I know what you are thinking…”Why is this schmuck penning an article on convention tips?” “Wasn’t there an article just the other day like this by an ACTUAL comic publisher?” “Why should I even listen to him?” Why, indeed?
Because I’m going to save your life.
How, you ask? Because like Layla Miller, I know stuff.
You see, I’m just like you. I’m someone who loves comics, loves to come to comic conventions and dreams that maybe…just maybe, someday I can make comics my career. SO I would get all my stuff ready, schlep my way to a convention, go to show them what I got and realize…to my sad surprise, that I wasn’t ready. Because I didn’t plan. I wasn’t physically or mentally prepared for the con experience…and oh how I suffered for it.
Below are a list of tips and tricks that I have learned from years of experience and have stolen from friends in the business. None of them are hard to do and while a few may require an initial outlay of funds on your part, the benefits far outweigh the costs. These were initial part of a multi-part blog so you may find things repeated a few times. PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE THINGS! THEY ARE PROBABLY REALLY IMPORTANT! Got it? Good…and away we go!
COMMON SENSE STUFF
(The stuff that should be obvious, but apparently isn’t)
• Take a shower daily, preferably the morning of the con. Use deodorant and some kind of cologne, perfume or body spray (nothing too strong). Wear clean comfortable clothes that breathe. A stinky con attendee is a friend to no one.
• Wear comfortable shoes. You will be standing a lot. Gene Simmons-esqe demon boots may look cool but can you stand in them for hours on end?
• Bring plenty of pens that work. If you want something signed that has a dark cover, get a silver, gold or white gel pen. Don’t expect the pros to automatically have pens.
• Bring snacks. Con concession food is ridiculously priced and your blood sugar will get low. Trust me, if you pass out, people may help you but I wouldn’t count on them giving up their place in line to do it. This is especially true for diabetics.
• Be careful how much you drink. Bathrooms are few and far between and quickly become toxic waste dumps. And no one will hold your place in line while you go pee. That big gulp could take you from 5th in line to 500th in a heartbeat.
• Bring a bag that you can carry your swag in that can be slung over your shoulder or back. Don’t be that guy with the hand truck and the multiple plastic totes full of books to be signed. We hate that guy.
• Above all, be patient and be polite. Losing your temper and creating a scene will just get you kicked out of the con. Treat others BETTER than you would want to be treated and they will usually respond in kind. Especially the pros. Be polite, be grateful and don’t waste their time. This is a vacation for you, but they are at work. Treat them professionally and they will treat you the same.
GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR CON EXPERIENCE
• Take a couple of hours and just wander. Look at everything, especially Artist Alley. You have no idea of the gems you might find hiding there. It may even expand your comics preferences. It will definitely expand your insights.
• Bring some cash. Not all the vendors (and very few on Artist Alley) will have a credit card machine. There is an on site ATM but the fee is near $5 now per transaction and it runs out of money quickly.
• Talk to people. Introduce yourself. Walk up to someone reading a book you like and tell them how much you like it. You might find a friend. Always be polite.
• If you want to attend a particular panel, PLAN. Go to the one before it and hang out. Especially ones that fill quickly and have lines that goes around the block. You’ll be glad you did.
• Carry a bag and pick up as much swag (stuff we all get aka free stuff) as you can. Make sure it is a comfortable bag that you can sling over your shoulder or back.
• Bring a few snacks with you. Tiredness and low blood sugar will ruin your day and make you a grumpy little con goer and no one likes that. Eat light and make sure it is “clean” food. You touch a comic with “hot fries” covered fingers and you bought it.
• Check out the nightlife (for over 21 only)-A lot of the pros hang out in the bar after the con. Be cool about it but you might end up having a drink with or playing darts or pool with the people who work on your favorite books.
• Above all, have Fun! This is a place dedicated to those things we all love. Make the most of your time there. Don’t let the little things stress you out.
• Wear something comfortable that breathes. Cotton is your best bet. Unless you are a member of the 501st Storm Troopers Brigade or a very hot woman, dressing as a character from a comic or movie is dicey at best. Very few people look good in spandex anything and black leather chafes horribly after a few hours. You don’t want to be the guy that makes a Facebook tag because of how ridiculous they looked in their outfit. You may have to quit comics all together to live that down.
• If you get easily cold, bring a small jacket or a sweater. The air conditioning in some of the panel rooms can be a little frigid.
• Wear comfortable shoes. If you don’t know why, ask any adult woman you know. I’m sure they can do a 1/2 hour on the subject at least.
• Comic and movie tees are fine but it may not be your best choice to wear your bootleg Superman shirt in front of the folks at DC. They can get very picky about copyright. They are wacky like that. But don’t overdo it either. It is kind of like wearing a shirt for the actual college you went to…you can do it but it is kind of lame.
• Bring a bag that you can sling across your chest or a good backpack. You will need a place for all your acquisitions and you can’t carry everything in your hands for the whole con. Empty it in your hotel room and start fresh the next day. And as I said earlier, don’t be that guy who drags the handcart full of stuff through the con, blocking aisles and running into people. We hate that guy.
• You should carry some sort of bag around the con with you to store your stuff and keep your hands free. The type of bag is your choice but I would suggest something that you can sling over your shoulder or on your back. Awhile you will want to start each day with the bag mostly empty to fill with your swag, there are a few things that you will want to carry:
1. a variety of pens–you can’t plan on the person you want to sign your book to have one. Gel or roller ball are best. If you want a dark cover signed, bring a white gel.
2. Camera: You just never know who you will see at these things.
3. Extra batteries for your camera–can’t get those candid shots if you can’t shoot.
4. Gum and mints– Nobody will want to talk to you about your new work if your breath is kickin’
5. Snacks–low blood sugar makes for an unhappy day. So do the prices at the concession stand. But keep the snacks to those that don’t leave crumbs or messy fingers. You get Cheetos dust on that comic, you bought it.
6. Some timekeeping device–be it watch, cell phone or laptop, set it to the local con time and make sure that you pay attention to the time of that panel you are dying to see. If you are late, you are either stuck standing against the wall or can’t get in at all. And then you will be the last to know the special plans that Company X has for Stupendously Amazing Girl.
7. Something with your name and address on it, attached to the bag. I wouldn’t count on it but someone might find your lost bag and actually send it back to you. There are heroes in the real world too.
POTENTIAL PROFESSIONAL STUFF
• Show five to eight (but no more than ten) of your BEST CURRENT WORK. No one cares that you have better stuff at home. Why didn’t you bring that stuff? You are wasting your time and the reviewer’s and that is the surest way to NOT get a job.
• Show your work in an easily flippable format, either an artist portfolio, or a binder with sheet protectors. It keeps your work clean and is easy to flip through. DO NOT come up with a folder of loose paper. It looks unprofessional and so will you.
• Have a packet of your samples ready to leave for the editor. Make sure that you have a business card attached to each packet with all your contact info on it. Also make sure all your contact info (including name) is stamped on the back of each page in case they get separated.
• During the review of your work, LISTEN!!! DO not comment on what they are telling you, and for the love of Zeus, DON’T ARGUE! If you have questions, wait until they are finished. Do not take offence; they are talking about the work, not you. That being said the best advice I ever received was take what you can use and forget the rest. Editors are people just like you and have all the same quirks and failings you do, but they are the ones with the jobs…so be nice to them.
• Bring a pen and a notebook or an electronic device and write down the comments you want to remember. You’ll forget by the time you get to the room. Ask for a business card and always shake their hand before you go. It shows professionalism and respect.
• Specialize. It’s great that you can pencil, ink and color your own work but most companies won’t let you do that for either time or editorial reasons. Pick what you are best at and run with it.
• Don’t just do splash pages of the hero in a cool pose. Editors are interested in the breath of your work. They want to see that you can draw a boy and his dog playing in the park or a couple out for a walk as convincingly as you draw Stupendous Man kicking the crap out of Dr. Destruction.
• Never defend your work. If you don’t like what the editor tells you, say “Thank You” and walk away. But think about what they said first. They may have a point.
• Never, ever trash another artist. No one cares if you think that you draw better than (insert pro’s name here), they have a job, you don’t. Trashing another artist makes you look unprofessional and kind of childish, to be honest.
• Only show your best work, offer to leave a packet with them and always have a business card ready. (see earlier blog)
• Know what the company that you are showing your work to publishes. Showing your superhero samples to a company that only does romance or horror is a waste of everyone’s time.
• Leave your adults only samples at home. There is a venue for this but Marvel or DC isn’t it. Titillation is one thing but full frontal will not impress a mainstream editor, no matter how good they are.
• Don’t try to tell your whole story. A brief story synopsis, a few plotted pages and an indication of where the story is going in a brief paragraph is all you should lay on the editor at a con. If they want more, they will ask.
• Getting an editor to sit down and read your writing submission is rare. Offer to leave a packet and come back later or offer to call the editor at a later time after the con.
• Always have a cover letter that details who you are and what the story is about.
• Make sure that you have a business card attached to any packet you give out. Also have your contact information stamped on the back of each sheet.
• During the critique, if there is one, listen, ask questions on how you can improve but never defend and NEVER argue with the editor.
• Have your submission in some sort of portfolio so an editor can flip through it. Or hand them a packet but give them the option.
• Never run down another writer or claim that you are just as good as (insert pro name here). It’s unprofessional.
• Have a pen, notebook and/or electronic device to take notes.
Well, that is about it. Heed my words and you just might be the stylish dude or devastating dame that you imagine yourself to be at your next con. Contact me at John@comicrelated.com. I trust you found my little flight of fancy informative and entertaining and that it will help you out at the next convention. If it does, come by the Comic Related table and say hi. Until next time, dream in ink