The Comic-Con Connection
At this year’s San Diego Comic-con I made a wonderful new contact with a book publisher. They have expressed some interest in the DrawingIsSimple process, and I would LOVE to make a book with them. This is the first time that I’ve met them in person, so we’ll have to watch and wait to see how things go. This reminds me of some great advice that I got when I first started attending the Comic book conventions. I was new to the whole scene so I reached out to a convention veteran to ask about his approach. I asked him how to make the best of a Comic Book convention experience. His response become the foundation of my convention game plan. So I’ve added the advice of Super artist Jeff Carlisle @JeffCarlisleArt below (with some minor grammatical editing).
” Conventions are all about showing up. There are two main kinds of conventions; the Networking Show and the Art Show (occasionally they overlap).
The Networking Show is all about shaking hands, making connections and showing work to prospective clients. Literally half of the networking done “at” the show is actually what you do AFTER the show, going out every night. Always be nice and if you have the talent for it, funny. You meet a lot of people who can help you with work and will feel overwhelmed and unworthy a lot of the time…don’t show your fear–you can always go into the bathroom and throw up, they will just think you are a drunk artist!
As a basic rule, you need to interact with someone three times at the show to make a lasting impression. Four might be pushing it, but definitely stop by their booth, talk to them at a bar, and always see them a second or third time before the end of the show. Follow-up is soooo important. And it is a good rule that outside of the convention you talk to them about everything EXCEPT getting work from them. Let them see you as a person who would be good to work with, NOT a needy person begging for work. Don’t completely ignore your desire to work with them, but show them that you can leave it at the office sometimes.
The Art Show is (for me (Jeff)) about meeting and making new fans, drawing people into your booth or table and selling. Like the Networking Show, you need to develop people skills and become a “people” person. Sitting at your booth and pouting that the “…louder but less talented person” is getting all the sales gets you nothing. Find that balance between showman and artiste. Always be nice and again, if you have the talent for it, be funny. I usually do less socializing at these art shows because I usually heading back to my room to work on commission sketches –but don’t be a hermit! Remember that you are out of your studio…enjoy it!
Occasionally, you can combine the two types of shows–but only if you have someone else to help with your table, so you can occasionally get up and show work to people. You learn to make friends with other artists, and form a network trying to spread work around without taking work away from anyone. You see Karma in action, as people’s reputations are made and broken by what they do and say at shows.
It also takes time to build a career and a following–the affects of a convention are cumulative, building one year upon another. And you will see your definition of a successful show change as you do. When you first start out you may define a successful show as one that covers your convention exhibitor table costs. Then, as you gain more experience and a larger fan base, the show is about covering the for the table costs AND the printing costs, and eventually, it will pay for all the expenses of the trip, then eventually, an actual profit. Eventually. 😀 Given enough time and success, Conventions begin to take on their own life, one paying for the next, paying for the next, and so on.
Here are the nuts and bolts of my year: I NEED to do two shows a year, GenCon and San Diego…these are the meat and potatoes of my career. Gen Con is THE Gaming Convention and I do it because I am still mostly doing gaming art. That is my big sales show. The SDCC is important, because San Diego Comic Con is THE West Coast show and almost all of the work I do outside the Gaming arena (and a lot of gaming as well) is all out of the West Coast–it is also usually my only trip out there, so If I want to be seen (and being visible is important to remind folks that you are alive, seemingly successful, and a good person to work with) and become a “regular” than it becomes an important show.
The other shows I do change, but I usually, I do two to three other shows a year. I do the Origins Game Fair, the little brother to GenCon, because it is a solid fan show and I can be a larger fish in a smaller art show…and it is local, so I never need to pay for a hotel. My first year, I sold maybe $200.00, then my second year I did twice that in one day!
I attended my first New York ComicCon this year, didn’t have a table and stayed with a friend in Brooklyn. So, it was a relatively cheap show. New York is still the publishing capital of the US, so if you are interested in Books and Comics, it is a good show to do–plus it is growing show, and it is always a good idea to get in on the ground floor of a growing show. It is the East Coast equivalent of SDCC, so there you go. There are also art fairs and local shows which are just excuses to see friends and socialize–but I rarely do those…I am now too busy with work.
Also, plan trips to visit the places you do work with.
So, that is pretty much it. Live by the rule of three as taught to me by the great fantasy artist/writer Tony DiTerlizzi. It basically says that to get work you follow three rules:
1.Be Talented and do good work.
2.Hit your deadlines, every time.
3.Be easy to work with.
If you can do all three, you are amazing–but most people can only do two at a time and they get work and keep it.
People who are Talented and hit their deadlines but are asses get work. People who are Talented, easy to work with but have a problem with deadlines get work. People with a lot less talent, but can hit their deadlines and are easy to work with get work.
You see various combinations of this in everyone you know.
Also remember that there is no plan–your success rate at a convention will go up and down from year to year. You never know what is waiting for you around the corner. If you give yourself the room to fail, you will be doubly surprised when you succeed. That is good advice for careers as well. I know my work got a lot better when I no longer had the safety net of a day job and my mortgage depended on me doing good work.
I hope this was some help to you. I am just passing this along, as I have learned it over time. See you soon, sir! It was great to meet you briefly at San Diego.