What are conventions?
Before I go any further, I should tell you what a Comic Con (or Comic Book Convention) is: it’s the fastest growing yearly event in any city. You’ll find, under the same “tent”, comic readers and collectors, of course, but also their creators, as well as some of the biggest names in Hollywood movies and television giving autographs and taking pictures, as well as the largest computer gaming companies showing their upcoming video game titles. There is fandom for all genres, including classics like Star Wars and Star Trek, but increasingly for Japanese animation as well.
There are, as a rule, three sections to a convention: The star attractions, the vendors, and the Artist’s Alley. For our discussion I will concentrate on the Artist’s Alley, or AA for short. The reason being that if you’re already a star, you don’t need me to tell you what to do and how to do it, and if you are a vendor, you have a ton of money to toss at a booth. Artist Alley is the cheapest area to rent out, and you get sufficient traffic to pay off your investment and make some money.
Whenever I do Ottawa Comic Con, I try to get a vendor booth, though. Since I’m spending no money on flights or hotel, I can spare a bit more on the prime location. That decision comes down to your conviction of how well you feel you can do selling your books.
Large conventions usually take place in convention centers, due to their size, and they are big. People are willing to pay up to 200 dollars to spend the weekend at these events, and they still have money left to buy the things they want.
Now, for those of you who doubt they could get their works into conventions, I’d say that as long as it’s fiction, you have a good chance of doing well. You just have to ask the event organizers, and they will tell you.
So, the first part was having a stellar presentation. That’s the visual aspect.
Whether you are doing book sales or conventions, I strongly recommend having an eye-catching banner, just because they will get noticed. Put your name up at the top (I got that from Jay Odjick, the aforementioned author of Kagagi, a comic and animated series on APTN). People go by, they’ll see your name, even if you’re in front of your banner. Especially if they’re looking for you.
The main difference between Comic Conventions and book sales are the size and scope. The biggest book sales I’ve been to, had about 2000 customers. There were maybe 150 authors, altogether.
When you take a booth at a convention, the smallest (and worthwhile) run about 5000 attendees (Ottawa Geek Market), and the largest I’ve done runs about 140-150 000 attendees (Toronto Fan Expo). In these cases, there were maybe three or four other authors at the Geek Market, and maybe six or seven authors at Fan Expo. Median conventions usually attract between 40 and 60 thousand attendees. I pick the ones I go to by size, because if I have to travel far, it costs more, I have to sell more books to get back in the green.
Before doing the math and seeing dollar signs, though, you have to take into consideration that Fan Expo is principally a visual arts medium show, and that there are one thousand booths, and that every one of those operators are vying for the same money.
You can do it, though. You can do very well. You just need a lot of practice.
As for the details, it is important to have business cards, even though mine have never been useful (to my knowledge) if only because everyone else has them. You can get them cheaply done on Vista Print.
The other thing I strongly recommend is to put a mailing list on your table so that people can enter their email accounts. These might become repeat sales in the future, which will reduce your costs.
There is a host of different conventions available to anyone who might be interested. I get my info from a Facebook page called the Artist Alley Network International, as well as Artist Alley Network Canada. They have lists of the major US and Canadian conventions on their pages. Both these are open to those seriously interested in doing conventions whether here or in the United States.
There are many conventions available within driving distance, as well as summer markets. You just have to Google search them. There are the Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto Conventions which are some of the largest in the country.
Smaller ones such as C.O.N., Cornwall Area Pop Expo and Geek Market are fun to do because people are either not used to having a convention in their area yet, so aren’t as jaded, or they go there specifically because of their small size. More personal and friendly, also cheaper.