I ran into Liz Baillie on the floor of New York Comic Con this weekend. She was tabling toward the back of the room in a small aisle packed with indie publishers. She seemed in pretty good spirits when I saw her on Friday–a stark contrast from my own already rundown state. Is suspected that she might be burned out by the time Sunday rolled around, but then, I was likely only projecting.
Given the fact that this year’s show was Baillie’s first ever large con (a bit of a surprise, given the amount of time she’s spent in and around the industry), she seemed the perfect candidate to offer a fresh perspective on New York’s massive show.
I entered New York Comic Con with low expectations. Extremely low. I had never exhibited at NYCC, even though I live in the city, because I was waiting a few years for the convention to mature enough that I would know what it’s “vibe” was and whether it would be worth my time to spend three days hawking my wares there. I almost didn’t do it this year, but at the last minute my friend Gordon offered up half his table in the newly created Webcomics Pavilion, so I took it as a sign that it was “time.”
However, when I got to the convention early on Friday morning, it was already a clusterfuck of epic proportions. The row of what was supposed to be tables in the Webcomics Pavilion was just a bunch of empty booth space. And the booth space was only five feet wide instead of the standard six. And there was no signage or mention in the program of any “Webcomics Pavilion.” Did I mention there was no table in the space? There was no table in the space.
My tablemate Gordon had handled all the dealing with Reed regarding our space, and he assured me after checking his records that he was offered a table in the Webcomics Pavilion, not booth space. Regardless, we were informed that if we really wanted a table, we’d have to shell out about $75 for a four footer, I believe it was $85 for a six footer, and $100 per chair if we felt like we might want to, you know, sit down. Well, since our physical space was only five freakin’ feet, we shared the four-footer, which allotted us about two measly feet each on which to display our wares. A standard table at any indie convention is between 6 and 8 feet and costs between $150 and $400. Our invisible table in this non-existent “Webcomics Pavilion” was $500.
Even though this was probably the worst possible way to start any show, we both tried to remain optimistic and spent the rest of the weekend perfecting our pitches to passers-by, most of whom seemed unusually interested in hearing about our comics, especially when the buzzword “webcomics” was uttered. At most indie shows, when I tell someone I do a Webcomic and they should check it out online, they are usually pretty uninterested and just want to buy the books. At NYCC, I heard words I had never heard uttered before: “You do a Webcomic? I love Webcomics! I’m always looking for more comics to add to my RSS feed!”
By Sunday morning, I had burned through ALL my postcards (and I had brought a new, full box on top of about half a box left over from the rest of the year’s cons) and all my business cards. I gave out hundreds (maybe 400-600 or so) hobo names and only had a few name tags left at the end of the weekend. At any other indie con, I only give out maybe 100 postcards at best, possibly 100 hobo names. It was insane.
I was kind of bummin’ on Friday and Saturday, because it felt like I wasn’t selling that much stuff, but once I counted my stock and my money on Sunday, I realized I actually did pretty well! It was definitely extremely stressful and draining to deal with the whole spectacle of NYCC (I barely left my table as I didn’t want to deal with the crowds), but I feel much better armed now that I know how to engage and deal with the crowd there. I’m not sure if I’ll exhibit in any “Webcomics Pavilion” next year since apparently the non-existent “tables” cost more there than in Artists’ Alley or the Small Press area, but if I can get in on any of those latter groups I might do it again.
However, next time I’m going to ask what their definition of “table” is first.