For anyone considering bringing their work to the world of comic conventions, here’s a behind the scenes of how and why I set up my table the way I do.
The main thing I want to sell at shows are my books. I could just bring them along, lay them out on the table and see what happens. There could be the curious reader who may walk up, but since I’m pretty unknown and want to get my work out there, I’ve got to step up my game.
Standing out in the sea of artwork at a comic convention can be hard. Your table may be placed next to someone with a ten foot tall wall of art prints. You might be set up next to a world famous comic book artist with decades of work on display. So, how do you compete?
Focus on Genre
For all my self-publishing friends out there, you know that your book cover is one of the most important tools you have to sell your book. The table setup has a lot of similarities.
If you don’t have tons of stuff to sell at the show, use all that space to support what you do have. For authors, you can add things that support your genre. If you’re writing fantasy, add some cool, hand-drawn maps. Horror writers could put up missing posters for some of the victims of their stories. Steampunk? Gears. Gears, everywhere. Let people get an idea of the genre of your work with just a glimpse.
For me, I have a couple little cages hanging from my banner stand. One has a plastic brain and a big, furry spider. The other has a voodoo doll and a bottle with some mystery creature in it. When people spot them and ask what that’s all about, I tell them I deal in mad science. Then, I show them the books.
Bring the Calm
Everything happening at a convention can be major sensory overload. With all the people gathered together, all the cool things to see, and every artist and merchant trying to pitch their product, it can hard to get people’s attention. Something I’ve found that helps a lot is to bring the calm.
While I do have plenty of eye-catching weird stuff to look at, I’ve found that by keeping a big part of your table setup, the background in particular, open and empty, you can give people’s eyeballs a much needed break.
I’ve lucked out at a few shows and there’s been a black curtain backdrop provided. Otherwise, I always have one to bring along just in case. The dark, empty void gives customers’ brains a much needed break right before their attention shifts to your stuff. That’s when they’ve entered my greatest convention creation…
The Sarlacc Pit
For the sides of my table, I have the stuff that does the most to draw in eyeballs. Both the ZomBeans and the buttons are things that people can see from a distance but want to come closer to have a better look.
If the person is looking at the ZomBeans, wondering what those weird little things are, I tell them the beans are from a game I made and point them to the video playing on the iPad. In the video, that’s where they get a better glimpse of the characters from my books. That’s when I introduce them to Fear & Sunshine.
Over on the other side, we’ve got the buttons. If the customer is really scoping out what’s available, they’ll probably buy one. Otherwise, I point the book of prints below the button display. As they’re flipping through, it goes from fan art to artwork from the books. I tell them those are my characters from the stories I write and illustrate, which just so happen to be sitting right next to them.
At this point, the display has drawn in your potential reader and now it’s time for your finest sales pitch.