I’ve just returned from an adventure, or the closest thing most comic-book creators get to an adventure… An out-of-town convention.
Tsukino-Con in Victoria, Valentine’s weekend, was my very first out of town convention as Seraphim, and my second ever convention with Seraphim. The tl;dr of this is that it turned out a ton better that I could have hoped!
Firstly, let me remind long-time blog readers and inform newcomers that 2014 had been a real rough year for me, and that I had lost my job, and lost a good chunk of my health. To try to sign up for Tsukino-Con was a risk, and honestly thought I’d be in a better place come February. Turns out I was wrong. The trip was very difficult for me, but I’m proud of myself for sticking to it and giving it my all despite how hard it was on me.
The convention was adorable overall. Better organized than the old Anime Evolutions back in the day in Vancouver, but still with its own little glitches and hiccups. Nothing that upset me, other than the slight disappointment that my table was out of the beaten path. I was set up in a little alcove to the side of the main Artist Alley area (see picture), and while I was there with a few other artists, it still felt out of the way. I saw how many people attended, and how few chose to venture down into our little area. Some would just glance from the main corridor and keep walking. Still, I got enough traffic to keep me busy 98% of the time! And apparently it was better being on the main floor, as I was, as opposed to the downstairs area, which apparently got even less traffic.
The cosplayers were enthusiastic, the vendors generally friendly, the volunteers lovely and helpful. The lack of an open WiFi spot was more shocking than upsetting to me, though I imagine that if anyone had actually wanted to pay with a card (Using my Square Register) I’d been more upset.
As for my personal success at the con? Honestly, I suspected strongly that trying to vendor a new, little known IP at a predominantly anime/internet fandom convention would be an uphill battle. I had assumed that people come there to enjoy fellow-minded folk who wish to partake in the same fandoms. They want what they know, not new entertainment to consume. I was partially right, and boy was I also wrong!
I had brought some material with me. Not all of my prints, not all of my stock. Part of the problem was that two of us were travelling with one suitcase between us and the merch. Space was at a premium. So, I cleverly used a Loot Crate box to store what would fit in it, and hoped for the best. My measure of success (an important part of attending any con as a artist!) was to get a few more readers, sell as many prologues (That Fated Meeting, Long awaited) as possible, and maybe sell a couple of sets. The Friday got off to a good start, people expressed interest. My giveaways were being given. Buttons were glanced at. A set or two sold, a button or two bought. Saturday was when it all really started happening, though. Not only was attendance higher, but energy seemed to spike as well. A late start for the morning confused all of us artists, but once those doors were open, it was non-stop excitement pretty much until I left at 6pm. The day was supposed to go on until 8pm that day, but there were two reasons I folded my booth early: The first was for my health. While I gave it my all and will probably pay for pushing myself quite so much, it’s also important to know when to call it. The second reason was that I had almost completely run out of all my stock! I know, right?! 4-5 buttons types completely sold out, including in now-infamous Butt-on (It’s a button with a butt on it, ’cause I’m a classy lady), and the Button-ception (a button with a drawing of a classic button on it). I had perhaps enough volumes of comics to sell one more set of comics, and only a handful of prologues left! Considering how many of the prologue I had brought, I was both surprised and delighted at this turn of events. The Sunday of the convention I took off, since I had no giveaways left, and barely enough stock. Not to mention I had never been to Victoria before, and wanted at least one day to go and explore the city, although exploring such a touristy city while poor isn’t the best way to see it, I still had a lovely day. Thank you unusual sunny warmth in February, and a special thank you to our friends who took the day to show us around!
I hope to make a summery of what I’ve learned from each convention. I learned a lot of my tips and tricks from other artists who were kind enough to share their knowledge online, so I wish to do the same. I’ll add this to my notes from last year, and perhaps make a page on the site dedicated to helping aspiring webartists! For now, here are this year’s notes:
– Bring lots of change: You can really never have enough. If you won’t use it, your neighbours will surely need it.
– If you’re going to draw at your table, do it at an angle where you can see who’s coming to your booth. Seriously. I didn’t have much time to go exploring, but at least two artists lost any chance of my business by not seeing me stop and admire their work, nor hear when I asked a question. Cons are busy, noisy places. If you’re there to actually put yourself out there and not just sell a couple of prints ’cause it’s fun, you gotta put yourself out there. This leads me to my next point:
– Engage with passer-bys: Some people are worried about making others feel uncomfortable, like they might feel if they were hassled passing by a booth. I say, hassle away! Don’t be a jerk, and don’t prevent them from leaving, but especially if you’re trying to get a new IP out there, you gotta engage and talk to people who are glancing at your work for more than a passing moment. Remember that they most likely haven’t the foggiest what you’re about. Teach them! Talk to them! Start with your practised “elevator” pitch. Do they stick around? Keep talking! Mention how often you update. They’re still around? Tell them to take a look at the books you have on the table, or even open some pages up yourself. They’re still around? Talk prices and bundle prices. They’re still around, but not interested in your IP? Direct them to any unrelated prints or buttons you have at your table. Or start with the buttons, show them some funny ones, laugh with them, ask them if they’re having fun. They’re still around? Give them your elevator pitch about your comic! If they just say “Thanks” and turn to leave, keep that big smile on your face and wish them enjoyment of the rest of the convention. I cannot stress how many people came to look at my comics with mild interest, and then were hooked on buying a prologue after I explained what it is about. Even movies have trailers, so don’t be afraid to not let the art just sit there and sell itself. It’ll be like wanting to see a brand new movie based on the poster alone. You want to know more, so give them more! This leads me to my next point:
– Be as authentic and enthusiastic as you want them to be: Sell it, but also smile a big smile while you talk about it. Be more excited than you’d normally be about your stuff. Anyone who meets me at a con might think I’m a total extrovert, comfortable talking with anyone. Anyone who knows me in person knows that I’m a little cautious when I speak, and that I’m definitely an introvert. Put that aside and be your own number 1 fan! Talk about it like you’re talking about your favourite TV show, you know? Explain the themes you explore, the cool moments therein, the fun of this fandom. If you trip on your words or spew excitement at someone who had already heard it and you’ve forgotten, just apologize! Say how excited you are and how tired you are from working so hard. People get it. Don’t be perfect, but be your own number 1 fan.
– Notebook: If you’re the type who draws at your table, you don’t need to worry about this one, but I do. As a person who likes engaging people and seeing if I can lure them to hear my pitch, I’m constantly looking up. It’s useful, then, to have a little notebook with me to take notes. I’m always looking to learn from other people, and why shouldn’t I? Everyone has something I don’t know about, and the more educated I am, the better off. Write down cool ideas you see other booths do in their décor. Write down names of Tumblr plugins people recommend, or a website with great resources. Write down names and addresses as needed.
– Befried and help: I’m pretty sure I mentioned this last year in my VanCAF summery, but I cannot stress this enough. I don’t care if you already have a buddy helping you man the booth, look around and introduce yourself to your neighbours. Ask them if they need help if you’re done your booth setup early. You never know what they have and what help you might need. Anything from a power cord for the phone to change to just looking over your table for 5 minutes as you go to the loo. Offer to share the snacks you brought. Don’t be in your own little bubble. No one will remember you, and who better to help promote your work than your fellow artists? You might be shy and nervous, that’s fine! Your neighbour is probably just the same.
– Respect other artists: Artists don’t get a ton of time out of their booths, but when you are walking around and meeting your fellow artists, please don’t give them the long version of your pitch! Do if they ask, but remember that they’re tethered to their booths, and can’t leave if they’re not interested in your work. Yes, some of them aren’t interested in your work, no matter what, so respect that. By all means, invite them to check out your booth later where “You’ll tell them all about your awesome ideas”, but leave it at that. Respect that while you might be a customer, con-attendees that pass by will still take priority, especially if you’re just there to shoot the shit, or have already purchased what they have to sell. Be respectful!