I recently completed the closest I’ve (yet) come to a book tour, with back-to-back convention appearances: Sept. 10 at the Free State Comicon (Lawrence, Kans.), and Sept. 17 at the Comic Book I-Con (Altoona, Iowa). I’ve never had a chance to reuse a table layout so soon before, and this was a good chance to see what worked well, what didn’t work so well, and make some quick changes without starting over from square one. Here’s my four feet of display from Free State (photo courtesy Benjamin Young)– my display at I-Con was nearly the same, although the table there was six feet wide:
The spinner rack serves as a handy display/storage element that adds some height to my table setup. Other artists are always impressed by it, but for some reason customers don’t want to use it like the spinner racks of my childhood. I’ve faced it out with 16 different issues, faced it out with my new book, and neither one seems to get the reaction I hope for– spinning and browsing. The standup is a recent addition, from my Doghouse Funhouse minigolf hole– someday I’ll set it up as a playable course again, but in the meantime, it serves double duty as an eye-catching display element. The only downside to it is that it won’t fit into my tote; otherwise, my entire show can fit into one piece of luggage! I also reused some framed pieces from my gallery show of last February (on the right in this photo, next to a binder of sample strips so readers can see what a typical strip is like); it was fun how often people asked where my strip was running!
My goals for both shows were to promote my Watusi webcomic (I had a new storyline starting soon), meet readers, network with other cartoonists, and to give away my stock of “Continuity and Vine” postcards (since I find it hard to promote projects I’m no longer working on … but that should probably be a topic for another post). Of course, I also brought a stock of books for sale– Watusi, Doghouse Funhouse, and Double Dip issues. While I was able to accomplish those goals to varying degrees (I was glad to meet people who still write postcards!), it still feels like my introverted nature takes over far too often.
One nice thing about both of these two shows is that I remembered to use my camera to take pictures of not only my display, but also of sketchbook drawings I did for readers! It’s especially flattering when I’m asked to be included in books along with favorite artists of mine such as Paul Chadwick, George Perez, and Stan Sakai (among others– you can check out my sketches for yourself on Watusi’s Facebook page)!
So, here are my questions for those of you who show and sell your work at cons or other events: what tips do you have to share? Things that have worked well for you? Things you’d avoid? For those of you who attend cons as readers, do you like a busy display with lots of options? Or is a clean display with just a couple of items more appealing? While I think showing multiple issues & related series is a sign that I’m committed to my projects, are that many choices overwhelming when you’d just like a simple way to patronize an independent artist?
While I have some tweaks I intend to make to my next display, any thoughts on these questions are welcome!