MARC ALAN FISHMAN: How an Indie Comic Creator Prepares for a Con
Hello, all! With but a few short days before my little company, Unshaven Comics, takes C2E2 by storm, I figure I might as well abuse what little power I have to hype it up. Then I thought that you can get more flies with honey than poo. Maybe my metaphor sucks, but I think the point is clear: Hype is good, but sharing experiences is better. So, consider this the MTV’s True Life: I’m an Indie Comic Creator of articles. Except there will be 10% less talking head interviews.
The first time we crossed the aisle to become “creators” instead of “fans” the whole world was turned on its ear. Whereas I used to mill about the Artist Alley with careful consideration to not make eye-contact with the would-be pitch men, here I was in their spot muttering “How Rude!” under my breath when passersby floated past our table without so much as a nod of the head. It was a sobering experience, all in ten minutes. Luckily for me, Unshaven Comics has been and will always be a communal effort. Sitting next to my two best friends of nearly twenty years makes the cons only a pleasure, never a chore. But I digress. With every con we’ve attended, big or small, we’ve always learned a new lesson to bring to the next.
Lesson one? You can pitch anything you want, but if you don’t believe in it, it shows. Our first con, Wizard World Chicago 2008, we had only The March: Crossing Bridges in America to sell. Don’t get me wrong, we were (and still are) proud of the work. But it was commissioned work. Educational too. 54 pages of upbeat messages, smiling, walking, and immigrant empowering narrative. Pitch that next to the guy selling the Anime Crime Noir story features boobs and guns and see where it gets you.
Simply put, we learned at con #1 that if we were to be successful, we would have to promote material that made us excited to create. For many artists in the alley, their work sits on the table as a testament to their exploration of the craft, or their desire to turn a quick dollar. But for those people pitching their wares because they truly believe what they created is something to note… those are the folks we gravitate to.
Lesson two. Presentation matters. Our first con? We had some sloppy Café Press tee-shirts, a too-long table skirt, and some books. Over time, we added to the menagerie: Business cards, higher quality tee shirts, an 8 ft. banner to sit behind us, and a black tablecloth made our little slice of Artist Alley a bit more homey. We’ve since decided to drop the massive backdrop. Trust me, carrying three paint buckets full of cement, a pile of painted PVCs, and all your materials doesn’t make for an easy trip from car to table. Still to come? A handy rack to display multiple issues. Maybe a small red carpet for those standing at our table. Heh. Artist alley showcases to the masses where you as a company (be it a one manned structure or a small self-publisher such as ourselves), and if you look like you just rolled in from Kinkos, it’ll show on the table.
Lesson three. The pitch. Simply put, we wouldn’t be a success without Kyle Gnepper. Not only a founding member of the company, lifelong friend, and contributing writer and production assistant… at the cons he becomes something far more powerful. He becomes a visceral selling machine; Fearless, hungry, and completely oblivious to whoever stops in front of his cone of selling. Like Hal Jordan facing down Darkseid, Kyle has pitched to Dan DiDio, Tom Brevoort, Mike Richardson, and numerous creators without any knowing smirk just passion to show off our wares.
Did they buy the book? DiDio did, because I guilted him into it. Now you can’t necessarily count Matt or me out of assisting in sales. We both bring our own flair to the pitching process. Matt’s steady hands produce copious commissioned sketches, delighting many passersby. I stay between Matt and Kyle… part salesman, part artist. Sometimes I’ll doodle on the iPad, other times I’ll help us market and coordinate future events, partnerships, and relationships. Don’t knock it… it’s what landed me here at ComicMix.
The final lesson. Growth. Every con we try to bring something new to the table. For C2E2 we are debuting a live action Samurnaut, as funded by our fantastic Kickstarter backers. We have three books (and one repackaged book) on sale at the table, as well as posters, and commissions. Last year we almost sold 1000 books across all the conventions we visited. This year? We plan to break that barrier, and continue making new material. As we gain new fans and followers, we’ve gain amazing friends. And while we may never grow out of the artist alley, get our shot at the big time, or graduate to ‘featured guests’ at any con… the best lesson we’ve learned puts it all in perspective:
It’s not the prize at the end of the quest you do this for… it’s the thrill of the journey.
This weekend, Marc Alan Fishman and the Unshaven Comics crew will be at Booth K19 in Artists Alley. Don’t be offended if fellow ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Adriane Nash and Mike Gold are hanging around interfering with sales from time to time.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander Leaves Morocco!
The trick to The Pitch of passers-by is to tell them what’s in it for them. Believe that you’re doing them a big favor by showing them something that will give them pleasure. This also works in the Bar-Con afterwards.
No wonder we fail at BarCon. We try to pitch in such a way that it’s equally polite and desperate. 20 seconds that crescendos into what you can expect from our wares… and then the Billy May “But wait, there’s more line.”