My First Con

So, if you were following along, you know I was going to have a table in Artists’ Alley for the first time ever at a Comic Con this month. Welp, that was this past weekend at the Ventura Comic Con, aka Central Coast Comic Co, aka C4.

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I learned a lot over the two and a half days and I had a surprisingly good time. I thought it would be good to share my experiences with you, dear readers, in case this is something you’re ever considering doing. I’m not going to get into the specifics of the behind-the-scenes stuff at this particular con because there were some issues, but they were specifics to this con. I’m just gonna give some generalities.

So, going in I was ridiculously nervous for a few reasons. First, this was the first time I’d be in public, face-to-face with people asking them to buy my books. Secondly, I have social anxiety and I have a hard time dealing with the unknown if things aren’t organized well. Third, I am not artist who draws or paints or sculpts, I write books and would be selling books alongside talented drawing, painting, sculpting artists. What the hell was I thinking?!

Well, amazingly, I did really well. I beat my own expectations of what I would sell. I met some awesome people. And I got to have some fangirl moments myself.

When I went in I said I just wanted to sell one book and get a picture in Baby (the Impala from Supernatural) and a picture with Doug Jones.

So I bought a table banner from esigns.com, which was reasonably priced, easy to design, and the quality was awesome. I bought bookmarks and pins and business cards (the cards were minicards from moo.com which were super popular) that featured my book covers for people to take in case they wanted to check out my stuff online later. And I had around 50 copies of my books, ready for sale. I had more of book 1 than the other two in the trilogy, thinking most people would want to buy the first, not the whole set, to see if they liked it. Boy was I wrong.

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I sold about 50% of the stock I brought with me, which is pretty fricken amazing because most people looked at me with furrowed brows when they found out I was selling books at a Comic Con so I really thought I wouldn’t sell anything. But of those sold, only 3 were singles. Everyone else said, “Well, if I’m gonna buy them, I’m gonna buy the whole set.” Which I cheered while being totally shocked on the inside.

So, first thing I learned – not for the first time: don’t under-value yourself. I was super worried my price of $9 for a paperback, or $25 for the set, would be too high. But I saw people walking around with $9 cups of Budweiser, so I decided I would be confident in my price point.

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Second thing I learned: don’t freak out. This is the hardest thing for people like me, with social anxiety, to learn. Because of some of the behind-the-scenes stuff, me and a few other locals, or lesser-known peoples, had no idea what the hell to do or where to go and some things weren’t done on time, which stressed us all out. But the fact is, for a table, you don’t need a lot of time to set up and people are pretty forgiving if you’re running late or setting up late. I am so lucky I had my husband with me, helping me and supporting me all weekend. He took a lot of the stress off of me just by being there so I didn’t feel alone. I don’t know how anyone does this alone. Even just for the bathroom breaks! So lesson 2b, bring a partner or friend to help you.

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In the end, we got our table, had everything set up nicely, and met our table neighbors who were just as nice with time to spare. I was even lucky enough to be across from Brian Pulido, the creator of Lady Death, and his beautiful muse and wife, Francisca. I read Lady Death and Purgatori as a teen so I got to squee over him and he even traded me two gorgeous prints for a copy of my book – which still freaks me out!

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With my husband there to help man my table so I could take breaks as needed, I even got to meet the astounding Doug Jones. If you don’t know him, you probably do and just don’t know it. He was Billie the Zombie in Hocus Pocus. He was Abe Sapien in Hellboy. He was the Faun in Pan’s Labyrinth. And much, much more. He was amazing. He was so sweet and approachable and he kept the same amount of energy for every fan. He cradled my face and hugged me so many times.

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Then my husband told me “Hey, Xander’s here.” Xander, Nicolas Brendon, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was at our con. I grabbed my phone and ran. The day before he’d tweeted with the hashtag, hugtheshitoutofme, so when I found his table, I smiled at him and asked, “Can I hug the shit out of you?!” And he jumped up and hugged me. Both of these guys are great huggers. We saw Nicolas Brendon again the next morning passing my table and he stopped to hug me and my husband. Such a great guy, hug him if you ever get the chance.

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And, I got my picture in Baby.

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So, another lesson, try to have fun. It’s stressful and overwhelming to do this for yourself, so try to have fun while you’re there, even just a little. And if you get to know your con-mates, they may want to trade with you if they’re interested in your stuff.

A commision I got from my table neighbor, Jenney Martinez of one of my characters! (instagram.com/jenney_todd)

A commision I got from my table neighbor, Jenney Martinez of one of my characters! (instagram.com/jenney_todd)

Another thing you should do is make sure you take both cash and cards for payments. With Square and PayPal nowadays there’s no reason why you can’t. I had people totally relieved when I told them I could take their cards for payment because there were actual booths that were only taking cash. Don’t let someone who wants to buy your product walk away to “come back later after the ATM” because they probably won’t.

So who bought my books? The majority were grown women, many who were mom’s coming to the Con with their kids. Which was great. They were lugging things around for family that they’d bought, but they’d stop at my table, talk to me, and then buy the whole set for themselves. So it was good that I was different from those around me. Some said they were buying for them and their kid, which might be true. Lots asked if they could buy my stuff online. So you know, just like the card reader, always be ready to say “Yes!” But my favorite sale was to Darth Maul who said, “I have a growing TBR pile, but I can’t help myself.” Yeah, those are my people.

I had people tell me “cosplayers don’t buy” but Darth Maul and this awesome Steampunk lady bought full sets, so… yanno.

And lastly, probably most importantly, have a good attitude. This was a smaller con with a lower attendance than a lot of the other, more established cons out there and a lot of the other vendors maybe didn’t realize that and were disappointed in the turn out and let that show in their faces and tone of voice. Don’t do that. Try to stay positive and happy to meet people. There were things that bugged me about the con and some of the attendees, but how would that have helped me make sales and meet potential new readers? It wouldn’t.

So yeah, I’m exhausted, my back still aches, and I don’t have a lot of mental bandwidth left over, but I feel good. I feel excited for the new readers. And I am so glad I did it.

Things I might do differently: no candy on the table, have a raffle, and calm down.

I brought Dum Dums to have on my table to attract passersby, but the truth was, people who bought from me didn’t stop for the candy. 97% of people who took candy didn’t even talk to me. People were happy to take the candy, some were polite, others super rude about it (had two kids dive bomb the bowl, dig around, and get pissed at me when they couldn’t find the flavor they wanted), but if they wanted the candy and asked about my books, it was only because they thought they had to not because they were ever intending to buy a book. Just because of the rude people, I wouldn’t do it again. People who were interested in my books/table didn’t care about the candy.

I thought about a raffle, but I couldn’t think of how it could work for me. I mean, who would buy a book if they could win it? But I could give extra tickets for every book bought. So next time, I’ll raffle a toy, like a Funko Pop figurine to entice more people.

Now that I’ve done it, now that I know how quick I can be since I am organized, the con could be a shitshow behind-the-scenes and I know I’ll be okay.

So that’s how it went, in a condensed nutshell! If you have questions, please ask, I’m happy to answer. I skimmed over a lot because there was a lot to cover, but if there’s something you’re curious about, as a vendor or attender, let me know and I’ll try to help!