My first comic con as an exhibiting creator

I attended my first comicon, exhibiting my work as the creator of The Brink comic book ( at the MCM Comic convention in Birmingham. Firstly, it’s pretty scary going to one of these things to display your work. Alot of questions run through your head – what’s going to happen? Will people like my work? What the hell am I doing?

To begin with it was surprisingly lonely but the atmosphere was comfortable so getting to know other creators around me was not difficult. Everybody was so friendly anyway. The first thing I did was set up. I took the following items with me and was quite happy with my display:

  • Comics (obviously). I had already placed most of them in plastic wallets with backing board.
  • Prints.
  • Wire cube storage – I attached some comics and prints. Lots of others use these too.
  • Table cloth – this is a requirement at comicons. I bought a cheap black table cloth.
  • Roller banner.
  • A5 sized chalk board and pen – I wrote the price list on one side and ‘Back in 5’ on the other.
  • Black Sharpie pen – to sign the comics. I also used the white chalk board pen.
  • Tablet – I played my The Brink video on it to attract people’s attention.
  • Pen and paper – I used this to collect names and email addresses for my mailing list.

The tables were 2 metres long and the tables behind were about the same distance away, which isn’t a whole lot of room, but it was enough and I didn’t feel squashed in.

Thinking about my location at the convention is an odd one. The comics village was located off to the side of the main path through the centre of the convention. In fact it was further away than ideal, in a place you could completely miss it. I did take a walk around on Sunday morning and really felt like it was separate from the convention unfortunately.

We were right next to cosplay central, so I got to see some awesome costumes. But let’s face it, alot of the cosplayers were there to have fun and get their picture taken. There were some decent activities going on, on the cosplay central stage, but it didn’t attract a huge crowd and I’m not sure it attracted anyone looking to buy comics.

Other seasoned exhibitors were pretty disappointed and told me it is much better when the village is located on the main drag.

I paid more for the stall than I made all weekend. This was disappointing, but not a complete waste of time. I saw my time there as a real learning experience and I met some amazing people – exhibitors, creators and potential fans. I would have been totally put off from ever attending a convention if I’d also paid for a hotel too. Luckily I stayed with a friend.

Interestingly, other exhibitors told me that picking your convention is important so it depends on your genre and style as to which you will do well at. Comic book creators seem to do better with comic sales at other conventions, apparently you sell more badges and prints than comics at this one.

I also learned that creators always do better once you have issue 2 and I did speak with several people who enquired about issue 2.

Email list
Putting a pen and pad down for people to add their name and email address was more successful for me. I’m very happy to get more people involved in my polls, create more interest and add to the fan base in any way I can.

Types of visitors
I met some awesome people, but there was a real mix. Of course some were just browsing and liked the art but weren’t interested in buying comic books. Some liked the look of The Brink and bought a comic straight away. Others showed interest but maybe just having issue 1 was a sticking point. I also spoke to people who just wanted to chat and some who asked for advice because they were creating their own comic book. Several people asked me if I had a card they could take. I didn’t. Damn!

Sales pitch
My sales pitch evolved over the 2 days. Initially, I found it difficult as I didn’t want to pounce on people and shove my comic in their face shouting ‘BUY IT! IT’S AWESOME! BUY IT NOW!’. Equally, I didn’t want to just sit there and not interact with anyone. Like many, I find summarising my comic for people very difficult because I’m enthusiastic about it and want to tell them about all the cool things in it. Essentially, I provided an overview of issue #1. I then gave them a little about the over all story. I then told them about the interactive website and hidden content and the fact that I like to get the fans involved too.

Overall, I enjoyed the weekend and learned alot from other, more experienced exhibitors. In terms of sales vs costs it was a resounding fail, however I collected plenty of email addresses from interested people which might convert to sales later.

More items to take next time
Here are the extra bits and pieces I will take to my next convention:

  • Scissors
  • Celloptape
  • Water – if your there by yourself then it’s thirsty work as it’s unlikely you’ll get time for a break.
  • More pounds coins – you can never have enough change. On my very last sale on the Saturday I had to ask a fellow exhibitor for some change.
  • A cash tin. I just had money stuffed in my pockets and it probably didn’t look too professional.
  • Print some cards with Website address and email.

Things to consider for the next comicon

  • Discover the right comicon for my product.
  • Consider stickers and badges.
  • Create a portfolio to display.

I hope you find my blog useful. Let me know if you have any good advice too.

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Steven Sweeney BSc(Hons), MSc

'The Brink' comic creator, author, Web developer and musician with 5 albums.