Yesterday I registered for this year’s Motor City Comicon in Novi, MI. Didn’t make the 2015 show because of farting around on my part thinking there was plenty of time then I looked up and it was sold out. That’s a good show and it’s getting better. People tell me it was packed last year. Since this is likely our last year in the Midwest, we decided one last MCCC was a good idea. It will also be the only con we plan on doing this year.
Last year’s con season left a bad taste in my mouth. The Chicago Wizard show was a big letdown not just financially but it seemed to portend a bleak outlook for cons in general. At the 2015 show we had the best table we’d ever had in all the years of being in artist’s alley. We were surrounded by talented creators, the famous and the not yet famous, in the front, against the wall. We ended up not covering table costs for the first time in three years and it wasn’t just us. I talked to several other artists and vendors and they said the same thing.
This is my theory. First of all it just plain costs too much. If $75 just get’s you in the door for one day and that’s it? There’s not much left to spend so you have to be very discerning when it comes to your purchases. I can’t tell you how many times I watched parents dragging their kids quickly in another direction as soon as they looked at our booth.
So I’m feeling kinda bummed about the whole idea of working conventions as a form of self promotion. On one hand you have the big corporate beast squeezing the life out of the small creator and the fan, on the other there are heavily curated shows that decide who gets a table and who does not. Then I saw this.
They only have 20 days left and they’re a long way off but if everybody who bitches about Wizard gives 5 or 10 bucks they could make it happen. I gave what I could and I really hope they’re successful. The best part for us is that the 2015 show was in Salem, Oregon. Where we’re planning to move. Looking forward to doing that one.
It’s been just over a week since I got back from SPACE so I’ve had time to rest and reflect on the experience. In case you’ve never heard of SPACE the small press & alternative comics expo, it’s been an annual event for the last 16 years held in Columbus, Ohio. It was the first comic show that I worked as a creator.
Back in ’06 Janet & I rented a car and drove through the desolate wasteland that is Indiana to the buckeye state and spent two nights there for the one day show on Saturday. It was held at some masonic hall with really creepy photos of past members on the walls. Cerebus creator Dave Sim was there. My first book, Complicated Hair #1 was all I had literally on the table. No cloth, signage or promotional items, just a lot of excitement and determination. We ended up selling probably less than ten books but we did meet some really cool people. Moreover, now I felt like a professional comics creator because not only have I written & drawn a book and had it printed but I finally get to be on the other side of the table something I’ve wanted to do my entire life.
The next SPACE trip was 2013 and that was my first road trip to a con since the “06 show. I didn’t have really high expectations but expected to do much better this time simply because I had four other books and other things like sketch cards & magnets. To my surprise my sales were similar to the first trip!
So now to the latest trip. I decided to give SPACE one more chance. Plus my friend Michael who accompanied me on the last trip wanted to see the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum. We did see the museum and I’ll recount that experience in a future entry. I was worried that we couldn’t set up the day before but setup went smoothly Saturday morning. There seemed to be decent attendance but it was well after noon before I got a single sale. By the end of the day I was ready to slit my wrists. In my limited experience doing comic shows this was one of the worst days ever.
Sunday we roll in about half an hour late full of a good Bob Evans breakfast. Since I’m selling next to nothing I took a few minutes to look around and check out the other artists. By the time I finally got to my table I’d accepted the reality that it was all a loss and was having a conversation with one of my neighbors that had a table literally in a dark corner when Bob Corby the show’s organizer appeared at my table.
Bob is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. This show is a labor of love for him. So Bob tells me that a spot just opened up in the main room. Apparently somebody got sick and left early and the spot that was open was the first table on the right as soon as you walk in. This has to be what they had in mind when somebody came up with the saying”closing the barn door after the horse is gone”. I kindly accepted Bob’s offer and moved. At the very least the energy was better at the new table since for the first time I got some not so friendly neighbors. The new spot was prime and right next to the front door which made for easy load out.
Without knowing I had booked the room at the same Best Western Janet & I stayed in my first time in Columbus. How fitting to come full circle with this SPACE experience. This will be my last SPACE experience. Even though it’s a wonderful idea and the people are awesome, for whatever reasons it’s never been a good show for me. Maybe it’s a regional thing. The cartoonists and fans of Columbus are very lucky to have a show like SPACE. There is no show that is equivalent to it in Chicago which really sucks when you consider the size of this city and the talent here. Sure there’s CAKE but that’s a curated show that’s difficult to get in for some people whereas SPACE is first come first in. I wish everyone involved well but I shall not return.
So the first GRASP con is in the history books. Now that I’ve had a chance to recover from the drive and lack of sleep it’s time to take a look back at the weekend.
First of all, traffic on I-94 sucks. There’s construction all throughout Indiana that turns a relatively easy drive into a hard one. Our car is in need of work so I got a rental Chevy Impala. That baby had lots of trunk room, moves like a cat and rides like a couch floating down the highway.
After getting the “full breakfast” included with the room at the Best Western I was disappointed that the only thing worth eating was scrambled eggs that may or may not have been army surplus, brown & serve sausages and juice. Everything else was heavy carb heavy sugar including a self serve waffle iron. They didn’t even have bacon! Full breakfast my eye!
After breakfast I got to the venue with no delays and beat the 9am deadline when they start charging $5 for parking. The Deltaplex is the building equivalent of a nondescript white van. On the inside it looks like a bomb shelter. The Deltaplex is also the home of The Grand Rapids Drive, of the NBA’s D-League.
Saturday started slowly with my first customer attempting to buy a $3 button with a fifty. Come on lady, do I look like a currency exchange? It was cold as a meat locker and stupid me forgot to bring a sweater. Combine cold and a lack of business and by noon I’m struggling to stay awake. At one point I go to the parking lot just so I can warm my hands on the hood of the car. After my warmup I got a second wind and even did a sketch for one of my neighbors of his character for his book. Sunday was even more sparsely attended but I was prepared after seeing Saturday’s turnout.
The bottom line is this was the first year for this show and it takes a while for any comic show to get established. I didn’t make a lot of sales but on the positive side I sold more comic books than ever before! The Ninja Bunny debut book was the best seller and garnered a lot of attention. I also got to talk to a lot of people that actually read small press comics and networked with some really cool creators. I would probably do this show again.
The first of three conventions I plan on doing this year is happening this Saturday & Sunday the 27-28th in Grand Rapids Michigan and it’s called GRASP Comic Expo. GRASP stands for Grand Rapids Alternative Small Press.
This is the Inaugural show for the organizers of this event but they have had success with their fall show the Grand Rapids Comic Con. Their booths were very affordable and since it is not a juried show they were kind enough to accept my money and rent me a booth without any approval process.
Since this is their first show I’m going in with no expectations. Whatever happens it’s all good and I’m just going to enjoy being a part of the show. I’ve had some good experiences with Michigan shows so far so hopefully the trend continues.
Summer is here and for me that means Comic Con season. Since I hate driving in bad weather the warmer months are the only time of year we do shows. That and I’m starting to totally rethink the whole concept of comic shows as a way to gain recognition, but that’s another story.
If you’re going to do cons then you will be needing actual books to sell to potential readers. It sounds simple but as you know printing costs are expensive so what I like to do is small print runs so I won’t have a lot of back stock in case the book is a slow seller. It’s been a trial and error process to find a printer that accommodates small indie comic makers and our limited budgets.
At a recent show I bought someone’s book that was printed by Comix Well Spring and it looked pretty nice so I decided to give them a try. I have to say that they did not disappoint.
The books come standard with a cardstock cover which feels very substantial. The interior pages are also a decent thickness and the images almost look like books printed using the offset process which is more expensive and usually require a higher print minimum. The colors are true to the pdf original, unlike when I use Ka-Blam printing who’s process makes the images darker. And turnaround time was crazy fast unlike Ka-Blam who makes sure to take every bit of a month to get your books to you unless you pay them an extra fee. I got my books in just under two weeks. Needless to say, I’ve found my printer.
This was the first year that I applied for a table at CAKE, the only comic show in the Chicago area that showcases indie comic creators. I was fully expecting to be denied because there are so many deserving cartoonists in this city. Turns out I was right . Sort of.
Today I received the notification email and it turns out I’m on the waiting list. Which is a victory of sorts I guess, at least they didn’t say no. The email did say that they received 579 applications and it is a small show. They do not mention if I’m #10 on the list or #499 because it’s their policy to not reveal your waiting list ranking or how you were graded by their jury.
So basically I’m going forward as if it’s not happening.