Let’s say you’ve started your own webcomic, and you’ve been successful in putting daily updates in place for over a year. You’ve generated a following of committed readers, and you’re starting to think about additional ways to get the word out about your comic and how you can start to make money off it. So you package a bunch of strips up into a book, print up several hundred, and sign up for a table at a local comics convention. You’re bound to grab the attention of a good number of those comics fans, right? And even if they don’t buy your book right off the bat, they might go back to your website to check out some strips, and maybe buy something down the road a bit. Perfect set up!
Eh, maybe not.
I met Bradley Potts this past weekend at a large mid-West convention. They bill themselves as a pop culture convention more than a comics con, but they had a good sized Artists Alley, and there were plenty of retailers with rows of long boxes available for old school comics fans. Potts is the founder/owner of Gateway Comics, which publishes Stalker and Hellenistic Mysteries online. Not coincidentally, Potts also writes both features.
Potts was tabling at the show, selling print copies of Stalker and a variety of prints. He’s been working on that series for about a year, I believe, and doesn’t seem to have an illusions about where he stands in the grand scheme of webcomicdom. He noted, “I’m still small enough that most of the people I talk to are hearing about me and my comics for the first time.” So he’s doing exactly what one would expect someone in his position to do: go to shows to drum up both interest and, hopefully, sales.
But you know what else he had to say?
I had a good time at the show, though it was not particularly successful from a sales perspective. Sales were slow for many of us in Artists Alley, and indeed the only busy place on the floor was the autograph area. If you don’t like crowded conventions, this was the place for you.
Despite an apparent undercurrent of snark, he did seem to genuinely have a good time. A good enough time for him to warrant returning next year? I would guess not.
But Potts problem isn’t with his content; his problem was his location. Not that his table was in the wrong spot, but he was at the wrong convention. The audience at that show was more interested in actors from Doctor Who and Star Trek than in comics. Certainly a comic that isn’t already a known quantity for them.
Does that mean Potts should limit himself to shows that focus on independent creators? Not necessarily. In fact, I dare say that some indie-type shows would also be less than successful for him, since Stalker does fall into the superhero genre. What Potts needs to find are conventions that are supportive of independent creators, but not to the exclusion of what’s popular. He needs to find where audiences who might be receptive to his work go, and hang out his shingle there.
It’s not just about making the work; you also need to figure out who might be interested in the work you’re making and where they might go. And, as Potts found out, that might not be where you first thought; you might need to dig a little to parse out how one show might be just a little bit different than another.