Earlier in the year I had my best show ever at the 2019 Puerto Rico Comic Con. I sold out a couple of titles, I saw a lot of familiar faces, and I also met a lot of new ones. It was good to shake off the rust before my first event stateside since I hadn’t done an event since 2017, but even then I knew my experience in one event should never be used as a realistic gauge for another, especially since these were uncharted waters. I mainly wanted to prove I could do it, do it to the best of my ability, and enjoy myself… and for the most part I did… I just didn’t sell that many books.
When you try something new, by the very nature of the situation, odds are highly in favor of you learning a thing or three. In my case, all of that held true. After Puerto Rico, I was well aware that I had to manage and lower my expectations because it was my first show stateside and I knew better than to be lulled into a false sense of security since I’m not at all that known here in the ATL. So I made sure to keep expectations “realistic” but I quickly learned that the term “realistic expectations” changes from context to context… and so do buying habits.
Card readers are a must.
If you take anything from this blog post, please take that sentence and apply it to yourself. Life, work, and several other situations had meant I was doing last minute things before the Atlanta Comic Con, which should have included buying a card reader and setting it up… which takes all of 15 minutes, if that. I did not do this until Saturday evening where lost opportunities demanded that I go to my nearest Apple store to remedy the problem. Seriously, it’s super easy and it was an oversight that cost me a couple of sales, but you live, you learn, and you keep on keeping on. A lot of people do not want to carry cash and although this sounds like a no-brainer, it’s best to repeat out loud for the people in the back not paying attention. In short, have as many sensible and secure ways to receive payment. If not, you’ll bang your head against a wall and you’ll find plenty of other challenges that you’ll have to face.
One of many.
In most major cities, there are quite a few large events you can attend as a vendor. People also have the same variety of options so they are selective in regards to the events they go to and what they buy at each event. Being a large city, that also means there are a LOT of vendors. Both of these factors were not unknown to me, but after one weekend, it became clear that to be successful at an event you have to do way more than just show up and know your stuff. There are so many ways to set up your booth and in the end, you have to set up in a way where you’re visible, comfortable, and in control. You also have to know how to make a sale where there isn’t one to begin with. I definitely picked up a couple of tips and pointers in regards to what I should offer and how I should offer it and I also saw quite a few things not to do, at least in my opinion. And yes, a lot of what goes into your exhibitor includes you.
Smile for the camera.
You’d be surprised how many long faces I saw at this show. Trust me, I learned how it felt like to have a bust of a show, but even so, I was always friendly, always had a smile on my face, and quickly learned that the more I enjoyed myself, the better the learning experience would be. Some people could only talk about how slow sales were and how much of a bust it had been. It’s not to say I don’t understand where they’re coming from. After all, if you drove or flew, paid for a hotel, and invested in inventory for it to not sell, then I get why you’d be upset. But for me, if you look pissed off, it’s not exactly appealing to engage you… and in a show with so many exhibitors, it’s amazingly easy to not stop at a booth with funky vibes coming from it. And speaking of funky vibes…
Be kind to people’s sense of smell.
I’ve always been of the mind that you should be pleasant to the senses in any context and one of the most important ones is the sense of smell… I won’t name names, but during the show, one or two particular booths were borderline unapproachable and I swear I’m not exaggerating. I interacted with people who were setup nearby these booths and you could see in their faces that they were struggling and even so, they were chatty, friendly, and pleasant smelling. Seriously, I wish I were exaggerating, but if onions had arm pits, I smelled a couple after they had run a 5K through a field of steamed broccoli. Fortunate for me, both of my neighbors were pretty cool, pleasant smelling, and they were actually a big part of the weekend being as fun as it was, because when it comes to events, sales are nice, but…
Connections are priceless.
When I say connections, banish the word networking from your brain, if only for a moment. That’s not what we’re talking about and although that’s also extremely nice to have, there’s nothing quite like connecting with people for real. This happened on a couple of occasions and it just goes to show that during your journey, you end up finding your tribe. On the one hand, one of my neighbors and her husband were some of the nicest people I’ve ever been next to at an event. Katie Olivia White and her husband David were all sorts of lovely, as was the quirky and awesome Proton Factories, the uniquely artistic Triple7Sp, the talented and humble lover of Hollow Knight - Studio Penpen, the super kind guys and gals at Incubator Comics, the quirky and kind Daniel Kozuh, and the nonstop JH Glaze, who gave some great pointers and support and had a solid show, to mention but a few. There were also some nice people who swung by my booth Apart from nice people, there were also some really nice surprises.
Some people DO know me.
One of the highlights of the weekend was a kind reader coming along and saying, “Oh, there you are.” They had actually looked for my booth and had kept from buying the book beforehand to buy directly from me and I happened to be their first stop. They’d also had Only Human on their wish list for some time and I can’t even begin to say how happy that made me. Sure, it was only one person that was on the lookout beforehand, but that’s one more than I had before and I’ll gladly take it. Also, by the end of the show I was referring and having people refer people to my booth. That’s because if someone is looking for a genre I don’t write in, odds are someone does and when you meet that someone, sending them over costs you nothing. This is something I do at every show and a reason why I take the first day to check out exhibitor halls. You never know who you will see that you know or who you will meet.
Lessons learned and plans to adjust.
In terms of sales, it was a slow show so I do have leftover inventory. I could see this as a failure of sorts or an invitation to get creative and if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that it’s up to you to choose the lens with which to see what you experience. I learned a LOT during the event, but here are the top 3 lessons from my first event stateside.
1. Get a card reader! Didn’t you read above????? Lol. Seriously, it’s quick, easy, and will be invaluable.
2. Finding the right event is not about size. I chose the Atlanta Comic Con because I thought it was the most prudent choice for an event stateside. Although fun and I met nice people, I don’t think I was the right fit for this event or at least this year. Being selective means taking more risks and trying different things, but large size does not a good show guarantee.
3. Have fun. Although I’m always about having fun, on this occasion I had to learn new ways of having fun and to take it all in stride.
So here’s to having fun, learning, and keep on keeping on. If you have anything else you’d like to ask about the Atlanta Comic Con, by all means, drop a comment or contact me via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and I’ll be happy to answer anything you have in mind.
Here are some more pics though feel free to check the entire gallery on Facebook :D