The Novice Convention Goer

Full disclaimer, this is going to be broken into two parts. The first part is going to be about my reactions and thoughts regarding this weekend’s foray into the world of Comic-Con and the second will contain my thoughts on future adventures. For those of you who aren’t planning on ever being a vendor or artist, you can probably just skip the second half of this post.

Now, down to business. This past weekend was my mental proving ground. I attended the Twin Tiers Comic-Con in Horseheads, NY. It proved to be every bit as stimulating as I had anticipated and much more exhausting. As my first attempt to sell my book at a convention, I had reservations. Research pointed to selling somewhere between zero and fifty books. Other authors painted a disparate picture of what to expect and I approached the Con hoping to land somewhere between Maximus entering the arena in Gladiator and Indie running from the natives in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

What I walked into proved much less cinematic, but just as fulfilling.

Comic-Con was amazing. The sheer number of cosplay folks in attendance staggered me. The level of detail in each costumed character blew me away.

The variety in vendors and artists made wandering the aisles before the doors open a delight as I stopped to talk to artists who specialized in dragons, anime, graphic novels, and comic style portraits. I found crafts-folk who hawked their wares like old market vendors. They sold bags, scarves, shot-glasses, and carved wooden plaques featuring our favorite characters from film, television, and comic. I even found a few other authors to gab with. While the authors mainly worked in sci-fi or horror, there was a children’s author there as well.

There were vendors of comics, rare collectibles, Japanese related toys, and even some local honey. In the middle of the convention hall a track dominated by the tiny roar of RC cars held court and at the far end convention goers could have their pictures taken in the Delorean from Back to the Future, the Impala from Supernatural, the Mystery Machine, and/or the Batmobile or boat.

Seth Gilliam, currently of the Walking Dead, provided the cornerstone draw as the head-liner. And while I didn’t get a chance to meet him, his name drew record numbers to the Con.

Ultimately, I would recommend visiting your local Comic-Con for the sheer spectacle and entertainment value. However, make sure you bring some cash to support the local vendors. You never know what gems you’ll pick up while walking the aisles or who you might happen to bump into.

Now onto the second part of my post, what I learned. This seems fairly simple and straight-forward in my mind. So, if you ever plan to attend a Con as an artist or vendor keep these three things in mind. Stand up, do your research ahead of time, and bring an assistant. There are probably others, but these three stuck out to me over the weekend.

Stand up and engage — I watched other artists and vendors over the course of the two day convention and realized something profound. The vendors who stood up, smiled and engaged the passersby with ready banter tended to sell their wares at a higher rate. Sitting down makes you easy to overlook and avoid. The way I see it, even if you only sell one thing for every four engagements, the other three put your name in a positive light. Maybe you come back next year and they see you again. If they remember a smile with your name there is a higher possibility that they buy next time. Also, they might look you up online and support your work there if they remember something about you.

Research — Talking to other artists, I realized how lucky I was to be at this convention. If you are thinking of hosting a table, make sure you know who the headliners are at the convention. If there is nobody to draw crowds you will find yourself without customers. Find out who is going to be there and how they have affected previous conventions. I heard more than a few horror stories of expensive tables and no sales.

Bring an assistant — This is key, without help you cannot leave your table for any reason without the fear of missing a sale. Some people might not worry too much about this, but if you are like me, every sale and interaction is vital. Trust me, finding someone isn’t hard. Just dangle the free pass to the Con and someone will be willing to help out. That extra person can give you the peace of mind to be able to go to the bathroom, get food, or trouble shoot without having to leave your table unattended.

In sum, Comic-Con and other artist driven conventions are a trip. Relax and enjoy them. Laugh, have fun, engage and just immerse yourself in the pageantry. Whether you are buying, selling, or just observing it is a grand time to jump into another world.

Remember this, you might never get the chance again to have a conversation with your favorite author, actor, or character. So take that chance.


Also, I just got up and running on Instagram so check me out there to see amazing pics of wicked exciting things like my cat, writing marathons, and events I happen to attend. You can find me there @zacharywinderl and hopefully you’ll enjoy yourself.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Remember to keep reading and keep flying the Black.

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