Don’t worry! I wasn’t there just to peddle the comic and sell merchandise. I bought stuff, too

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I do wanna talk about my first convention experience with Megacon, but first things first. Giveaways!
Patreon giveaways more specifically, but I do have one set I’m giving away to anyone willing to answer a trivia question. I know I have loads of casual readers on a budget, and fans are still fans. So here’s your chance to get a thank you for reading from me.

On Monday 6/6 at 10am Eastern/ 9am Central time I’ll post a new comic, and under it I’ll ask a two part trivia question about the comic. First correct answer in comments wins this:

7 ORIGINAL ART SET

Both 10×18 mini posters, all the 6×9 postcards, and three original art pieces. Please include your email in the comment box asking for it so I can email you for a deliverable address. Only I can see this portion. US readers only (I love all of you international peeps, but I gotta stay on a budget.) If you’re on Patreon or a regular reader and want to win this, be back here Monday at 10am EST to answer my question! This is open to anyone.

As for Patreons, same deal as always. Anyone pledging over $5 gets a chance to win anything below. Higher increments of donation per month allow for more chances of winning (all listed on the Patreon page.) I give each Patreon numbered chances to win according to donation and then use a random number generator to select the winners. Whomever is selected first gets first pick, and so on down the line.

1) SISTER7 Canvas
1 SISTER7 CANVAS

The canvases acted as my sellable-banners at the convention. So now you can have a piece of Shotgun Shuffle history(?) to display in your home. Had a few interested parties in the two I had, but luckily you don’t have to wait for them to be reshipped. It’s signed, wire hung, and 36×20 in size.
You also get a 10×18 JUST COS mini poster, all the cards, and one original waifu drawing of Ellie!
YAY!

2)JUST COS Canvas
2 JUST COS CANVAS

Same deal as the last one, but the dimensions are flipped to 20×36 for the canvas.

3) JUST COS 4 Mug Set
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You get all 4 of Pumpkin’s JUST COS cosplay mugs, and all the prints shown.
Just Cos Mug 1

4) Quinn/Pumpkin Mug Set
4 QUINN PUMPKIN Mug Set

Both Pumpkin and Pumpkin-Quinn mugs and all the prints shown.
Just Cos Mug 2

5 and 6) SISTER7 Mug and Print Sets
5 SISTER7 Mug Set 1

6 SISTER7 Mug Set 2

No you don’t get BOTH sets, but I have two identical sets and you can win one if them! One mug and all the prints shown.

I will draw for these and post winners Wednesday. If you’d like a chance to win, all you have to do is pledge at least 5 dollars per month! Click HERE for the Patreon page.

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I could probably drone on for eons about what I learned at Megacon. All the Do’s and Don’t’s. I know there’s a plethora of artists who read my comic and have yet to make a convention appearance. Maybe you’d like a heads up on the competition. Well do I have some golden nuggets for you.

Wait.. Your Enthusiasm is Showing

Or lack thereof.
I don’t think I met anyone with a sour attitude at the convention. Everyone’s happy, and nice, polite, and excited. Yeah there were few stuck-uppy teen browsers, but most were generally happy to be there.I did however, meet a few professional year-round career con’ers that were jaded and fairly lackadaisical. The major vendors all unloaded Wednesday, the day before the convention. The rest of us had to unload and prepare our booths day-of. It’s basically several gigantic dock doors back to back that they stack 5 cars wide, and three deep. So if it took us 5 minutes to unload, we may get stuck behind someone taking 30 minutes or more. This wasn’t a door that fit around a tractor-trailer all nice and neat. You could motor a battleship through them.

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Seeing a convention hall so empty is pretty surreal. My last con experience was as a customer, and over a decade ago.
Out of a thousand tables they had set up, none were numbered when we arrived. We were completely lost as to where we should be. We found a stray map wafting around on the showroom floor and saw a few others setting up. From that point we navigated our way to where we THOUGHT our table was. We left and went to go eat.

Oh, where did we eat, you probably didn’t ask? Let me tell you…

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Yes, the DBZ themed restaurant. It was pretty good. Line formed about twenty deep half hour before opening.

So we make our way back to the convention before it opens, and they let in anyone with a VIP pass in a full hour before the regular customers. It’s basically Fast Pass, only you know.. just as dumb. Thursday was fairly slow. And apparently, that’s what many artist anticipated. Three solid tables behind us were vacant. One artist was actually there at the beginning of set up, but bailed for some unknown reason. Left his prints and some original art sketches on the table. Heard later quite a few were picked up and walked off with. After learning this I grabbed his stuff and put it below his table. We were hours into the convention start and this guy was a ghost.
Several booths around us were no shows on day 1. Just not there. I did a lot of inquiry into this, because it’s odd to have so many people absent for tables they paid for. Turns out they just expected it to be slow and didn’t want to be there. One guy in a table on our aisle had a young lady approach his booth and ask if we’d seen him. Me and Jessica just shrugged and she made a phone call. “Okay, he said he doesn’t care about the soft open. He’ll be in later.”

This guy had set up his table. Came in. Set it up early. Then completely dissed the VIPs, and most of the early crowd. This same guy, had a pretty decent following as a year-rounder, and lots of customers asking US where he was. That’s money on the table this guy left hanging. Did any of these customers come back later? Maybe. But you just don’t risk it. You’re there every day and every hour of the convention.

Lesson 1) Don’t get jaded. Especially not when you’ve made this your livelihood.

I made lots of friends with some of the guys on our aisle. I also pointed out to a few the potential sales they had to customers that got there when the convention started. Perhaps… if they didn’t stroll in an hour late, they could have a few more prints sold. These same guys are the ones saying “This year wasn’t as good as last year.” “This hasn’t been worth it at all.” “I may not sign up for 2017.” “This convention sucks.”

Competition is getting more fierce, fellas. This is my first convention, and it’s a dry run. Even me, a total n00b, can see that. The convention is now 4 days. It’s more spread out. It’s larger. Artist’s Alley is now half the convention floor. Your competition is massive. More people are fighting for convention goers disposable income. Get here on time and sell your stuff. Interact with people that walk by. Don’t hide behind your booth in a sketchbook. When customers ask when you’re going to make new prints (cause they bought all the old ones you keep selling for years) MAKE NEW ONES! Whatever past convention experience you had is now biting you in the ass. Obviously conventions are changing. Change with them instead of bemoaning how people arent just waiting around to throw twenties at you like Fry from Futurama.

Finding that Damn Freebie Table

I printed some 1600 postcards. Some to give away by me personally to people who walked by, some for the freebie table. Could not for the life of me find it. There’s new management this year and I don’t think they thought of it. (There was also a debacle with con goers being allowed in early on Friday before the sellers were let in. That was a disaster, and we saw many cosplayers snooping behind people’s booths.) Missed all of Thursday and most of Friday. Not everyone frequents Artist’s Alley. I wanted something for all those that continuously loiter and congregate in the lobby to see it and possibly take one. By midday Friday, the ladies at the info booth allowed me to place some there. Once I had my JUST COS post cards on display, they flew off at record speed. Had to refill the info booth four times. People seeing my cards, then recognized my JUST COS canvas and talked to me about the comc. Just as intended. Good deal. :)

Active Eye Avoidance

People do not like guilt, and they naturally want to avoid it in terms of purchasing something. They don’t want to make eye contact with any of the artists and will actively avoid it at all costs. Jessica and I noticed everyone’s eyelevel never goes down. Or usually even straight ahead. It’s always up. The higher your display, the better. People perusing Artist’s Alley do not want to look at you and face some form of dreaded eye-lock. Cause then someone might say HELLO!

DEAR GAWD NOT THAT!

We already bought our tables for Megacon 2017, and for next year we’re going to put our best items up high and allow the potential customers jetting buy to see it at their own preferred convenience. If they don’t want to look at us, or at the table, and feel guilted into buying something, so be it. My character’s boobs will be so high you’ll be whipping out that wallet in no time.

Lesson 2) If there’s something you want to sell at a convention, it MUST be above your head!

Carnival Barking

If you engage an artist, they will always talk to you. Everyone loves everyone at a convention. Mostly. Everyone loves to share ideas and interests. What they don’t typically do is engage. Virtually no booths engaged anyone. Jessica got this down to a science.

*random cosplayer walks by*
“Hey POWER GIRL! I like your cosplay! Can a get a picture!?”
“OR COURSE!”
*snap*

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“Thank you so much! I also have a Power Girl pin up if you’re interested!”
Cosplayer: “Oh that’s so cuuuuute.”

Jessica’s a freakin genius.

She’s engaging the customers. She’s causing them to be actively interested in something by us taking an interest in them first.

Lesson 3) Don’t wait to be the second to talk. Talk first. Don’t be reactionary. Actively engage people in whatever way you can. You don’t have to be sleazy or pushy in the least. Find a common ground and get the attention over to your booth. I rounded the convention multiple times. Almost NO other booths were utilizing cosplayer’s love of cosplay or the characters they were assuming the attire of.

I totally followed suit.
I’d nudge Jessica about a Princess Mononoke and later offer them a JUST COS postcard she’s on. “If you like cosplay, my comic has a cosplayer as one of the main characters. It’s weaved in and out of the story continuously.”
“Oh, that’s cool.”
“Yeah if anyone can identify with 15 year old girls, it’s me.”

We also came up with a great contest for people wandering the con to meet back up with our booth for a prize. I’m not going to give it away, but it’s clever/silly.

The Con Game and Piggybacking

People don’t care about your original characters. I’m sorry. I know that’s a hard pill to swallow. You may be like “Well if people just see them.” No. That’s not how it works. They don’t want people pitching them new concepts. They want a real-world deviant art gallery. They want more of what they’re consuming. They want to see characters they already have an emotional investment in. Ever posted your art on deviantArt? Well if it’s copyrighted characters, you’ll probably get a few hundred views and some favoriting. Posted an original character of yours? *FLOP*

Lesson 4) No one cares about what they don’t care about. And you’re not going to change it with your mere presence.

I already had a grasp on this, but I needed to see first hand how to capitalize on a convention. I really didn’t plan on selling anything at the convention. I didn’t know what to expect being on the other side of the booth. I had already planned the whole trip as a mere observance and promotional expense. Hand out postcards, talk about the comic. Hopefully some people bite.

The Con Game is the game 90% of the artists in artist alley play. They make prints of copyrighted mainstream characters they don’t own and sell them. Some of them, it’s all they do. They’re building a brand as an artist and probably hope you seek them out next year. Some may have something else they’re pushing. Some may have a commission service or, like me, a site with other content. Regardless, you have to play the game unless you’re some mega huge entity and your original concept can survive the wild on its own. Otherwise, you’re not promoting much, and it’s all a huge money pit.

Lesson 5) Piggyback emotional investment from something popular to something less so.

In 2017 I’m going to have a whirlwind of prints of characters I don’t own. If someone sees a Batgirl print I’ve done and wants it, I’m going to put it in a plastic protective sleeve and say “Hey, if you like my art, here’s a postcard with my site! Be sure to check out my webcomic. It’s done in the same style.” And I’ll throw my postcard in, piggybacking this very comic. The interest has to be transferred. Find out what people are consuming, and attach your own stuff to it.

Jessica outsold me everyday. My original characters in my style were nothing compared to copyrighted characters people know. We didn’t buy tables for 2017 because I sold well. I didn’t. We bought tables because now I know HOW to sell well, and maximize my engagement with customers and leading them to the site. It’s all very alterior-motivey sounding, isn’t it? LOL. For a damn good reason.

Justin, the guy next to us, does this convention scene year-round. Every year. Only makes art from February to March, then he’s back on the road. Does wood-block stylized art prints and has a huge fan base of convention goers. Asked me about my comic. “Yeah it’s like 525 strips. These are the characters, etc.”
“Wow, I wish I could do what you do.”
Me: “Guh..?”
Him: “I’m so sick of drawing other people’s shit. I want to draw my own charcters and pitch my own stuff.”

Grass is always greener, right? Well, this guy certainly can. Use the strategy me and Jess came up with. It won’t win over everyone, but it plays to people specifically at conventions. I think out of all 500+ Artist Alley tables, there were MAYBE 4-5 actual webcomikers. Maybe 4-5 of 500 tables. That’s telling. It’s telling that the model of strictly pitching your own original work is a failed one. Back in 2006ish at my last con, there were dozens of original artists. They’re gone now. Times are changing, and we have to change with it.

The Unapproachable J. Scott Campbell

I’ve loved this guys work since I was a teen. No idea what he looks like, or that he’d even be there. Stumbled across his table on one of my rounds. What a colossal sourpuss. Completely indignant looking and unapproachable. Had a line of rabid fans gushing about his work.

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I observed him snatching a credit card, swiping it on a tablet, then with one uncaring hand movement, flip it around and hand it back. Always leaning back in his chair. Arms crossed. Annoyed expression.

J Scott Campbell

I decided not to buy anything. I would’ve waited.

To see a veteran of the comic arts who is so massively talented show so many indifferent meals to his own fanbase was bemusing to me. Smile, dude! These people love you! I made a big mental note to never turn into that. To always smile, and to never take my fans for granted. If they’re giving me money for something I drew (like Patreon) they’re a godsend.

Lesson 6) Don’t take anyone’s interest for granted. Fans are your lifeblood.

Once I was home I researched a photo of him. He wasn’t there.
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Apparently it was some kind of surrogate, or his dad or something running the booth for him.

Regardless.. SMILE. For all that’s holy: CARE. Campbell may have got some cash out of me if he picked someone into what they were doing in representing him. Like me, many don’t automatically know it wasn’t him to begin with. I assumed it was.

This was around the same time I went to the cafeteria to get something for lunch. Papa John’s had a little kiosk selling pizza. Let me tell you, it was absolute trash. They had this huge heating container keeping these nasty dried out pizzas mildly warm for those of us that were starving. This personal pan pizza mess was barely 5 inches across, sauseless, dried out, and nasty. It was totally disgusting, and if Mr. Papa had seen what he was putting his brand name on, he’d be furious (I’d hope.) No one would want this grossfest of inedible food to represent their company and brand.

Lesson 7) Be careful what or whom you choose to represent you

It’s funny how these two instances happened back to back. It’s obviously something I need to ingrain heavily. You ever experience irony, dejavu, or repeated instances of the same foolishness repeatedly? Don’t think you’re not being told something.

The Sad Booth

All the confidence in the world, with a novice’s talent. I saw this at Megacon. It’s to be expected anywhere these sorts of shows take place. It’s the amateur that never heard a negative word. And well, God bless em, they’re left a little confused and dismayed by the end of it all.

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I coined the term with Jessica before the convention started. I told her I’d seek out anyone who ran a booth that was visibly struggling and buy a print. Give some encouraging words and move along. I found it. It was that guy. By Sunday, Jessica had to go to a wedding and had her parents hanging out with me all day. I can’t brag enough about them. They’re awesome. Jessica’s dad Daniel used to be a packaging designer, engineer, miniatures builder, and holds the patents on 200 different trademarked products. Ever heard of the juicy jewel of flavor that is RingPop? This guy.
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That’s Jessica going “WOOOOOOW!” on the TMNT product art when she was a kid. Daniel is well known in certain circles and can basically have you killed with a phone call. Did I mention he’s awesome? He’s awesome.

Jessica’s mom thought the Sad Booth guy was staring at her for most of Sunday. Turned out he was asleep and his face was pointed in her general direction. Pretty hilarious, but also unfortunate.

Lesson 8) You have never ‘arrived’ as an artist.

As Joe Mad once said “You’d better be getting sick of your own shit daily, or other people will.” You have to constantly perfect your craft. Me and Jessica even had a conversation about me doing mainstream character prints. Since my comic is the real point of me doing conventions at all, she asked “..you’re not really going to tell me those prints will have art as good as the comic? Why would they if the comic is what you really care about?”
Me: “Oh absolutely they will. They’ll have BETTER art than the comic. I want to sell prints. I have to drive interest in my prints to sell them and then pitch the comic. We’ll be back in 2017 and we’re going to melt faces. We’re going to drop kick the entire aisle we end up on. Don’t doubt it.”

And there is my take away from the whole experience. I’ll HOPEFULLY do more cosplay awards like last year cause Jess got tons of photos. I’d like to really thank all the fans that showed up to meet me. It literally made the whole trip and was fantastic to talk to you. I’ve never felt so encouraged to keep doing more. Some had even told me they were emailers who pushed me to keep going back when I almost quit a year and a half ago. It was pretty overwhelming. In a good way. :D

And if you’re joining us now from Megacon, WELCOME. I have the most fantastic readers a comic dude like me could ask for. I don’t deserve them, but they keep hanging around. They’re pretty awesome. Now you’re awesome too. Thanks for checking in!

I’ll have a new comic soon. Still sore and fatigued.. but I assure you I’ve been steadily working on loads more stuff. (One item would be Fatfat plushes. Oh yes. Be prepared…) Until then, go back up and keep staring at that Power Girl.

-Chris