To answer the immediate question, how did I do?, the answer is, I didn't. I didn't sell one item there. Zip. Zero. Nada. Goose egg. I was hoping for at least enough in sales that I could pick up Beatles Rock Band on the way home, but nothing.
But believe it or not, I'm not upset.
I went into this thing, got the table, got the comics printed, everything with DISPOSABLE INCOME. That's right, I didn't touch a credit card or set up a tab at all here. As far as the table rental goes, I spend more than that watching bad movies, so this was simply redefining the purpose of the money. The books? They won't spoil, so I can try selling them again later, and since I only ordered 30 copies of the two current issues of Sound Waves and 10 copies of the Stress Puppy graphic novel, it's not like these are going to be a problem to store until I'm ready (they all fit in two economy shipper boxes, or roughly the equivalent of a size 14 shoebox). So, I didn't really spend that much money, I didn't really lose that much money (well, I would have lost it on something else anyway, so it would have been lost one way or another), and I got some very VERY valuable recon. A little disappointed, but that's human nature. Disappointed, sure. Upset or feeling like I wasted my time? Hell no.
For example, the convention center is hosting a "kid's expo" in March. It's for Gymboree and crap like that. They are looking for dealers. You can sell anything you want as long as it is clean and family friendly. Well, that's Sound Waves and Cloudburst right there. I'm going to look into the cost and see what it would take, but as a way of doing a total end run around the increasingly exclusive comic industry, this warrants at least an examination.
Well, here we are at the Tinley Park Convention Center. Small compared to Rosemont, but I like the cozy feel and the fact that you don't have to hike 1.6 miles from parking to the exhibitor hall (no joke, I calculated it). Also, no charge for parking.
Here's the lobby/entrance way. Follow the path on the right to go to the hotel itself. Straight through the doors on either side of the fountain to get to the room.
Here's the view through the aforementioned door. There was some sort of church revival meeting going on next door.
These are the views of the room itself before everyone started setting up. In the second picture, my table was to the right of the rack display going up in the center of the wall. People were showing up with racks and display stands and extra tables and such. I wanted to keep it simple -- fast to assemble, fast to take down, and with minimal shlepping back and forth to the car. Besides, as my artwork will attest, I like things neat, clean, and direct. Final result --
I got a picture of me sitting at the table, but the lady got my picture while I was in mid-laugh, and frankly, I think I look a little too creepy. So this will have to do. You'll see a rack with copies of Cloudburst on the left, my laptop Pam armed with two external batteries and ready to go, three other things I've worked on in the middle (Morbid Myths 2007 Halloween Special, The Supremacy #1, and the current issue of Video Game Trader), and on the right, my self-published comics. The stack towards the front is the Stress Puppy GN, and the display holders have the two issues of Sound Waves, with a browsing copy in front of each one.
One of the perks was that I could do things my way, and that included working the crowd. I don't like going around comic shows and being accosted by people trying to sell their stuff. I understand they are just trying to move some merchandise, but their attempts to socially take you hostage and make it uncomfortable for you to refuse to buy something from them always struck me as manipulative, just a step removed from grabbing you by the shirt collar and screaming , "BUY MY BOOKS, GODDAMMIT!!!" So, I sat there, making initial eye contact with new people. They could communicate within a couple of seconds if my stuff had caught their eye or if it just didn't appeal to them just by whether their eyes stayed on my display or moved on quickly. I wasn't surprised that so many moved on -- you are ostensibly dealing with superhero fans here, and I have a corporate humor comic book and a series about a little girl who is friends with a mermaid. Not exactly an easy sell. But I was there to be friendly, so I just kept out of their personal space. A few people came by to look, but nothing special. One guy thumbed through Stress Puppy and said my artwork was really good, proving that getting the basics right is a huge advantage. Only one was intrigued enough to ask prices, and he just moved on afterwards.
One guy was asking about how I made Cloudburst. We started talking about Linux, and his questions indicated he didn't get the GPL. He thought if he made a program for Linux, it HAD to be GPL'ed. I told him no and gave him a crash course in the GPL. I also recommended some distros he could test drive. He had no idea about live CD's, and when I explained how they worked, he was impressed.
One guy there was a local who had created Geriatric Kung Fu Gerbils, a b&w indie that I collected. He thumbed through Stress Puppy and asked if I ever thought about setting up a table at a furry convention. I told him that, while I would have no objection to selling at a furry con, I didn't think it would work out too well, and I explained the negative reaction to the test strips the furries had a couple of years ago. He thought for a moment and told me that he thought my sample pool was wrong, that most of the furries he knew would love Stress Puppy. He gave me some pointers to try working the furry crowd better and getting a more accurate read, that there are a lot more furries that fall along fan lines than lifestylers, its just the lifestylers get the press. Reflecting that lots of Christians are live and let live like I am but it's the Pat Robertson assholes who get in your face and get the press, I promised him I'd think it over and consider it. Hey, I'm supposed to be an open-minded guy, after all.
Learned a lot of interesting shit about Wizard, too. The booth next to me had videos and books for sale. I was talking with one of the guys about comic book scans and my opinion that, if you want people to buy your books instead of downloading them, you need to make something people will WANT to buy. You can't force someone to buy something they don't want to buy (see three paragraphs above re: my approach). He concluded I was a good guy, and we talked digital rights and so on. His site links to a lot of comic creators and creates a lot of traffic, and when I get a site or Hard Way Studios comes back up, he would love to put a link on his site. I said thanks and took his card.
Cosplayers got in free. There were a few kids, one dressed like Spider-Man, the other the Lizard, a third like the Hulk. As for grown ups, only two, as Jean Grey from X-Men 3 and Rogue from the comics after the movies:
boxwatcher popped by to say hello. Also, mornblade stopped by to say howdy. He approached the table and pointed out how his badge told everyone he was a guest. He pointed to my badge, "Your badge says you are an artist."
Well, I am a mangaka, so I will concede that point.
He then took out his little hardcover sketchbook. Now that I'm a published artist instead of just a writer, he wanted a sketch. "How much do you charge?"
Depends. What do you want me to draw?
He said he wanted me to draw Rhapsody from Sound Waves as Shadowcat. He was nice enough to bring reference material. I guess he was inspired by my Rhapsody as Green Lantern drawing that I posted to my blog a while ago. I figured he picked Shadowcat because her costume features a belt with two tails that flap dramatically like Rhapsody's sash (they even both tie them on their left-hand sides, and I swear to God that's coincidence). So I got to work, starting with the undersketch. As I went, my mind was racing. This was my first commission sketch, and it's for my brother (by choice, not by family), so I didn't want to just draw Rhapsody dressed as Shadowcat, I wanted to kick it up a notch. Any proper Kitty Pryde sketch features her phasing through something solid, and I started thinking about what I would have Rhapsody passing through. Then, remembering she is 14 years old, I got the answer. The sketch has her phasing through and past Pedobear so he couldn't catch her, with the caption, "These powers are NOT Pedobear approved!" Mornblade loved it. As soon as he sends me a scan of the page, I'll post it to my journal.
So, the day was pretty uneventful. I spent most of the time working on issue #7 of Sound Waves. The crowd was pretty light (it was only the second show the organizer put on), and I think some dealers misunderstood the kind of audience that would be there. One booth had a slabbed Liberty Meadows #1 1st print signed by Frank Cho for $150. I love Cho's work, but that was not only a bit high, but since it's slabbed, you'd never be able to open it and read it anyway. Basically, it turns the comic into a baseball card, something you look at and show off, and that's it. However, the guy is angling to hold another in Februrary or March. And I think, with a little more working the crowd and building my brand, I might want to go....