Post Comic Convention Wrap Up – Rob-Con 2018
*Small person featured in photo is my son not me. Although if you want to say I look way too young to be so talented, that’s okay too.
I’m not a convention warrior. I don’t spend all my time on the road or going to conventions every weekend. I may do three or four shows a year. Rob-Con in Kingsport, TN (formerly Bristol, VA) is one of the few that I generally know will be on my slate since it’s literally ten minutes from my house. Since I only had to pay for a table and I didn’t have to worry about hotel or real travel expenses I was able to put a little from my budget into upgrading some of my product and display. I really wanted to try some things out and hone my booth.
THINGS I TRIED
1. Added a black backdrop behind my table. I did to try to disrupt the visual noise behind me. To give peoples eyes a chance to breath and hopefully help get people to lock onto my table from a distance.
2. Arranged my prints in a grid in front of the black backdrop in a very clean looking way. Each print had plenty of white space to again alleviate a cluttered look. This was also done to put the prints at eye level.
3. Added a bin for my prints to give people a chance to flip through my work. Something for them to browse.
4. Had three sets of prints. All three had a bundle rate so if you bought more than one you got a discount.
– Superhero prints at 8.5x11
– Marvel Pet prints at 8.5x11
– Poe and Tesla portrait prints at 11x17
5. Ran a contest to give away a print pre-show to try to intice people to come to the show and come to my table.
6. Added a sign that said “Ask me about my 20 for 20” – which is a thing where people can ask me to draw anything for 20 minutes for $20 and they get the result. I’ve heard other people had great results with this and I thought it was a good way to get people to start a dialogue.
One thing I originally wanted to do that I did not get a chance to do was to update my banner. My banner is old and doesn’t properly reflect the brand I’m putting out right now. It still looks good but it just wasn’t in the budget. But we’ll get to that later.
So some of the things I did worked. Some were miserable failures. Some failed but I don’t think it was wrong of me to try. Let me go point by point through the things I did and what I think the result was.
1. The black backdrop is very subjective. i don’t know if it helped or hurt quite frankly. No one came up to me and said.. “Your booth really stands out”. In point of fact there were many times it seemed people walked by without even looking my way. But for those that did stop, did that help or hurt? I can’t honestly say. But for me, I think it helps. I will do it again because it helps me define my space. So the results there are inconclusive and subjective.
2. Again it’s hard for me to say if people saw my prints in the grid or were naturally looking down at them. I think this worked but many times people would look at my grid, laugh at the funny prints or say..”Ohh look at that Poe Print” and then walk on by. Or perhaps they just walked past and didn’t even look at the grid. Like above I think it’s inconclusive but I personally liked the look of it and I’d do it again. I don’t think the execution was wrong/bad ect. I do think the product was something that needs working on.
3. The bin worked… kinda. People came up, they flipped through the bin. They walked on. So technically the bin worked. But they just didn’t seem to be interested in the product. So engagement was good. Conversion bad. I’ll talk about why I think that was in a moment.
4. The three sets of print had two drastically different results. The Superhero and Marvel Pet prints DID NOT SELL. By did not sell I mean I literally didn’t sell a single print. I even reduced the price point mid-way through the convention and it did not make one slick bit of difference. I had a bundle price and it didn’t move them at all. People stopped and laughed at the Marvel Pet prints as they should have. They were funny and amusing. It didn’t move a single piece. The Portrait prints on the other hand were the exact opposite. It was literally the convention for me. Like the Superhero and Marvel Pet portraits I had a buy one get one half price bundle. It worked so well, I don’t think I sold but one or two prints as a single. Almost everyone who purchased purchased a second print. I even was given an idea for a third print by several people. So I think the bundled pricing was a great idea. I think it was the subject matter that was the key here.
5. The contest didn’t seem to make any difference. I didn’t get much traction on it. It helped add to my mailing list and I think the guy who won will definately be back next year. I had a good conversation with him but I don’t think I’ll run a contest like that again. I’ll probably change it to something different. I didn’t run it at the convention because I wanted to have something I could give away that I wasn’t trying to sell and I just didn’t have that. Next time I’ll make sure it’s something that I’m not selling and I’ll run it during the convention to get people to the table there.
6. The 20 for 20 thing was a abject failure. For that matter nobody even asked me to draw them anything except other artists. I’ve been to Rob-Con four times now that I can remember and commissions generally only come from fellow artists or vendors. I hoped I could spark some kind of dialogue to get people to realize they could get a piece of art that was unique and just for them, for a reasonable price… but it just didn’t work.
I did make a few adjustments throughout the weekend that produced some interesting results.
1. I had a couple of extra prints that didn’t fit the print categories above that I just took down after day 1. They didn’t sell and just seemed out of place. Instead I started giving those to certain people as either gifts or to help build some new customers. One print I gave to two U.S. servicemen as a thank you for their service. I gave a couple prints to some artists friends and then a few to some kids who just were there as first timers. That didn’t just make them feel good.. it made me feel good too.
2. I put out my portfolio for people to thumb through on day 2. My portfolio takes up a lot of room so sometimes it feels like it just clutters up my space, but on day two it really did give people a reason to peruse and stop. And although I’ve never really sold much of my original pages at conventions I literally sold two pages on day 2. Not only that it was too a fan of my book Moon Hunters which really meant a lot to me.
Look I talk about all this in a very clinical/sales way. Because quite frankly I have two ways of viewing a convention as a success – A. Were my sales good. B. Did I engage with the people there/make new connections ect.
It’s easy to quantify the first one, the second one isn’t so easy. So don’t think I just viewed this convention from a sales perspective. I didn’t. But the big thing I noticed which shocked me was that my audience doesn’t like what I think they like. Or at least the audience at this convention. It’s a comic book convention but they didn’t buy a single fan art comic book oriented thing from me. I have had other conventions where it’s drastically different, but the audience here just didn’t seem to care.
So I think without a doubt next year I just won’t include that stuff. I’ll probably only take three prints total. All three will be the portrait prints (the two this year plus a new one that has been requested). My booth will probably be set up to show off those products only. I know that seems counter-intuitive… to have less product but I think in this case it’s giving people a more focused approach.
I didn’t talk about also having my comic book Moon Hunters on the table. I actually had a few people ask me about it and some people who had seen it before ask about the second issue. Since I am still working on finishing up the series (it won’t solicit with the publisher until all the books are finished) I don’t push it as hard at conventions as I want to. Next year however I will do a setup at other conventions that is purely book centric to see how that works.
Overall I do think it helped me realize where to focus my attentions. I still get shocked when people ask me if it’s my first year at a convention and I wonder where they’ve been. This is a convention that I frequent and I have built some fans at, but even so many people act like they’ve never seen my booth. That’s the thing that shocks me is that I don’t feel like I ever get a bad spot…but people just don’t recognize me. It’s a problem I’m mulling over and frustrated about but there is so much to see and do that I can understand.
Anyway I do think I have learned alot and added to my internal knowledge. I think my branding upgrade did help in some respects but it’s time for even further refinement. The hardest part for me is realizing that this particular convention is not an art show… people did’t seem to have a desire for art or the more fun comic art that I do like I do… they are there with more of a love of the literary or the pop-culture. They could care less for something cartoony and fun or just classic superhero oriented. But hey, it’s a lesson learned.