Conventions are great. They offer you an opportunity to network, get your work out to potential fans, and gauge your own work against your peers. This article isn't about how to do that great stuff. It's about how to make enough to continue doing conventions.
There are a lot of great articles out there that cover the same idea, but I wanted to share some of my own experiences. Heads up, I'm not a very big name in comics. I have one self-published issue of my first project out there (two next month), and it's not even available through Diamond Distribution yet.
So what do I know? Well, I've done four conventions since September, in Salt Lake City, Reno, New Orleans, and Portland. I have always sold over 200 issues of Super EVERY convention. (212 is my absolute lowest.) I sold 600 at Salt Lake Comic Con (home team advantage, and a larger crowd.) Most people will tell you that is pretty insane for a nobody. Watching the other amateur comic creators that sit around me, they're probably right. I almost always sell more than them.
So how can you increase your sales? Well, I can't guarantee my techniques will work for your product, but I'm just vain enough to think my opinions might be helpful. I want to start with some misconceptions.
I don't sell many comics because I'm not famous:
WARNING: Humble brag eminent. In Portland, I sat across from Kurt Busiek, an Eisner Award winner. I'm not half the writer he is, yet my table tended to be more busy. Why?
Well, most people don't recognize who they are walking past. The average convention goer doesn't recognize the creators they love. They just remember the names of their works. It's true. Look at your favorite novel, most of them have a picture of the author on the back. Look at your favorite comic, it probably doesn't. Generally their tables don't get busy until AFTER they do a panel, and people realize who they are.
The unknown artist who had no titles under his belt was selling more prints than Dean Haspiel right next to him. It's sad but true. At a convention it doesn't matter who you are. You're selling to regular people, not industry professionals. Which brings me to my next point.
If my work is good enough it will sell itself:
Wrong. Artist Alley is a Bazaar. Many people that start walking through it aren't looking to buy anything. They are bored, they finished seeing all the vendors, or maybe they are just buying time until the next panel. They aren't looking to stop, which means you can't be passive. They'll walk right past you.
More than 90% of people who stop at my table were actively approached. Think of an opening line. I tend to go with, “Hi! Do you read comics?” It's quick, it opens up a conversation, it draws them in, and we get to know each other as people instead of just a salesman and a customer. I believe at a convention you are selling yourself just as much as your product. (There's lots of other great stuff out there.)
Be active, don't just sit there and wait for people to come to you. Buy yourself an opportunity to give your pitch. I can count the number of people who came over to my table without me saying hi first on one hand. (Also come up with an elevator pitch: not just for your product but for yourself too! Remember, they probably don't know who you are.)
The Primary Key?
Be confident and outgoing. TALK! That's what conventions are for. You are no longer only represented by a faceless product sitting on a shelf. YOU get to engage people directly. Take advantage of it. It's that simple.
Okay, okay. There's other basic stuff like: make your table look professional, come prepared, etc. But I wanted to talk about what I think has set my table apart. Here's some great links for more information, and keep creating!