THIS PAGE IS A WIP. Feel free to leave comments if you find inconsistencies/spelling mistakes!
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For a long time I’ve been a webcomics creator with a full-time job. That’s not easy! I’ve started with pretty much no knowledge on how to approach things like buffers and websites, let alone more complicated things like attending conventions, printing my own work and figuring out price points! When I was trying to do research, I found information scattered and fragmented. No one place had a real collection of knowledge.
So I thought I’d create an article documenting what I’ve learned. I’ll be updating this as I learn more, and I hope it’ll be of use to someone out there. I don’t know everything yet, nor am I ever likely to know everything, but maybe together we can make this a database for everyone.
Webcomics For the Employed And/Or Person Busy With This Thing Called Life
Note that these tips are directed at making an original IP on your own. Making a fan-comics gives you certain leeways and a pre-made fanbase, but takes away things like the right to distribute and make money off of it, as well as a certain measure of creative freedom. Working with a friend can be very rewarding, but can seriously mess up update schedules if one party is tardier than the other, as well as getting into copyright issues should a party decide to leave.
The goal of my tips here is to make creating webcomics a fun experience, one with the least amount of stress and negative impacts on your life. Taking on a large commitment like this is going to have an impact on your free time, that’s part of the point of this and its unavoidable. So use your time wisely and you’ll not get tired of it. When a creative endeavour such as this demands too much of your time that it starts interrupting life then you’re much more likely to give it up.
When I tell people I’m a webcomic artist and when attend conventions, people often say they have a great idea for a webcomics that that “would love to do, but…”. There’s always a but. Trust me, there will always be a but. Few are the people who wanted to start a webcomic in a time where absolutely nothing else was demanding their attention and time. School, work, family, games, movies, friends, loved ones.
There will always be a but.
The first and foremost most important step of making webcomics is:
Actually Make Webcomics
All the prep, merch, conventions, ideas, sketches and whatnots don’t matter if you don’t actually sit down and start working. The rest I’ll write out here in the order I personally think is important.
Concentrate on what you’re passionate about. If you love drawing the story, concentrate on that. Don’t worry about what other people are doing or saying. If you’re going to do this webcomic for the foreseeable future, concentrate on what you actually enjoy doing. So you don’t like webdesign? Use a pre-existing theme. Just want to tell the story? Just tell it! Don’t worry about making everything perfect. Yeah, throughout your entire time webcomicking you’ll be looking at others who do something better. That person has more fans, that person’s art is amazing. This person does action scenes way better. Don’t. Just do what you do and people will like you for it. Push yourself, yes. Learn, grow, but don’t beat yourself up, or try to do something that you don’t want or enjoy because someone else does it. In life as well as in webcomics.
What I do: I don’t like backgrounds, so I do them here and there, slowly learning. The most important thing for me is to get the story out, to tell it, so my art is not my 100%, but what I can do within the time without losing patience.
Ok, so you’ve actually sat down and made the first page, the first strip, the first motion-comics, the first ‘product’. How long did that take you? How frequently can you afford to update? Now, taking into account that you’d get quicker, how many of these can you reasonably be expected to make, while meeting other obligations? There will always be distractions; the new game came out, you promised a friend you’d hang out with them, you get sick, you’re gainfully employed. Are there ways to speed up the process? Photoshop Actions, getting better tools, learning a new program like Manga Studio (Clip Studio Paint, now). Whatever you decide, however frequently you decide to update, make sure that it doesn’t take up so much of your time that you’ve no time for anything else. You’ll just end up resenting your creation and abandoning it. Regular updates are paramount for the success of a new IP, I am told. This applies to those of us, like me, whose art isn’t amazing enough to garner attention entirely on its own merit. Webcomics like Jakface’s Woo Hoo are very popular despite updating rather sporadically, because they have an amazing artist and a brilliant writer. We can’t all be that lucky…
What I do: I update 2 times a week. This means I need to make 8 pages a month. Since I have a buffer (see more below) I choose to do them in monthly batches. So long as I get my quota done in the month, I’m free to do whatever I want. I can take the entire month to draw this, or be done in a week. I like the flexibility of my choice.
Connected to the above, I strongly recommend having the website go “live” after you have a bit of a buffer. However much you think works for you. Sometimes you’ll be out of town, and sometimes you’ll get sick. The purpose of the buffer is to make your life easier and less stressful. If you know you have until a certain time to finish your next pile of comics, you can rest easier while you’re sick. You can go visit your friends, go to movies and leave town.
What I do: I used to have a 2 month buffer, but I got sick and it was reduced to 1 month. Now I make 10 pages a month of each instead of 8, allowing me to slowly open the lead of my buffer again. Each month I make 10 pages, alternating between my two stories, thus making sure that both stories have a lot of content going forward.
If you’re making a gag-comics, then you might not need this, but for a more story-driven tale a transcript/script is a must. You don’t have to have the whole thing written out from the start. Have enough written that you can work on it for a while, and continue writing it as you go along. It can be daunting enough to think of drawing the entire story, but having to have every tiny detail figured out in advance can be a huge hurdle. If you have to retcon, retcon. You’re not filming Game of Thrones here, where you can’t go back and fix something later. Unless you’re very lucky, you’re not going to have a ton of readers to start, and you’ll be able to change things here and there if needed. Don’t make it a habit, but also don’t stress about it. Write it however you want. If you’re the type of person who loves movie-script-style breakdowns, do that, if not, that’s fine, too!
What I do: I write out the story as a story, like I’m writing a book. Then I read the section I’m about to draw and decide on the spot how I might want it to look. Since I work in batches of 8-10 pages I thumbnail of the pages in the batch together, allowing me to see how it flows and change it accordingly.
Understanding And Perseverance
Unless you’re one of those super-talented folk, you’re part of the masses, like me, who toil away and don’t have a ton of readers. Seraphim, at the time of writing this, isn’t exactly a well-known name in the realm of webcomics. That can be rough. Let me tell you, I can’t name the number of times I told myself to shutter it. I put in a ton of work, and mostly it’s like shouting into a cavern. Here and there I get echoes, but mostly it’s silence. That’s not easy. And unless you’re very lucky or very talented, that’s going to be the par for the course for possibly a long time. Even the webcomic Gunnerkrigg Court, now famous and popular started in 2005, and took about this long (10 years!) to get to a place of popularity. Now he has a very successful Patreon and is working on the comic full time. At first this topic was lower on my list, but I realized it’s probably more important that I give it credit. It’s hard. You’ll want to give up. It’ll be a huge part of your life you can’t talk about at parties and get-togethers because no-one will care. You’ll get a comment here and there and then another month without a single one. Then a friend will tell you they love it, or an acquaintance will show you they have your art as a wallpaper and you’ll pick yourself up and carry on.
Or not. But that’s the thing. The successful ones are the ones you continued despite all this, and reading online I see that even the popular ones, even the successful ones feel like this from time to time. This article is short and sweet, and hits the nail right on the head.
In order of importance this should be perhaps even higher, but it really only comes to play once you have something of a body of work. I cannot stress enough the importance of doing this, and doing it often. Find however works for you, but make sure that you’re backing up everything: Photoshop Actions, custom brushes, fonts, references…
What I do: I use online services for cloud storage, myself. I used to backup on CDs but recently tried to find my originals for my old comic The Threat Within only to sadly find out that the CD was unreadable. It wasn’t even scratched. I took it to a professional data recovery place and even they couldn’t recover it. I have a file dedicated to keeping consistencies like what font I use for chapter titles, what size and which services I use for what! I backup my work once a month and actions, brushes and references once every three months.
There are a lot of hosting services around, from SmackJeeves, dedicated specifically to Webcomics, to hosting it on your own server with a WordPress installation. Just be wary of the free options out there as they may include mandatory advertising or have frequent outages. If you don’t know and don’t want to learn CSS and HTML to run your own website, you can always use WordPress or one of the many
What I do: My fantastic brother had some space available on his server, and I own LunarBlade.com for a while yet, so that’s why Seraphim doesn’t use a Seraphim specific URL. I run a WordPress intall with Comic Easel plugin on it.
Know thy copyrights. The internet is big and stealing can happen, but you don’t really need to worry about this until you’re more successful… What you do need to worry about is making sure you attribute correctly if you use someone else’s materials, and understand the basics of Creative Commons.
Another thing to pay attention to is copyright in case of two (or more) creators. Make sure that if something goes south, you know where everyone stands. If the website starts generating actual income, where does it go? Nothing kills friendships faster than money arguments. If someone has a spat with another person and wants to quit, what happens to their contributions? This is what happened with my previous webcomic, The Threat Within. Without clear, written understandings, you never know what will happen to your creation. Don’t rely on word on mouth. Get something in writing, even if it’s just an email everyone replies to with “I agree”.
What I do: Seraphim is protected by Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. I’m more or less the sole creator of it, but I’ve contacted the only other person who might have a claim on it to get an email confirmation that I may do with his contributions what I want forever more.
The Business Side: AKA Existing Out There Without Breaking The Bank
The business side of your comics is almost as important as the creative side. If your comic is great, but you’re losing a lot money for years on end because you don’t know what you’re doing, eventually you’re going to call it quits. And, if you’re one of the lucky ones that can make a net positive from their comics, it’s best if you learn how to actually understand you’re one of the lucky ones!
If you’re the new kid in school, like me, and the idea of printing off your own work into real physical copies sounds amazing up until you start looking at processes and prices, let me help point you in a few directions, and give a few tips I wish I had gotten.
This is a big topic with a lot to say. Let me just tell you this– there are a lot of printing houses out there. A lot. However, finding ones who can make a short run (that is if you’re new and looking to print less than 500 copies of this comic of yours you’re not sure anyone would want to buy…) at a decent price is a lot harder.
You can go to your local printers and ask. Chances are the city you live in, or the nearest big city has about a trillion print shops, but of them finding the ones that do short run comics (or brochures, which you can substitute the contents of for comics) is mostly just calling and asking, or using their online quote system.
In Vancouver we have the Cloudscape society, which is a collection of web and classic comic creators in the area who come together to help and inspire each other. I have never gone to their meetings (I really should) because I can’t get there and back within a decent timeframe. They, however, know printers around town and even have a little black and white printer/binder of their own for members’ use. Look online and see if your city, or the next nearest one have a group of artists working together.
What you want to know from your printers:
- What’s the smallest run they can do: Some will not even touch you if you’re not looking to buy 500+ units. That’s a lot to go through. At the beginning you’re looking at ~30 for the year.
- How much does that come out per copy: Important for obvious reasons. In order to make a profit, you need to know how much they cost per unit.
- Shipping costs, if applicable: You’d want to divide the total shipping cost by the amount of units you’re printing. It adds to the total cost of each unit!
- Do they use RGB or CMYK printing: Most likely your graphic program (Photoshop, most likely) is set to RGB. This means that if they print in CMYK it opens a whole can of proofing worms. Monitors have trouble proofing for CMYK on a good day, let alone trying to get the blues right…
- Do they do proofs: A proof is a single unit of your product so that you can take a look if it turned out right
I won’t go into Trim and Bleed and Live Area and all that here. Your printer will probably tell you all about it. If there’re a lot of questions about that here, I’ll talk about it. 🙂 The important thing to know is that if you’re using a custom size, and no template exists, make sure to calculate your trims correctly!
My number 1 tip for anyone who thinks about going to print: It takes a LOT longer than you think it will. It’s a lot of work and it’ll take you a long time! So if you’re preparing for a convention, give yourself a lot of time.
What I do: I use Ka-Blam. They’re in Miami, if I’m not mistaken. Even living in Vancouver, which is almost as far as you can get on the same continent from there, printing from Ka-Blam is still the cheapest option, and that includes shipping. I can afford to sell the prologue for $3 – $5 and still make a profit. Locally it’d cost me upwards of $4 per unit. In small runs each cent counts. They’re all your own cents, after all.
It might be a dirty word, but you need to be your own accountant. Or, you need to get someone to get you started on the right path. It doesn’t take much, don’t be frightened. It just so happens that this is something I love to do.
If you plan on being serious with your comics, if your dream is to do it full-time, or if you’re using your own money to try and make something out of your IP (Intellectual Property), understanding what your costs really really are is vital.
Ok, You managed to find a printer who’d print your comic for $5 per unit if you get a batch of 20! Great! Shipping is $40 for 20 units. What does that mean? How much should you sell it for? The example I gave I made up, but let’s quickly calculate this. If you’re ordering 20 at $5 a pop, you can sell them for $6 and make a tiny margin, right? After all, you want exposure at this point. Well, what about shipping? The real cost of the batch of 20 might logically be closer to $140, shipping included, and that is assuming there’s no tax or customs to pay. So, if it really comes to $140 for the entire batch, that means that 140/20=7. Had you sold it for $6 you’d have lost a dollar per unit. Sometimes you have to take a lose if you want exposure, but the most important thing of this part of comicking is to actually understand where your losses happen.
If you sell your comic at a small margin of profit, is it really a profit? If you look at it as a business, the answer might still be no. If you’re selling it at a small margin and making money, you need to consider other costs. How much is your hosting costing you per year? How much is your domain costing you? Did you pay a friend to help you with CSS? How much was that?
It’s really not complicated calculations. With Google Spreadsheets these days anyone can do these simple number runs for themselves. This can come in very handy when comparing prices. The local shop might look cheaper on the surface since there’s no shipping, but you might be surprised once you run the numbers.
In terms of taxes I’m pretty sure you don’t need to declare any of this unless you’re making over a certain amount from it a year and it becomes a major source of income. You’d have to consult with your country’s laws to understand.
Conventions: How to Find and How to Best Attend
I won’t lie, I’m not expert at attending conventions. I’m no hardened veteran. What I am is a student, still learning what are the best practices to get the most out of a brief chance to get your story to be read by more people. What I have listed here are my own observations and research. Things that have worked for me or that I didn’t like when others did. I’ll be updating this as I go to more conventions and learn more, and if you have experience or a question, please do ask! This is a amalgam of both my experiences at VanCAF and Tsukino-Con, so if you’ve read those summaries, you’ll see the same notes here. Going forward I’ll probably just update here. After all, I look at this before every convention, to remind myself of what’s important, and what I can improve from last time.
I’ve split the lists to three parts: The Path, which discusses finding and applying for conventions, The Physical, discussing the physical things you need to have and prepare for happier tabling, and The Abstract, discussing the things you need to mentally prepare and attitudes I find helpful and positive.
“Happiness if a journey” a wise man once said.
Other than the obvious Google search, try following local webcomic artists of Facebook and Twitter. They’ll gladly announce “I’ll be at so-and-so convention in March!” And there you go. You know for next year. There are a lot of conventions and it’s up to you to ask yourself if you should attend. Some conventions like the Expo series (Vancouver Fan Expo, Calgary Comics Expo, etc.) are very expensive to get a table at ($299 in 2015), and while I don’t know how much Emerald City Comic Con tables are, I can’t imagine they’re cheap! So you either need to be willing to sink that money in, find someone to split with, or simply choose not to go. They’re fantastic exposure and probably amazing to attend, but if you’re a newbie to the biz, it is very unlikely you’ll make your money back. On top of that, if you’re not living in the host city, you’ll have to commute there and lodge, which will skyrocket your price to attend.
Applying to Conventions
Again, Google and Twitter can be your good friends in this category. The important thing I want to mention here is to take a good, hard look at their requests for submissions. Make sure you fill out the application exactly how they want it. Don’t make them chase you down because you forgot a section, or filled it out wrong. They’re likely to simply not take the effort, since they probably have plenty of applicants who took the time to do it right. Be polite, be eager. If they contact you, take the time to thank them and express your pleasure at being accepted.
Some places will let people in by choice, taking time to look at each applicant in turn and deciding who has the type of content they want in their show. The Comic Arts Festivals are like that (TCAF, VanCAF). Other venues might have a first come, first serve policy. In that case make sure you set an alarm to submit on time! Or better yet, prepare your email ahead of time and put it on a scheduled send. That way if the deadline is midnight, you can sleep soundly, knowing you’ve applied with computer accuracy. If your mail client can’t do timed emails, there are a lot of plugins you can get that will.
You don’t need fancy book holders, you don’t need a banner. Those things are nice, but they’re far from mandatory. If you’re rolling in money, sure! Make your table look the most professional thing ever. For the better part, there is so much to look at at a convention that the way things are held up is going to be pretty low on people attention list. I use a small, unlocked box for my change box (it’s not like the ones with the lock are Fort Knox or anything), thrift store picture frame backs as my book stands and a piece of cloth in a picture frame to hold up my buttons. My first VanCAF I had a $2 pillow case as my table cloth. For this year I’ve upgraded to a $4 thrift store tablecloth. I’ve done Mod Podge transfer to get my logo on it. I waited until Vistaprint had a sale and got my banner done for $10. There are ways to go at it cheaply and feel super resourceful in the process!
Forget Me Not
You want people to remember you, don’t you? If they hadn’t purchased a thing from your table, you want them to remember you. Your personality can do a lot here, but they still might not remember your comic’s name or URL.
I’ve approached this from two fronts. First are the free giveaways. Inspired by Erika Moen’s advice, I’ve created free comics giveaways. These are original short (2 sides of half a letter page) comics that give a hint at what the comic is about. It gives them a taste for my art style and the tone of the story. Because I have two stories I have two giveaways, and it’s a great lead in for my elevator pitch (read below)!
The other approach is a picture frame with Gilad in it, as well as a list of all my contact information. Gilad is there to help people remember the comics, and then I have my URL, my name and all the ways to reach me; Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr… Even if someone doesn’t feel like taking a freebie, or you’re all out (a good problem to have) they can always snap a photo of your contact info.
The thing about just a business card, or a small piece of paper with the URL is that they won’t necessary remember what this URL was connected with. Think about it from their point of view– they spent 2, maybe even 3 days pouring through art and getting bombarded with visuals. Give them something they’ll remember you by, or at least be re-interested in checking out your stuff, without you there to nag them to do it.
Sleep at night, drink lots of water during the day. “Con Crud”, that illness that seems inevitable at the end of a convention is far from. Getting sleep at night (which might mean forsaking the parties) can go a long way towards boosting your immune system, as well as keeping constantly hydrated. Have a break in the crowd? Take a bite out of something, and take a slurp of water. I would recommend against carbonated, sugar-filled drinks. You don’t want a sugar crash and you want to actually rehydrate yourself. The food should preferably be high-protein with the occasional carb. The protein will help you stay full for longer, and the carb will give you a small boost without the sugar crash. Remember to wash your hands when you can, and have a hand sanitizer with you. Try not to touch your eyes, mouth or nose after shaking many hands, and definitely try to avoid the types of foods you need to eat with your hands. I had brought almonds with me and realized I could only eat a handful after each time I washed my hands in the bathroom!
Merch is Last
A repeated piece of advice I found online during my research was that a new IP creator tends to get over-excited about their merchandise. They want to make stickers, buttons, shirts, toys… Everything they’re passionate about in their comic. However, those things cost a lot to make, and the chances of getting a return on investment are, let’s face it, slim with a little-known IP. Few are the people who will drop $20 on a shirt they know nothing about, unless the design is really cool, regardless of the source material. Discerning people won’t want to advertise something on their bodies or bags when they don’t know if they like it. Unless you can make them on the cheap and sell them on the cheap, they’re not going to fly.
What I do: I have a friend who makes silk-screens as a hobby. He agreed to make me a batch of stickers very cheaply. I agreed and paid him, and now I just give away the stickers with purchases of bundles. As for my buttons, I make a few Seraphim buttons, but they’re not my only buttons. They’re up there with a pile of nerdy button ideas and I give them away, as well, when someone buys bundles.
Have lots of change with you. If you sell something at $15, have lots of 5s. If you sell it for $16, have lots of twonies (for my Canadian brothers and sisters, anyway!). Believe me, if you bring too much change, your neighbours will gladly buy some off of you when they run out!
What I do: I usually take about $60-$70 in change with me, ranging from $5s to $10s to $1s and $2s. It’s amazing how fast you get up there, when you think about how much change you might need. If you say to yourself “I just need 4 5 dollar bills” you’re already at $20, and that’s before you add a few $10s to the mix.
You’re going to be sitting and standing intermittently in the same spot for hours, so bring something soft to stand on (a cut-up Yoga mat does a great job at this) and maybe a cushion for the chair. Some places have comfy chairs, some do not. In a pinch, your jacket can do nicely to sit on. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable, broken in shoes. Buy them new insoles if you need to. There are a lot of excellent options out there these days at a variety of price points. I like splurging on the expensive ones, myself, ’cause sore feet make me frown, and make me grumpy and I don’t want that.
Something I’ve recently been learning is that I need to keep track of what I’ve been selling, and at what price. Between batch discounts, giveaways, and using my earnings to buy things at the convention, it’s really hard to keep track of how much actual money you’re making. If you want to understand if you’re in the black or in the red, you want to keep track of this. You can have something as simple as a piece of paper with your products and batches and deals, and simply do a check mark each time you sell one of those. You can always count how much of something you have left and deduce from there, but that doesn’t take deals, sales and batch discounts into account.
I also use Square Register, although I’ve yet to have a chance to actually put it to use. They’re a “free” service. That is, it costs nothing to register and if you don’t use it you don’t pay a dime. For every credit card transaction you do, however, they take somewhere in the vicinity of 2-3%. So far I’ve heard only good things about them and they’re a great way to keep inventory. You can track your discounts and your stock and have an accurate representation of your earnings.
This section also connects to the Business part of my Printing and Business article. How much did the table cost? How much did it cost you to get to this convention? Yes, you might have sold a lot, but did you actually make a profit, or are you still bleeding money? It’s not always terrible to lose a bit of money if it means more exposure, but you need to know what you’re doing, don’t you?
Make Friends (Help Others)
Get to know your fellow artists and exhibitors. Say hi, shake their hands. Help them build their elaborate stands and offer to share your snacks if you hear they’re hungry. It costs you nothing and makes you friends. Not only that, but you never know who’s going to sit beside you, and what connections that might get you. Where did they print their books, that make them look so good? Where do they work? Do they know people, who know people? And then, when you need to take a leak, they’ll at the very least watch your booth for 3 minutes. Don’t expect anything, and certainly don’t help with the expectation of getting something out of it, but be friendly and keep an open mind. They’re just as nervous as you, most likely just as frazzled and stressed. Be kind. Always.
An “Elevator Pitch” is a entertainment industry term referring to the most condensed, most intriguing version of your story that could be told in the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator a
couple of stories, so usually less that 30 seconds. This is very important for a new, unknown IP. This is something you’re going to want to have in your head, if not say out loud a couple of times before the convention. It doesn’t have to sound perfect, or rehearsed, but you need to be able to say it a million times with the same level of excitement. You can vary it, and you certainly don’t want to say it exactly the same to two people who probably heard you the first time. But you want people to say “That’s a cool idea!” after you’re done. You want to keep them interested.
What I do: My elevator pitch is “Seraphim: Tales of Love and Courage is actually two stories that happen in the same world, but in different times of it’s history. They’re separated, but connected.” and I take it from there if they maintain interest. I might go on to explain the different stories and the times they live in, or I might explain how reading both stories gives a better picture of this alternate history earth. I might expound on how the stories are coming-of-age stories filled with magic and knights and a smudge of philosophy.
Recently I watched Paper Wings’ pitch instructions, and I might just change the above! Here’s the link to it, and he talks about “The universal human emotion”, the theme of your story. The “Human point of view”. Very interesting!
This is high on the list. Engage with passer-bys. Compliment their fan memorabilia or cosplay. If they look at your stuff, start talking to them. Smile, answer in full sentences. If they stick around, tell them more. This is vitally important, especially if what you’re selling is a little known, original IP. They know nothing about it, most likely, and while your art might be cool, it still doesn’t tell them what they need to know to get excited. Even if you have text on your desk describing what it is you’re selling, they’ve been bombarded with so much visual noise until they got to you, they’re probably not reading it. Tell them. Start with your elevator pitch. Have they not left yet? Are they showing even minimal interest? Keep talking. Explain how often you update, or how long you’ve been doing this. Tell them how many chapters are online, or go into details about a character they commented about.
If you’re an unknown IP going to a convention for the first time, and you’re expecting to sell out of everything and never have to work again except to make webcomics… Well… That might happen, but most likely it will not. Most likely a lot of people will say “That’s cool!” and not buy anything. Most likely people will pass you by with a glance, no matter how much you try to engage with them. For each convention that you go to, I recommend you have realistic expectations for what you might want to accomplish there. My first VanCAF in 2014 was my first convention ever. My hope was “to sell more than 0 things”. When I ended up selling 8 sets of comics, that was a HUGE success! (“I’m making a note here; huge success”). If my expectation was to sell all 20 I had with me, I would have been disappointed by selling “only” 8 sets. Set your expectations to realistic levels. It’s harder with an original IP, unless your art sells itself.
Your Own #1 Fan
When someone asks you about your comic, be as excited as you want them to be about it. Imagine you’re talking about your favourite comics, or TV show. Talk with that level of excitement. If you’re not totally pumped about your own work, why should they be? Be as modest as you like, but don’t talk your work down. Don’t say how you think your art is ugly, and don’t contradict potential buyers if they say your art or ideas are cool. Just say thanks. This is important. I get super nervous when anyone I know looks at my comics outside a convention, but at the convention you’d think I’m my own #1 fan and love each panel I drew. Talk to me outside and I’ll tell you exactly how many panels I can’t stand to look at. I don’t lie, but I simply don’t talk about all the trials and tribulations of the artistry. They don’t want to hear it, and I want them to be as joyful as I am that I’m here at this convention, selling my wares. When asked, I admit I don’t have formal training, and I admit that I think the later books’ art is much better, but I won’t say the old art is “much worse”. Positive language is important!
Conventions can run 2 -3 days. That’s not a lot, but the exhaustion you feel afterwards can last twice that many days, especially if you give it your all. Pacing yourself is important. This connects to the above “Take Care” subject, but this is in terms of your energy levels. Try not to rely on coffee and sugars, but also don’t give 110% from the first second you sit down, even before the doors open. Pace yourself. Learn when you can close your eyes and give your cheeks a rest from smiling. Work your neck, as it might start hurting about a day of looking at people. While your posture may be perfect when people are looking, learn to slouch when people aren’t looking to give your back a rest. Be aware of how loudly you talk and lower your voice a tad, letting your vocal cords rest.
This is very important, yet I put it on the bottom since I assume most people should know this already. Be respectful to the con attenders, no matter what they’re dressed like or how socially awkward they may be. Respect their time and let them leave as they please. Respect that they might not buy anything yet be genuinely excited about your work. Equally important is to be respectful of other artists. I’ve had this happen to me at a convention: A fellow booth vendor came to my booth and persisted in explaining their entire comic premise to me in depth. Since I was already at my own booth, I could not escape this. Not only that, but they inquired nothing about my own works. It was highly disrespectful, I felt. Remember that other artists cannot leave their booth much, and if you’re at their booth, they want the topic of conversation to be on their works. If you’re not planning on buying anything, or if you’ve already purchased something, make sure you’re not hogging the artist’s attention away from other potential clients. As much as they might want to talk to you, they want to sell and spread the word, too. Respect social hints and don’t be a booth barnacle!
Booth Barnacle Tips:
What’s a booth barnacle? It’s a person who hangs around your booth to talk to you for far too long, or who returns frequently to shoot the shit with you while you’re working. This doesn’t include friends, or a booth helper, but usually a complete stranger who decided you’re friends now and that you definitely want to hear all about his life/comics ideas/opinions about something. From my experiences these people are often socially awkward, and they don’t get subtle social queues. You may not so subtly pay attention to other people, look away from them, check your phone… Any number of hints that they should carry on, and they won’t. Any kindness that is show to them encourages them to stay and talk. Now, be sure to understand that I’m not saying you should be unkind! Always be kind. There are a couple of ways to get rid of them, thank you Erika Moen again for the tip:
My approach (learned from Erika) is to talk to them thusly: “Oh, wow! You’ve been at my booth for a while now– go check out the rest of the con! I’m stuck behind this desk, but you’re not! Run free! Have fun! Go encourage other artists and enjoy the convention to the fullest.” I insist on this, and they’ll more often than not wonder off. This works if they look very tired, if it’s the second/third day of the con. “Go get some rest! You look ready to keel over.” or “Sounds to me like you need to do a couple of final rounds and then hit the hey. Go, I don’t want to you to pass out here!” With a smile.
Self Promotion Lecture at Periscope Studio: Erika Moen
Here’s Erika Moen’s video of tips about conventions: So very useful! I learned a lot from when I was first starting. The woman is brilliant.
How to Lose A Fan in Ten Seconds
Here’s a 20 minute video by Chris Oatley, a Disney character designer and comic book artist, gives tips about crafting the best pitch for your story! Fantastic listen.