Marc Alan Fishman: How To Plan A Successful Con(vention)
As Unshaven Comics prepares for the annual C2E2 mega-Midwestern-super-pop-culture-show in late April, it dawned on me this might be still another one of those rare opportunities to share the creative process – or in this case business process.
It’s widely known (to our seven fans) that Unshaven Comics runs a tight table. We have well-manicured wares, a quippy answer to every response to our pitch, and an approach to conventioneering that even the mighty Gene Ha was in awe of. But here and now, prior to hitting the show floor, we’re introspective.
This show will be a very big one for us. Perhaps the biggest in our careers. Why? Because we’ll finally have a finished series to pitch. The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts is set to be completed by the skin of our chins (underneath the beards, natch) and debut at C2E2. Four issues of Samurai-Astronauts, led by an immortal kung fu monkey, defending humanity from zombie-cyborg space pirates. And now we have means to see the whole kit and caboodle, and even top off the package with their secret origin issue #0 if we need a double upsell. But with that book finally hitting our wire rack, there’s much to consider.
First and foremost, tabling at a con is a business venture. With a set price that includes the table itself, and the materials to sell at said table, there’s a distinct need to profit. Meaning we not only need to cover those costs, we need to have money in the till when the last fan leaves the hall on Sunday. This money then allows us to attend the next con. With that in mind, there’s a conundrum to cover.
As I’ve ranted here before selling poster-prints is the single easiest way to make scads of dirty dollars on the con floor. A great poster could take a decent artist 10-20 hours to complete. It costs less than a dollar to print (unless you are somehow convinced fans care about archival paper and environmentally safe inks). They are then sold for ten bucks or more (on average), typically without a single haggle. In contrast, The Samurnauts will have taken 1000 hours of work split between three guys, costs us $2.85 to print, and sells for $5. We’re in the wrong business. But it’s the business we choose to remain in.
So, it circles back around: How do we do our voodoo at our table? Simply: we offer a large variety of products… but we sell just one at a time. Notorious as it may be, our schtick remains intact: A simple, laminated 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper asking “Can I tell you about my comic book?” held up. It stops people long enough to laugh, and before they can really think of a solid excuse… we’re pitching them!
While they flip through our issues and gab with Kyle (The Sell-o-Tron 5000 of Unshaven Comics), Matt Wright and I draw live at the table to attract other looky-loos. Our own small set of poster prints hang over our heads. With a handful of fun parody prints, mashups, and a few politically zingy pieces… we will grab a fair share of passerby purchasers. With cheap posters (we only charge $5, or 3 for $10), we bank good money while Kyle closes on great purchasers – readers who will (if we’ve done well in our books) will return to us year-in-year-out.
So what will differ Unshaven’s table this year versus last? Perhaps not much on the surface. Our pitch will remain the same; it’s really about closing the sale on issue #1. But when they linger, we’ll mention that the whole series is available then and there. We’ll juice the sale with a sticker or poster. If there’s a taker to the upsell, we may even take it a step further, adding in that aforementioned issue #0 and tossing in all our stickers and a poster. $25 for 200+ pages of comics and a bag of swag? Sounds like a deal to me. And if it does to this penny-pinching tribe member, perhaps, maybe, it will to game comic con crowds.
Next week, we’ll dive into the physical space we occupy. Oh, that’s right kiddos. We’re going trilogy here!
Unshaven Conventions: The Beards Strike Back in one week!