Prepping for your first convention – Prints and Banners

By ToddFriday - November 8th, 2013Categories: Articles, News

In my last article, I talked about The 180 degree rule and how to apply it to the shot composition of your comics. This and the next couple of articles, I’ll discuss prepping for your first comic convention. There’s a lot of things you need to consider before you even set foot inside the convention center, so hopefully I can give you some insight and resources into the process.
Project Comic Con Table Setup
My very first comic convention behind a table was in June 2012 at Project Comic Con in St. Louis, Missouri. Having a graphic design background, I tend to want my stuff to look as professional as possible to give the impression that this is something I’ve done for a while. Because of this, I went a little beyond the call of duty for my first convention setup to make it look as great as possible.

WHEN IS A GOOD TIME FOR YOUR FIRST CONVENTION?

You shouldn’t sign up for any conventions until you actually have product to sell on your table, and that means you have to spend a lot of time making that product before you even get to the convention stage. By the time I did my first convention, my Frik comic was already two years old and I had enough episodes completed to print two volumes just so I could sell them at the convention. I also had one other thing for sale, but I’ll go into that later.

Having a table at a convention is for you to promote yourself and your work, so you have to have something to show people. Even if all you have is a webcomic, you still need to print out samples for people to look at as well as making sure you have additional episodes on the website in case people want to check you out later. Frik started out as a webcomic, but made the transition into print after each volume was completed.

HOW MANY PRINTS DO YOU ORDER FOR YOUR FIRST CONVENTION?

Every comic artist, including myself, dreams of going to their first comic convention and selling out all their merchandise. Sorry, it didn’t happen for me and it won’t happen for you. This is good news, however, because this means you can start small and not spend a lot of money. If you’re getting your comic printed, you can order the minimum amount.

Some Print On Demand services may allow you to print as little as one copy per order. The online comic book printer I chose at that time (that shall remain nameless because I had a few “pounding desk with head” experiences with them) was one such company. I printed 25 of each volume. With no one knowing who I was prior to my first convention, out of those 50 books I printed, only 14 sold. Obviously it’s better to have more than you need since you can always sell them at other conventions or your website.

Now, there could be a chance you have zero money to get your work printed. We’re all starving artists in one way or another, after all. Another effective thing you can do is print your comic using a photo copier. Obviously this would mean more work on your part, and you’ll only be able to have your work in B&W, and the quality wouldn’t be as good, but you could easily whip together some mini comics using folded 8.5×11″ paper and staple them together and sell them for $2 a piece. At least you’ll have something to show and sell! Then you can roll that money into the real printed book later.

SHOULD YOU GET A BANNER?

YES! Comic conventions are generally a sea of people, and your banner is the first thing people will notice as they walk down the aisle. Your banner will also tell people whether they should give you the time or not, because it’s a billboard advertisement for what you do.
Current Table Setup October 2013
If you look at the photo of my table from my first convention, you’ll notice the banner is huge. 5’x6′ to be exact. It looked great and people could see it a mile away, but from a transportation standpoint it is WAY too bulky. There’s a reason why you see all these other comic artists with those tall narrow banners that roll up into a pouch that they sling over their shoulder.

My first banner was rolled up in a five foot long box and then I had the two stands and cross bar to deal with, which I couldn’t collapse down into an easy to carry way. And I had two heavy sandbags on top of it to make sure it didn’t fall over in the event someone tripped on the stand. It was WAY too much stuff for one person to lug around. I now only use this banner if it’s a local con, and have a far smaller portable one that I use if I go elsewhere.

What about the banners that hang on the front of your table? They’re great, but shouldn’t be used as your primary form of advertising. The aisles are generally filled with people, which means that banner will not be seen unless someone walks to your table and looks down. The tall banner that stands up behind you is the best way to go.

There are plenty of companies online who sell banners. The 5’x6′ one was printed at Half Priced Banners and the taller narrower one was printed through Vistaprint. In the next article, I will talk about the various table displays you can use for your table. Stay tuned!

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Prepping for your first convention – Prints and Banners by Todd Tevlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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