Recently, a new comic creator asked a question about running a table at conventions on the Facebook CVA Group, a Community for UK-based creatives, prompting a lot of useful advice that is useful to know in an age of an ongoing pandemic.
You can find the thread here (It’s a Public Group, but membership is suggested, especially if you’re a UK comic creator!)
Here’s a distillation of some of the great suggestions made, which should, hopefully, complement Matthew Badham’s excellent advice for creators about tabling at conventions, which we published here on downthetubes with his kind permission back in 2013.
Be ready for a long day. “Be prepared with drinks, snacks, pain killers, hand sanitiser and plenty of change… And have fun!
“Plan ahead what you’re going to do for food as it’s all a bit of an endurance test on your body,” said Gibson Grey. “Oh, also bring lots of cash and change. Lots. After that, have fun!
“A card reader is useful for people looking to pay with card,” suggests Dave Cook. “an iZettle [a PayPal device] is what I use. It’s easy to set up and isn’t massively expensive.
“For cash, make sure you take some notes and plenty of change.”
“Cash is good, also the ability to take card payments (you can get a SumUp reader for £30 delivered for example),” suggests Martin Cutbill.
Stay Safe in the Age of COVID (etc)
Given that, unfortunately, COVID-19 is still an issue – evidenced most recently by the number of comic creators catching it at London Film and Comic Con, including me – you shouldn’t ignore this potential pitfall of tabling at conventions
Hand sanitiser is a must, as you may be handling lots of money. As a general rule, I would suggest wearing a mask, while moving around the event, but you may want to remove it behind the table.
After catching COVID at London Film and Comic Con in July, I may now simply wear a mask all the time even at tables. I appreciate some may feel this a barrier when it comes to social interaction, but at the same time, with little sign of COVID infection rates slowing, it is something you need to think about.
I’d think carefully about what kind of mask you wear, too; colourful masks may be fun, but if they look scary (skull grins, for example), you may put people off.
“Personally, I always ensure I clean my hands after touching cash,” says Gibson Grey, “and would never touch any food that’s been touched by others. Con crud is very real but easily avoidable.”
“Take plenty of water with you as some convention halls can be really stuffy,” advises Dave Green. “I always take lots of Vitamin C (usually a carton of juice and oranges) for cons where there’s lot of people and air conditioning, to help avoid getting sick (the dreaded convention flu!)”
Do you need insurance if you are tabling at a convention?
The organiser of an event should be able to tell you if you need insurance or not, so ask them. Skip this, unless it’s a requirement (it’s unlikely to be).
“Some cons will expect you to have some sort of Public Liabiltiy insurance, others will have an umbrella policy that covers you,” says Emily Brady. “I get Public Liability Insurance through the Society of All Artists – cheaper options are available, but I like that it covers me for art exhibitions and workshops which I also do.”
Presentation – General Advice
“Get yourself a roller banner to help your table stand out amongst the crowd, a tablecloth and a price list is helpful too,” suggests Dave Green.
“Get a fabric table cloth!” suggests Jenny Mure. “Many cons don’t provide them. I have a lovely one with abstract clouds on it now, but a black one is perfect if you’re not sure what will go with your stuff.
“Think about your display a bit,” Jenny also advises. “Don’t worry about having a super professional setup, but a few book stands and nice trays or bowls to put things in will go a long to making your table look nice.”
“A basic thing that a lot of people forget is being prepared to engage with the crowd. In my experience, if you’re stood up and smiling, you’re far more likely to make a sale or at least start a conversation than if you’re sat drawing or fiddling with a phone/stock… Even though some folks will almost break their own spine in order to avoid eye contact.”
“Take drawing materials for commissions and working when you are not busy,” suggests Martin Cutbill, “because a) it’s a good use of time and b) it’s a better way to get people to your table than anything else you can do when not busy.”
How Much Stock should I take?
“There is no need to bring all of your stock!” notes Jenny Mure. “I’ve seen a lot of poor first timers lugging a box of 100 books or 200 of the same print around with them to con. I tend to bring about 15 of each zine and print to a convention, unless I’m pretty sure it’s something that will do pretty well or people have been asking me about pre-convention.”
Small Items Sell
Consider some badges of your characters or stickers, at “pocket money” prices. These will appeal to kids – of all ages!
The Power of Free
Do you have material or books that are “dead stock”, but still represent your work? Consider having a “free/ please take one” box if you can afford it. Not only does it let people who have, with the best will in the world, never heard of you, you may also find they come back and buy stuff – or buy something, because you are giving things away for free.
Talking of free… “don’t bother with expensive business cards,” says Jenny Mure. “Just get some cheap and nice looking ones, people mostly just want them for your social media contacts and kids will grab handfuls of them!”
Most importantly, folks – have fun! Engage, with your fans, with fellow creators, swap tips, swap ideas and return from an event fired with new energy, not totally drained.
Stay safe, but enjoy!
If you’re a comic creator with your own tips for coping with conventions, please do comment below. All comments are moderated, but once your initial comment has been approved, you can comment freely in future on any downthetubes article. Thank you in advance