1

My Personal Dos and Don’ts of Selling At Shows

by

(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.

0

I’m Back from SPACE…In Columbus

by

space columbus ohio convention expo table 2018

As I’m writing this, I came back from SPACE (Small Press Alternative Comics Expo) yesterday. This was the first SPACE I had attended since 2013, and 2013 was NOT a hot year for me. At that time I was still working with an editor whom, honestly, I should not have been working with. We had shared a table that year, and my sales were wimpy – partly because my own offerings weren’t so hot, and partly because the editor with whom I shared the table was not the best dude to invite customers over. So, because of those factors, 2013 was the last year I went… until this last weekend.

A lot changed between those shows – I started working with Christian Beranek on Validation (which is STILL getting reviews online), I made a LOT more comic books and graphic novels, I made more videos talking about indie comics, and most importantly, I started surrounding myself with better comics peeps.

This year at SPACE I shared a table with Carlos Rivera – he runs Youngstown Independent Creator Expo (which is happening this year on Sept. 8. More details to come in another blog post). He’s also, incidentally, one of my patrons on Patreon, which I hugely appreciate.

We were stationed next to Dale Lazarov, who is one of the BEST table neighbors I could ask for. We saw each other at Awesome Con because we were both in Pride Alley, and I couldn’t believe our luck that we would see each other again – as table neighbors, no less! I’m midway through one of his graphic novels, MANLY, which is honestly one of the sexiest and sweetest books I’ve read in a long time. His books are DEFINITELY not safe for work, but definitely worth the read. Go support him.

Another face I saw at the show was Darren. We met at RathaCon a few years ago and he’s been one of my best fans ever since. We talked comics and shared art, and in general he just made my day. Thank you, Darren!

Another awesome person in my life is Dyrk Conrad – he’s not a comic dude, but we met last year and have been buddies since then. He joined me at Kafe Kerouac so we could both participate in a comic reading. We read Johnson & Sir for the crowd (he played Sir, I played Johnson and some other sundry characters). He also let me crash with him and his roommates this weekend, which was great because they were a ten-minute drive away from the venue where SPACE was being held. I didn’t have to pay for a hotel, and we got to play Quelf.

artist selfie quelf

If you have ever played Quelf, you know that wrapping your head in paper towels is not the weirdest dare the game asks you to do. It’s fun. You should play it.

You might be thinking right now, “Ok this is great to read and all, but did you make money at SPACE this year?”

Well, if we’re comparing my numbers to how Awesome Con went, then SPACE was not as successful. But if we’re comparing how this year went to how SPACE 2013 went, then I blew Space 2013 out of the water. I didn’t expect sales at SPACE to be super-high, but it was enough to be in the black. Plus I got to trade my books for SO MANY ZINES AND COMICS.

Look at this stash. It’s marvelous! I may have to bring back Review Day Tuesday videos just to read and review these babies.

My next show is coming up this weekend – Saturday, May 5th is Free Comic Book Day, and I’ll be at New Dimension Comics at the Ohio Valley Mall (in Saint Clairsville, OH). I’ll be there from 11 am to 6 pm. There will be freebies, and this limited edition 11 x 17 inch print:

i am the land american gods art illustration by kelci crawford

“I Am The Land” has a limited print run of 9 copies, and is for sale at $20. If you would like one, be sure to stop at my table. If you aren’t able to make it to the show, I’ll have an email on the newsletter about how you can get one.

Also, if you can make it to the show, I’m doing a special giveaway: buy something from New Dimension Comics on Free Comic Book Day, and you’ll get a free mini-print from me. Just show me your receipt.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

0

“I Am The Land,” An Art Piece

by

i am the land american gods art illustration by kelci crawford

If you’re a fan of Neil Gaiman’s book, American Gods, like I am, then you know why this piece is called “I Am The Land.” If you haven’t read the book (or read the comic, or seen the TV show) yet, you should fix that. Like, ASAP.

American Gods is one of those books that shook me when I first read it. Every time I re-read it, I discover something new about it. It’s dream-like and jarring yet also grounded (in the sense that the god characters act like people and not like high-concept “I am above petty emotions” personalities. Zack Snyder should learn a thing or two from this book).

One of the recurring characters in American Gods is a man with a buffalo head. He doesn’t outright murder anyone in the book. However, when I got the idea for this piece of art, I finished a section of the comic book adaptation of the novel – specifically, the section about Vikings landing in Canada and killing a Native American, and then the Natives killing every Viking in retaliation. Yes, the account is fiction, but there’s an element of truth to it, to the idea that America is a land stained in blood.

That’s why I made this piece.

This was drawn with my trusty mechanical pencil and Pentel Brush Sign Pen, with colors by my Copic markers. The background color was done with a Kuretake Zig Clean Color FB brush pen. It’s dying out a little though, so I’ll need to replace it soon.

Soon this will be a print measuring 11×17 inches. When it’s in the shop, I’ll announce it on the email newsletter first. It’s going to be a limited print run, though, so because of that, it’ll be a little more than just $10.

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

2

This Week Has Been Crappy

by

Yo!

This week started pretty rocky – I didn’t announce it except to my personal friend groups, but I had a colonoscopy on Tuesday. My doctor wanted to make sure that, given my symptoms, I wasn’t having any internal bleeding or experiencing symptoms of a more chronic illness like Chron’s disease. The test came back saying there were no signs of anything bad, which is…weird. And also a bit of a letdown. If you know ANYTHING about the prep work needed for a colonoscopy, you know it’s a lot of misery, and to go through all of that just for a test to come back negative has me a bit miffed. Happy that there’s no debilitating issues, but miffed that I went through a lot of metaphorical crap for a lot of nothing.

On the more positive side, there are some great gigs getting lined up, both online and offline. This is REALLY good news because mom and her boyfriend have moved out of the house. Not fully – their RV campsite hasn’t turned the water on yet because Ohio keeps snowing in April. However, the extra gigs will come in handy to help cover the raised rent when they DO fully move out.

So that’s what’s been happening this week. What’s coming up?

Well, I’m making a separate Patreon post about that. Don’t worry – when it posts, it’ll be public viewing.

Thank you for your patience with me.

You. Are. Awesome.

1

Commissioned Piece Made for Luke and Mel

by

commission piece luke and mel lgbtq communityLuke (left) and Mel (right) are both members of the local (to me) LGBTQ community, and both LOVE Johnson & Sir. Luke commissioned me to make a portrait of the both of them to look like characters that would pop out of the comic, and I said yes.

Look how it turned out!

(By the way, if you would like to commission me for something, check out the “Get a Commission” Link.)

Thank you for your support.

You. Are. Awesome.

1 2 3 110