Categotry Archives: editorials

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My Personal Dos and Don’ts of Selling At Shows

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(CONTENT WARNING: There’s swearing. Because I get really passionate about this shit.)

I am not an expert. I have sales experience under my belt, from doing caricatures at Cedar Point for 3 years, and doing comic conventions for the last 5 (really kicking into gear in the last 2). But if there’s a World Sales Martial Arts Tournament out there, I’ve never participated in it, much less gotten a black belt or 1 million Zenny. With that said, don’t take too much salt with what I’m about to say, especially since what I’m going to suggest flies in the face of what a lot of “experts” will say.

Here’s what works for me when I sell my comics, prints and other sundry at conventions:

1. Opening with “How’s It Going?”

Tyler James, I know you don’t claim to be an expert but I’m going to call you out for a second because I remember one episode of ComixLaunch that pissed me off. Here’s why:

The advice in one of these podcast episodes was NOT to open with “Hey how’s it going,” but to open with “Do you like to read comics?”

At a comic convention this is about the same thing as asking if water is wet.

Not to mention that I tried this “Do you like comics” exactly once, and the guy looked me in the eye and said, “No thanks.”

I am brutal when it comes to sales tactics. If it fails even once, I will never use it again. So guess what opener I never used?

I’ve mostly trained myself into this new habit instead – when I ask, “How’s it going?” and someone answers something like, “Good, you?” I can follow that up with, “Well, I’m just selling my stuff today.” THAT is what gets people to stop 99% of the time.

Every once in a while, someone will answer with a “Good,” and nothing else. That’s fine. Conventions are big enough to allow passers-by and it won’t hurt you. Some people will want to tell you their life story. That’s fine, too: let them stick around because seeing someone at a table will entice other customers to come over. Also, you never know when that someone telling you their life story is going to give you an idea you can put into your comics. Just make sure the person is not a Time Bandit (more on this in a minute).

2. Ask the Customer About Themselves.

Now, the ONE episode of ComixLaunch I actually liked was one that Tyler didn’t host himself – it was hosted by Josh Dahl. Here’s a link to the episode. I internalized ALL these things just before Awesome Con and it resulted in my biggest sales jump yet. Plus, I got to try a technique I hadn’t used in years, and it re-inspired me to use it again.

The technique? Get the customer to talk about themselves.

You are there to meet new people. Show some goddamn interest in other people.

Don’t just talk about yourself and your work – ask the other person about what their T-shirt is referencing. Ask them if it’s their first time at the convention you’re at. Ask what they’re most excited to see at the convention. Ask, ask, ask.

Get to know the other person you are talking to. Even if they don’t buy from you, they will remember how outgoing you are.

Also, tying into this, throw out compliments. Throw ALL THE COMPLIMENTS. Even if the person is just walking by your table, throw a compliment at them.

Keep it genuine. My personal favorite thing is to compliment a cosplay, especially if it’s something I recognize.

3. DO NOT TALK POLITICS, DAMMIT.

I think it’s because I have rainbows on some of my art pieces, but there are (once in a blue moon, at least) people – usually dudes – who will approach and ask something charged.

There was one particular show at a local comic shop I remember. There was a dude who came up to me and it started when he asked to friend me on Facebook. I said, “No, I like to keep my Facebook friends separate from my art page, especially because my personal page can get political sometimes.”

Well, one thing led to another and eventually this dude spent literally 10 minutes trying to get me to engage in a conversation about how “naturally weak” women are because of some statistics about women tennis players vs. men tennis players using numbers that I’m 110% sure he pulled out of his ass.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me – back in my caricature days, I remember one teenage girl looked me dead in the eyes and asked me, “Do you believe in hell?”

So here’s a pro-tip from someone who gets asked these sorts of questions a lot: if someone asks you a question that YOU KNOW will lead to a heated discussion, say this:

“I’m on the clock right now, so I can’t really talk about that. If you want to talk with me outside of work, here’s my business card.”

And the best thing is, by doing this you guarantee that the person will not actually contact you outside of the show with those questions. Because they ask you those questions to get you riled up in the moment.

Brush them off. You are not there for them. You are there to find Your People. If they ask you politically charged questions and you know it’s to rile you up, they are not Your People. Move them away ASAP.

4. Play Whose Line Is It Anyway: Con Style

Maybe it’s because I’m really good at improvising, but my favorite thing about going to conventions and talking with people is going off-script.

See, there’s usually a script in mind when I pitch my comics and work to folks. But if given the chance, I would rather improvise and go off-script. This will make you appear more approachable. Yes, having a script is nice (after all, people expect you to know what it is you’re selling). However, I would rather activate my senses and gauge whether the person I’m talking to is even interested or not.

You can usually tell when someone is just looking and they don’t intend to buy from you – they don’t make eye contact, they scan but don’t touch, and their responses to your questions are short. Let them look. If someone else is nearby, talk to them.

Improv is about energy. You want to keep your energy up and engage with the “Yes, and.”

(For those who don’t know, “Yes, and” refers to the idea that when you build a joke, you keep “no” out of your vocabulary. If someone asks “Isn’t the sky kinda purple today?” You answer with “yes, and” to build the energy in the scene.)

Saying “no,” even non-verbally, cuts the energy off. You want to engage with people, not walls.

5. Beware the Time Bandits.

Grace bless teenage boys, because they don’t entirely know when to stop talking about what it is they’re obsessed over. Teenage boys are not the only culprits of being Time Bandits, but in my experience, Time Bandits tend to be that demographic.

Time Bandits are people who will demand your attention for as long as humanly possible. There was one case at a local show in which a Time Bandit stayed at my table for TWENTY SOLID MINUTES babbling about Invader Zim.

(FYI, I did not like Invader Zim before the Time Bandit, and I sure as shit do not like Invader Zim now.)

Time Bandits are life-draining to your table. They will scare away any potential customer because the Time Bandit will do their damndest to keep your attention on them AND ONLY THEM.

Other customers will want to talk to you, but the Time Bandit will demand your acknowledgment so often that you cannot peel away to talk to the other person who came up to you. Or if you try to peel away, they’ll give off this vibe that they’ve been rejected, and they’ll sulk.

My advice – have a table buddy as often as humanly possible. Your table buddy can help you divert the attention of the Time Bandit, or talk to the other person who has approached you who wants to engage with you.

If you are at your table by yourself, encourage the Time Bandit to visit other tables. This DOES require that you know who else is at the show and what stuff they have. You don’t have to have extensive knowledge – just enough to know if there’s something out on the floor that would more closely pertain to the Time Bandit’s interest. Direct them that way as soon as you fucking can.

Because the worst thing is – Time Bandits don’t buy from you. I think they operate under the assumption that “oh, I can’t buy something from this person. Maybe if we talk about something we like for a few minutes, that would make this person feel like my time here was worth something.”

To any potential Time Bandits who may be reading this – I appreciate the gesture, but it’s not necessary. I go to conventions to talk to as many people as possible because I want to add to their experience. By trying to keep my attention on you, you are depriving me from making someone else’s convention experience awesome. It’s selfish and you need to stop.

6. Be Fucking Excited

Don’t just be excited. Be fucking excited. Show your nerd love emblazoned across your forehead.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking only about your numbers (i.e. “ok, if I make $XX that’ll make back the table. Selling X number of X books will make back the cost of hotel. Let’s see how many of these I can sell before the end of the day”).

Take this bit of advice from someone with anxiety – this is anxious behavior. STOP.

Deep breath in. Be in the present moment.

Because holy shit, you’re at a convention! There’s costumes and comics and manga and so many fucking nerds with the same interests as you! Revel in that.

Take in the excitement and the joy. Be genuinely excited about things at the show, and have fun. Trust me – that enthusiasm will bleed into how you approach your future fans.

I hope this helps.

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

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Survey 2018 Results Are In

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kelci crawford survey results 2018

Thank you to everybody who filled out my 2018 survey! There were 52 of you who filled it out. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of people but it’s 52 more than I thought would actually take the time to do it.

So let’s break down the survey results in this blog post. Continue reading →

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Net Neutrality Ain’t Dead Yet

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net neutrality political cartoon

FULL DISCLOSURE: Net Neutrality – the concept that all online data be treated equally and not having certain specific websites favored over others – is how I’ve been able to grow my business making comics and art for a living. This is important to me, considering I was laid off from my day job back in February and the only means I had to pay bills was to make comics and post them online for readers to see. I already wrote a post about why this issue matters to me, because it directly affects my business as well as my ability to connect with readers, friends, and family. So take your “stop making everything political” comments elsewhere. I am in no mood to entertain you.

Alright, I need y’all to quit quoting Eminem and planning your exit strategies from social media for a hot minute, because Net Neutrality Ain’t Dead Yet.

For those of you who don’t keep up with how these executive decisions work, here’s what went down:

The Federal Communications Commission had a vote within their organization in regards to net neutrality, the concept that all data be treated equally online. They voted to get rid of net neutrality as a handout to corporations – which makes sense because the Chairman, Ajit Pai, is a massively immature tool.

(No, Pai, you can’t claim you did that video “ironically.” We all know you hate everyone’s right to criticize you and want to censor anybody who disagrees with you.)

Anyway, this vote the FCC had is now pending approval from Congress.

Not only that, but 20 of the 50 United States – including Washington, New York, and Hawai’i – are preparing a lawsuit against the FCC to fight to keep net neutrality in place.

So now there’s a lot going on. How does this affect you?

Well, the FCC vote is not law yet. Congress still has 60 legislative days to look over everything and decide if this decision is legit or not.

YOU STILL HAVE THE CHANCE TO BE HEARD.

It’s one thing to go to protests, sign petitions, or make social media posts (yes, this includes blog posts). It’s another thing to do the most effective thing to be heard by Congress – calling your elected officials on the phone.

Surprisingly, this is easy to do, and takes only five minutes at most (unless you’re the ranting type). So here’s how you do it:

  1. Dial 1-202-224-3121 to connect to the DC Switchboard. They will ask you for your zip code, and whether you want to contact your Representative in the House of Representatives, or one of your two Senators.
  2. Call EACH of your elected officials.
  3. If you get connected to an aide, state your name and that you would like to leave a message. If it’s voicemail, go straight to your message.
  4. Say something like this: “Hello, my name is (NAME) and I’m a constituent from (TOWN, ZIP CODE). I’m calling to urge (REP/SENATOR) to use the Congressional Review Act and overturn the FCC’s decision on net neutrality rules.”
  5. If you feel it’s helpful, add a reason why net neutrality matters to you. Just keep it brief. (Also keep in mind – If your officials are Republican, use words like “censorship,” “Big Brother,” and “freedom of speech.” If your official is Democrat, use words like “small business growth,” “connecting,” and “freedom of speech.” If your legislator is Independent, rare as that is, talk to them like a normal person without coded language.)
  6. If you’re calling your Representative, urge them to also support a bill called HR 4585. It’s LITERALLY called The Save Net Neutrality Act.
  7. Thank the person for their time and end the message.

You can also go to battleforthenet.com and they’ll help you make calls and send messages to your officials.

So if you can, ABSOLUTELY call your elected officials about this. It’s within your power and, with enough people calling about it, Congress can overturn this decision.

And if you think your calls don’t matter – Susan Collins, a Republican, urged Pai to drop his plans because of her constituents calling her and voicing outrage. If she can do it, ANYONE can do it.

Another thing you can do, if you have the means to do this – make a donation to Fight for the Future. They’re an organization dedicated to standing up for our freedom online, and are one of the organizations spearheading battleforthenet.com.

To that end, I’m doing a special giveaway!

If you make a donation to Fight for the Future of any amount, email a copy of your receipt to kelcidcrawford@gmail.com, along with your mailing address, and I will mail you a copy of Suit Up! A Dragonball Z Fan Zine.

So add your voice however you can. Together we can reverse this.

Thank you so much for your support.

You. Are. Awesome.

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The Battle for Open Internet

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The following is something I originally wrote for my email newsletter, but this is urgent – if you love the work I do (or even if you love someone else’s work), this WILL impact you:

So here’s my concern – I currently work making comics here in the United States. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC)’s chairman, Ajit Pai, is a former Verizon lobbyist and is REALLY keen on getting rid of net neutrality – net neutrality is the principle that all websites and all data be treated equally. Continue reading →

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What You Can Do After Charlottesville

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The neo-Nazi and white supremacist riots in Charlottesville, VA happened this last weekend. You cannot deny it no matter how many anti-Antifa posts you see (which, thanks to Snopes, we know those anti-Antifa posts are fabricated). You also cannot deny it no matter how many times you say “but I have a black (insert indirect personal connection here).”

Charlottesville is a culmination of many forces, some brewing over the last 60 years, some brewing over the last 8 months. But it happened, and now we are here.

It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to be a little (or very) scared.

Do not let those emotions change who you are. You are more than anger and fear.

Fear is a luxury we cannot afford anymore.

Now is the time to take a stand and do the right things. And believe it or not, you (the United States citizen) have the ability to do something to make a difference.

Here’s a short list of things you can do: Continue reading →

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