My Personal Dos and Don’ts of Selling At Shows

(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.

I’m Back from SPACE…In Columbus

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.

Y-City Con

 

 

y city con zanesville comic convention vendor table

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a Denny’s, waiting for my dinner. But this show went so well I had to write about it while waiting for food.

This was a last-minute decision to go – one of the guys at New Dimension Comics asked if I wanted to go to signal boost the shop as well as sell my stuff. I said yes.

Y-City happened in Zanesville, at a place called Weasel Brewery. Believe it or not, I have roots in Zanesville – it’s where I went to high school. While I had my table set up, I came across my old high school buddy and current fan, Morgan. After chatting a bit, we exchanged contact information so we could work together for First Fridays and the arts festival that happens annually in town.

It must be said that Y-City Con is still new – this was its second year of operation. So it was wee. I still wish I had something like this growing up though. In my formative years, the most nerdy things in Zanesville were the Waldenbooks before they went out of business, and the exchange store that carried video games and movies. Once there was a Hot Topic in that mall but it moved out when I was a junior or senior in high school. Point being: growing up I had no comic shop or comic con in the town. So I’m glad to see Y-City and the comic shop that hosts it, Mass Media Comics LLC, actually exist.

I’ll close it here – this is a shorter blog post than usual, but I wanted to get these thoughts on paper before I stuffed my face with congratulatory food.

Thanks for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

My First Year of Classic Plastics Toy And Comic Expo

classic plastics toy and comic expo 2018

It’s been two days since I came back from Classic Plastics Toy & Comic Expo down in Parkersburg, WV, so I’m going to talk about it now.

I’ve been to Parkersburg before, for the Parkersburg Pop Con back in September of last year. Classic Plastics was different in a few ways, the number one point being that it took place in the downtown Art Center. The other difference was that Classic Plastics was a two-day affair, so I crashed with my art buddy Kampie (whom I met at Parkersburg last year). We also shared a table at the event.

classic plastics toy and comic expo artist alley table

The goal this year is to have a table buddy at as many shows as possible this year – because last year I was often on my own (the worst was Comicon Erie, where I was at my table by myself for 3 days. NEVER AGAIN). Table buddies are a must: they help watch your stuff when you have to run to the bathroom, one of you can grab food if you’re hungry, and there’s somebody watching the table if you or the other have to get up and walk around to stretch a bit.

Kampie was a great table buddy for both days of the event. I want to work with her more often this year. (Also she’s got her own art on Facebook and RedBubble. Be sure to check out both pages.)

Classic Plastics was pretty cool this year! One of the Muppet designers was there (Tim Clarke, if you were curious). As was Daniel Pesina. Pesina passed around signed prints to folks who had tables at the show. He’s a cool dude.

There were a few great things about the show, including having Kampie as a table buddy and “fighting” with New Dimension Comics dude Jon over who’s the biggest fan of Master Pesina. Another was the trio of burly dudes sitting at the table across from us. They had wrestling POP figures, toys, and (brace yourself) T-shirts that said “Nobody cares about your fragile masculinity.”

Ya’ dang right I bought one of those shirts from a bearded, tattooed dude named Cash who looked like he could bench me.

There was also a tank top of a cat skull with the words “Dead Men Can’t Cat Call.” I traded a Forest Spirit print for it and wore that beast the second day of the show. Plus, on the second day, I met the lady who designed both shirts.

THAT’s the kind of thing I’m here for – cool dudes showing up with cool ladies making cool shit.

(In case you’re curious, yes, they have an online store at Bearded Death Apparel. Go check them out. They’re awesome people.)

kampie and kelci
A semi-rare look at my own face. Photo courtesy of Kampie.

The only downside with the show was Sunday, the second day of the show – it fucking DIED. All of my earnings were on Saturday, because on Sunday, I was lucky to make $20. Parkersburg, what the hell?

Then again, probably everybody in the town was at church. Parkersburg is a VERY conservative town, one that rejected an LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinance on “religious grounds” and yet has at least two strip clubs within spitting distance of each other on the main drag. I know this, because Kampie and I stayed near one that weekend.

Classic Plastics, I love you, but your hometown is dumb.

So, a lesson for those of you who want to support local comic shows like Classic Plastics – GO ON SUNDAY. You’d be surprised at the new things that happen on Sundays at shows. Plus, it’s less crowded.

That’s all for today. I have to get back to KickStarter fulfillment and making commissions.

Thanks for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

P.S. Enjoy this sign that was definitely on display near the Art Center elevator.

classic plastics funny elevator sign

Bringing Vlogging Back!

Aww yiss, I’m bringing back the vlog!

Here’s some stuff mentioned in the video:

Convention Appearances for 2018:

3 Rivers Comicon (Pittsburgh, PA)
Comicon Erie (Erie, PA)
Awesome Con (Washington, DC)

The Thomcast!

The Dollop (a hilarious history podcast)

Ask me questions on…
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Sound Effects by SoundBible.

If you have questions you would like me to answer on camera, please leave a comment below.

Thanks for watching!

You. Are. Awesome.