher will stall be putting out the titles I love.
Let’s put it another way, according to IMDB, the first Kingsman movie did $128,248,205 Gross at the box office, but how many people who saw that movie bought the comic or even knew it was a comic before?
Sadly, the general public, doesn’t know…so what I am saying is, take potential customers where you can get them!
I have heard more than a few people comment in the past that comic village has now become such a small part of comic cons, because it has been over shadowed by cosplay and people lining up to get autographs from Storm Trooper #3 from Star Trek (only kidding, bit gotcha )
This may be true, but on the other hand, my feelings on this is just “embrace it”.
This is the equivalent of a local comic book shop participating in FREE COMIC BOOK DAY.
On that day, loads of moochers are coming into stores, picking the freebies that the shops are supplying and not giving the actual stuff for sell a second thought…but….that shop might hook a few new customers on the back of it.
Comic cons are the same, large numbers are coming through the door, which means more people are walking through comic village and past your table.
Yes, “past” your table, but BUT, that means the you have the chance to sell comics to new people.
I cannot tell you the satisfaction I got when I sold a copies of CHUNKS to someone and they said
“I have never actually bought a comic before!
It is such an amazing feeling and the grin on my face when it happens is huge!
And this has happened at least a dozen times over the two cons that I’ve done!
If we do not pull in fresh blood, the industry will die and what better way to try and hook new readers than at a con and a new reader who is already embracing “geek” culture?!
Last May, MCM had an attendance of over 133,000…even if only 10% of that number walks through comic village, that’s around 554 people per hour, I am rounding up here, but if you can sell a comic to 1% of those potential customers, that around 133 sales over the three days.
To me, that makes sense.
So, I say more Cosplayers, more Funkos, because it will mean more people through the door and hopefully more readers…younger ones too.
It is the same reason why MacDonald’s do happy meals, give the give a top and a burger, hook him/her while they are young and they will be loyal for life.
How many of us have been comic fans since we were kids?
I am gonna say a lot and we still buy our comics every Wednesday.
But, why aren’t your comics selling?
Well, this is where i may upset a few people and potentially ostracise myself from the small press comics community…so., if this next bit, upsets you, I am sorry…but sometimes a little tough love is needed!
STAND THE HECK UP AND PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY!
When I did my first con, I could believe the amount of people who were just sitting down or on their phones or BOTH!
It was crazy, every person who walks past your table while you are doing this was a potential sale that you just missed.
So, be upstanding and smile!
NOW…there are a couple of exceptions to this of course.
If you have medical reason why you need to sit down, I completely understand or if you are an artist and you are doing commissions, again, sit draw, earn your money.
But if there is nothing “wrong” with you, get off your arse and unless someone is on the death bed or ready to give birth…get off your phone.
Two reasons I use my phone at the cons, one is to check the time, because I don’t wear a watch and the only other reason is to take sales, because I got one of those paypay card thingies.
On a date, would you sit there, looking down on your phone and not paying attention to the person across from you?
No, because it is rude and doing this at a con is exactly the same…no one wants to engage with someone who isn’t giving them the time of day (unless that’s why you are looking at the phone)
Also, be friendly, talk…people come to cons because they want to connect with other people who share their passion. Even if you don’t make a sale, you are still presenting yourself as a nice creator… twice last year I was having chat with a couple of people who didn’t buy anything, we just chatted for a few minutes about comics in general…then they walked away….
One on the same day and the other on the next, both these chaps came back with buddies who bought not one but FOUR of my comics each!
I am paraphrasing here, but each said something along the lines of “Oh, this is the guy I was telling you about, I think you’d like his comics”
AGAIN…I know there are exceptions to this also…I know some people suffer crippling shyness and anxiety and it terrifies them to talk to people and I get that!
(Well done for even being able to come to a show in the first place, because I know it is REALLY hard for you!)
At my first show I was next to a young lady, who did not say a word for two days, I asked her if she wanted a cup of tea as I was doing drinks run and the poor thing literally jumped out of her skin when I spoke to her…so, I complete get that some people suffer from this and it is really bad.
But, if you do not suffer from that, general shyness is not an excuse…believe it or not, first con last year for the first three hours I was like a deer in head lights!
(yes, I know it is REALLY hard to believe, because I am a loud mouth, but you either know me from behind a keyboard or down the pub surround by friends, that’s my comfort zone)
Confidence takes time, especially when you are trying something for the first time.
At my first con, not knowing what the hell I was doing, I was terrified, but I made a conscious effort to just “have a go” I had nothing to lose…I was there!
For the first three hours I was getting confused, stuttering and screwing up my pitch, but then it just gelled through repetition.
I am not saying this to show off, but I did everything I mentioned above and I sold 213 comics at my first show…I generally thought this was a fluke and people asked me if I was going to do more cons and I said “no, I’ll do MCM in October if I can, because I can’t base doing other cons purely on this strange result”
In October…I was next to the toilet all weekend and facing as wall!
But regardless, I did the exact same thing and I sold 253 comics.
(My comics are no better than anyone else’s in comic village, seriously they are not)
Ok, so YOU do all that, but your comics are still not shifting.
What are you selling?
Is it the same book you have been selling for the last four shows?
If so, people have seen it…most likely bought it (if they are the ones that come to cons just for comic village that is) So, your only potential customers are going to be those who aren’t at the con for comics which is going to be a tougher sell.
People want new stuff, same reason why Apple release a new version of the phones EVERY single year and people line up in droves for it!
It doesn’t matter if it is pretty much the same product, people want it because it is new.
Your product is the same…it’s a comic, its written or drawn by you, which again is the same, but the story is different. And if people liked the previous “model” they will like the new version.
Also, try to appeal to a wider accidence, create a new comic different in genre to your last.
It is the very reason why, CHUNKS is different from Cordelia Swift, which is different from TRANSFER, which waaaaaay different from The Ether.
If someone is looking for comedy, I have that.
SteamPunk, don’t worry I got you covered.
You are more of a Sci-fi fan? Well, have a gander at Transfer.
Oh, you like superheroes……hmmmmm, well, I guess The Ether will be right up your alley!
It is not a coincidence that I have done this.
I did it for this exact reason and because I didn’t want to be pigeon holed as the chap who just writes inappropriate toilet humour.
I know it is much easier talking about this part from a writer’s point of view, because I have the benefit for being able to work with many talented artists, so the number of comics I get out there is going to be higher than a solo artist/writer who is doing everything on his/ her own.
But, if you aren’t a one man/woman band, you need to try and bring new stuff to the show.
I brought four comics to my first show and added an additional three (plus a free variant) to the second con. People came back, asking if I had CHUNKS #3 or the next part of Cordelia.
I didn’t have the former, but had the latter. I had the next two issues ready, which people loved because they didn’t have to wait a year for the next issue. Also, because I had Transfer, the people who like my other stuff gave it ago too.
At my next con, I am gonna have at least another four new titles to sell, so may have to look to retire a couple of issues because of space on the table…eight was doing able…anymore and it is too much.
Yes, I could apply for a second table, but what is the point?!
Its not the size that counts…”woah, first date flashback”
From a sales point a view it is easier to handle one table rather than two, because everything is at arm’s length. On a number of occasions, I have been talking to one potential customer as he or she flicks through one of my comics, then a second and third person comes along, hovering over my offerings as I am talking trying to make a sale.
Having the single table allowed me to hand these new potential customers physical copies of my comics and say “feel free to have a look” because speaking from experience, getting a comic into the hand of a potential customer increases the chance of a sale… dramatically.
Plus, we have all been there when, one “potential” customer stands there talking to you, literally flicking through every…single…page of your comic, as you concentrate your time on them, while others potential customers just look for a distance.
Then the original person, puts the comic down and just walks away after they have READ it all…
Having the single table and being able to hand comics out to there, means I now have two to three people to potentially walk away without buying!
Having a single table will also save you money, your cost breakeven point will be lower, meaning you can make more profit, PLUS it means that there is more space for new voices in comic village.
I mean, let’s put this in perspective using MCM as an example, Comic Village is small in comparison to the rest of the show, which covers two giant halls…looking at the map and being conservative, Comic village takes up around 10% floor space…that’s right at a comic con, we, the small press community take up only 10%!
There are 12 rows…A through M with a potential of 288 tables.
How many of those tables in comic village are actually selling comics?
The space is shared with craft people (I wish it was craft beer) selling their creations, which is fine.
At both the shows I did, I was next to some lovely people who were not actually selling comics…they sold post cards, pin ups of mermaids and cute animals, along with other crafts, like badges etc.
So, let’s say that 70% of comic village is actually made up of creators selling small press comics.
That means that 10% occupation of the comic con, is actually only 7% with a potential of 202 tables.
If we all started taking two tables, that’s means that the space now drops to only 101 tables and even though we would still occupy the space of 7% of the con, the number of different voices in comic village drops down to 3%…3% of an entire comic con!
So, maybe take one table?
Or two buddies get a table each, selling different books, put them together if you want a bigger “presence” of the area?
If I can get eight separate issues on just the one table, I am sure others with nine that spread across two can get that down to a single table, by maybe dropping an older comic that isn’t selling as well?
MORE NEW VOICES, MORE NEW CREATORS!
I know I sound like a broken record, but if I can make a comic, seriously, anyone can!
Lastly, if you want to sell more comics, be at your table EARLY!
I do not leave my table all day expect for toilet breaks.
(I know I mentioned doing a drink run earlier, but that was my first and last because my buddy who covered my tables was useless, love him, best mate, but he is a plumb ((love you Dave)))
I am there to sell and make money…that’s it.
If I make money, it means I can make more comics and pay my artists collaborators to work with me.
So, the only chance I get to walk around comic village is the 30-45 minutes before the show opens and you wouldn’t believe the number of creators who arrive after the doors open…it’s mental.
If people were at their tables before the show opens, I would buy so many comics, because I love small press comics and being a comic fan myself I WANT TO BUY THEM.
The two times I have done MCM, I have not even got a clue what else is there and I have no interested in seeing stall after stall with the same generic t-shirts or mystery boxes in the shape of a Mario brick.
I want comics.
I sold at least three of four comics before the show even opens because other small press creators are wandering around too!
So, I think that is my rant opinion over with…
As I said right at the start, these are just my thoughts and opinions on the subject and if you completely disagree with me, you know what? That’s ok…because I have a butt hole and so do you.