When it comes to conventions, San Diego Comic Con – the Comic Con – is the big dream for most comic creators. The chance to get your portfolio in front of editors, sell to hardcore comic fans and rub elbows with comic professionals. However, the fees can be daunting for an Indie Comic creator just starting out. As a full-time student with limited income and no car, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go to the “big” conventions right away. San Diego Comic Con was out of the picture. So was Wondercon (too far away), Emerald City Comic Con, New York Comic Con or Toronto Comics Art Festival (in Canada!)
The decision to attend only small cons was a fiscal and practical one at first. I searched for local Cons I could attend without the hassle of booking hotel rooms and were accessible through public transit. So far, small cons have been very good to me.
If you have just begun selling, starting off small is essential. Unless you’re a born salesman, the first few times you pitch will be awkward. It can be impossible to predict what merchandise will be popular. I was horribly un-prepared my first convention. I didn’t order books in time so I had nothing to sell, my displays were rigged out of cardboard and I didn’t even have business cards! Fortunately, the table cost was minimal and it was close enough to home that I didn’t have to book a hotel.
The advantage of small cons is exactly that. Con-goers who like to lap around get a chance to do so early on and devote more time to looking at individual tables. The pace is much more relaxed and you get a chance to talk to people, get them interested in your work and start a real friendship.
Networking is invaluable, and I’ve found more chances to do so at small events. Most people you meet at small cons are Indie Creators. My first time at Long Beach Comic Con, I met Nathaniel Osollo of Eyedraugh and Evan Spears of Ultraculture Comix. Since then, we have split the cost of tables and shared rides to events that would normally have been impossible for me. I have also received a good amount of press at small events; whereas the spotlight at big conventions is centered on professionals. Panels at big conventions feature previews for new games or movies, unveiling of new game systems or debuts of major projects. At smaller cons, panels can range from a Webcomics Gathering at Long Beach Comic Expo 2012 to the Comics in social media panel hosted by Nathaniel at LBCC 2011. It was at this panel that I met Dale, who now runs BuyIndieComics.
Ultimately, success at small conventions and events depends entirely on being proactive. Go out there; mingle with creators, chat up fans, attend panels and just have fun!
Some resources to find small events in your area. These sites list Comic, Anime, Gaming, Sci Fi and other conventions by location.
1. Convention Scene has a convenient calendar format.
2. GeekCal is a community, allows for sharing and reviews of events.
3. Comic Book Resources a comic news and review site with columns, blogs, and event calendar.
Next week: Branching out of comic conventions.