My Third Column For Cartoonists Northwest – Some Thoughts on Comic Conventions

Cartoonists Northwest logoMy deadline for writing my third presidential column for the Cartoonists Northwest newsletter happened to coincide with the weekend of The Emerald City ComicCon so I thought I’d share some thoughts about participating in Comic Conventions as a creator

The convention season is finally upon us, starting with Emerald City Comic Con this weekend (as of writing this), with Northwest Comic Con and Sakura Con following soon after. While I’ve been mostly priced out of the big ones, hanging out in the Convention Center lobby, or the city park directly behind it, and sketching the cosplayers is one of my favorite artistic exercises. I highly recommend it.

Going to the cons to meet artists, and buy swag and whatnot, is lots of fun – but going there professionally is even better. Doing a convention ‘on the other side of the table’ is one of the best way to do a convention and in my opinion once you’ve done it you never want to go back to only attending as a fan.

An obvious reason why is that this is one of your best opportunities to meet people with similar interests and promote your work face to face with potential fans. The other reason is that this is an opportunity to become part of a community. When you have that artist badge you’re treated as a potential colleague and fellow creator, even by all of the rock stars. And, for what it’s worth, you can also sell stuff.

My luck with attending conventions as a professional has been mixed at best, but I like to think that I’ve learned from mistakes and can provide some useful advice.

  • You want to make your table stand out with as good a sign as you can afford. It doesn’t have to be huge, just flashy enough that people can see it from a distance. Having your sign on the table’s apron is not a good idea, anyone visiting your table will be standing in front of it.
  • Pack a lunch, all the food within a square mile is overpriced and will have long lines.
  • If you’re selling merchandise make sure you have plenty of petty cash to make change with.
  • Bring some strong tape – you’ll be surprised how often you need it.
  • Your table usually comes with two chairs. Bring a friend you can trust as a reliable backup, this will let you do things like go to the bathroom and see some of the show. Otherwise the table becomes your prison.
  • Remember basic etiquette. When you’re meeting other artists remember that, like you, they are there for business. You don’t want people blocking access to your table for more than five minutes, even if an artist is your hero you need to remember to extend this courtesy at their table too. (This means that conventions often aren’t the networking opportunity that we’d like them to be).

If you remember these pointers you will find that attending a convention as a professional is a great way to spread the word about your work. Conventions are exhausting but it’s a good exhaustion!

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