Well, maybe not my absolute first. I just released Journey to the Middle Kingdom this year, and recently had my second successful Kickstarter. I decided it was time to hit the comic book show circuit and start selling issues. I've been to comics expos as a buyer, but never as a seller. I recently became a vendor at the Great Lakes Comic Expo which was held on Dec. 11th in Clinton Township, MI. Here are the 5 tips to selling your comic at a show.
#1 Have a Professional Display
My first display looked utterly unprofessional. It had a number of things that made it so people knew I was an independent creator right off the bat:
The show didn't provide any tablecloth, just a run of the mill brown card table.
All my items were laid flat. That meant the person had to lean over to see what my comic was about.
There were no eye catching displays, nothing to say "Hey, stop what you're doing and come see me!"
Luckily, I met a fellow creator at the expo by the name of Tom Savage, and his display made it look like he had an actual publisher. He had beautiful tablecloth, forward facing displays with art printed on foam board, and even a video trailer for the board game he was selling! I took notes.
I bought a custom tablecloth, ordered some acrylic book stands, and printed out signage on a foam board and used Velcro to stick it to the back of the book stand. I even got a pop-up display, and made sure to wear a T-shirt using the same artwork.
As you can see, my display was a LOT better. I still need to make improvements, but I got a much better reception from folks.
#2 Have Samples
Another big change from my first show was this time I set aside two issues to serve as samples. I'm an unknown author with an unknown product, so it's important that people get to take a look at the comic. I marked two issues as samples and invited passerby's to read. It got me a few sales. It really didn't cost me anything to do this, and this one small gesture was actually pretty effective.
#3 Be available but not pushy
When I was a kid my mother owned a dollar store and sometimes I helped out. I learned that as the store keep, you want to be available, but you have to know when to step in, and when to let the customer have their space. People can feel like you're guilting them into buying something they don't actually want.
I stood for most of the comic expo while others sat down. This allowed me to strike up conversations with the people that wanted it. Some people were looking to network with me because of my comic, whereas others were genuinely curious as to what it was about (thank you forward facing displays!). Standing up and being present, letting them take the lead, was crucial.
#4 Practice that elevator pitch!
I'm not a natural salesman. I'm an introverted, reserved person, so selling my work is hard. It takes time for me to mentally get in the groove of launching into my elevator pitch in a calm, natural manner. I probably missed a sale or two by not giving my elevator pitch because it felt awkward. I had to force myself to give it, and I noticed that if done right, it can really lead to sales because no one knows my work. "3 teenagers are sent back in time with magical brushes, that when you write Chinese in the air, it becomes real." The general response was "Cool!" I spent the day crafting each word in the pitch so it was neither too long or too short, and had all the relevant information to tug at the prospective customer's heart strings.
#5 Your work isn't for everyone, don't take it personally
There were some people who excitedly heard my elevator pitch and forked over money for their issue. There were some people who looked at the sample, perused a few pages, and politely said they would be back around later. Fine. Journey to the Middle Kingdom is a young ages comic. It's for children. Parents loved buying it, but others showed no interest. It hurt at first, because getting the comic from concept to reality required a lot of blood sweat and tears. But if we're being honest with ourselves, an adult who doesn't really like anime style comics, and who is into more adult themes isn't going to be interested in JMK. And that's alright!
I hope this list helped! Check back to the blog later as I record more of my thoughts and my experiences with being an indie comic creator!