SDCC Comic Con Recap – Our Experiences as Exhibitors
The Dark Productions team shares their thoughts on different topics from San Diego Comic Con 2016. Some of us are veteran CCI attendees while others are attending the Con for the first time in years and/or are brand new exhibitors! Learn what it’s like behind the scenes. If you’re hoping to produce and promote your own comics & graphic novels someday, we hope our thoughts and experiences will shed some light into the world of being a small press company.
Join us for this series including: Experiences as an Exhibitor, What We Learned as Exhibitors, Notable Things, Hopes for 2017
I was happy that we were assigned the same location as last year. It makes it easier for regular attendees to find us and it is a good position overall. We did very well this year because we didn’t rely on selling fan-art prints as much as we did last year. Although the income was about the same as last year’s, we were able to make it by selling a lot more original content that we owned. I was super glad that we got help from good friends to run the table. Running around the exhibit hall helped fuel inspiration for future projects. Some neighbors raised their tables with some blocks under the table feet. That’s an interesting tactic to put products closer to eye-level.
I haven’t been to Comic-Con in almost 15 years and never as an exhibitor, so the four day experience was a migrane-incuding state of joyous frenzy. On Saturday I made to 5pm before I realized I hadn’t even eaten yet! Walking the floor, I found it difficult to hop between bedazzled spectator and active exhibitor. Still, I managed to engage dozens of artists and developers – it will take two weeks alone just to look deeper into all the contacts I made (websites, social media) and sort the hundreds of notes I took about table designs and processes of other vendors.
Working behind the table in the booth seemed pretty natural, but it is like having a few hundred job interviews back-to-back. I found myself giving an eye-to-eye greeting (with a smile!) as people passed and then daring a quick peek at their badge – Attendee? Professional? Exhibitor? You want to make the right impression and also reach out to potential future partners, so every interaction had that hint of possible sale or good press. Being on stage for 7-9 hours straight is hard work but I can’t wait to parlay the experience into a successful 2017.
After nearly 20 years as a Comic-Con attendee, I finally had the opportunity to experience what it’s like on the other side of the table. If I had to use one word to describe my first time manning the table on Thursday morning I would use “terrifying”.
I found it easier to play up items on the table that I didn’t have a hand in creating, under the assumption that If I highlight the merits of the other books and art on the table perhaps the customer’s gaze will simply drift over to where my books stand, bright and ready for consumption.
This is a really stupid way to do business if your goal is to attract readers.
On Friday and Saturday I was in costume and realized right off the bat that cosplay made it easier to talk to people because it was more like playing a part, and theatre—playing at being someone else—makes perfect sense to me. OK, so maybe it was because I was logging more time behind the table so it was getting easier, but it certainly didn’t hurt that I was more or less unrecognizable.
By Sunday I felt much more at ease in my own skin. I had my answers prepared when people asked, “So what is your book about?” I was, more or less, smooth (a completely subjective observation). I felt more able to converse with other exhibitors, people with whom I had shared smiles and nods for the previous four days.
Will it make the next Con easier? Doubtful. But I think the transition into confidence will be shorter. (Here’s Hoping.)
Another year, another San Diego Comic-Con International. I think 2017 was the first time in my 5 (6?) years of SDCC behind-the-table experience where I was finally able to take a cool & collected stance on being a retailer at one of biggest comic conventions in the world. (And this is coming from a very anxiety-ridden, excitable, jittery human being.) I imagine that worked to our advantage because I could present our wares and explain our company to random strangers without getting tongue twisted or afraid of sudden social interactions. (Seriously, 100k+ attendees of nerds & geeks — it’s an introvert’s nightmare. SDCC is like shock therapy for someone with social anxiety. I learned to deal with it and rise above it. More on that another time.)
Anyhow, my first instinct when vending at conventions is to observe my fellow small-press neighbors. This year, we had new vendors to our right & left and they came with very engaging, sometimes loud people promoting their comics. Immediately, I knew that could possibly impact sales. If someone comes to their table and listens to their spiel, then they may not be interested in hearing ours after they’re done. So, it took a little more effort this year to constantly holler over the masses, smile, and invite people to come check out our books. No hate or disrespect to the vendors who can throw their voices out there… I just know next time I have to be louder and constantly on my game.
This year, we didn’t bring enough of our marketing materials. Somehow while packing, we forgot a bunch of postcards that had a space for writing our table location on them. When attendees are genuinely interested in your work but can’t make a purchase right away, I like to make sure they have a way to find us again. Those postcards have helped create sales later in the week. Next year, we’ll be armed and ready with TONS of ’em.
And I agree with Selena above. There’s something about cosplay that helps you, the vendor, become someone else (someone bolder and who isn’t the quiet geek you usually are) but it also encouraged comic-con goers to approach you, talk with you and eventually check out & buy your work. Being in cosplay allowed for my voice to take a break but it gave people the opportunity to immediately connect with you from far away and eventually approach your table. I loved that. =)