There’s a whole host of comic conventions out there now, but where to start? I’d never gotten round to actually visiting any of these shows, so looking for one to exhibit at I was going in blind. I heard about the first ELCAF last year only the day before it (when I was due to be in work) but it sounded perfect for me, so when I heard about applications for this year I jumped right in. Unfortunately a lot of other people did too and I missed out on a table. I also missed out on visiting the show too as I daftly swapped a shift with a colleage before I realised…but that’s another story.
I heard good things about Thought Bubble in Leeds (having entered a comic competition the previous year, also unsuccessfully) but before I could even click to their website, the tables had all been booked. There was a box for a ‘waiting list’ so I dumped my email address there and thought “maybe next year”. Months later -while in the car home after seeing The Wolverine (it’s all in the details)- I was surprised by an email informing me that a whole extra hall was open for bookings -hot damn!
And so I (as Alex Hahn Publishing) was on my way to my first ever convention as an exhibitor!
Over the next couple of months I enlisted my good friend Dom McKenzie to help man the stall (and sell his work too) and buckled down to make a plethora of printed products, including:
The week before I spent mostly putting things into boxes; unsure of how much to take I would probably have packed up every book I’d made -if they’d fit into my case!
The journey to Leeds was…long but we got there with heavy bags and only slight changes to plans. Our evening was spent making last minute preparations: by which I mean helping Dom trim the last of his books after we’d hit the town for an awesome curry at Akbar’s (it wasn’t a trap) and some beers.
The two days of the convention actually went quite quickly, despite a rather slow start to the morning; our hall (Allied London) was around the corner from the two usual ones, which visitors would probably head to first. There was a massive queue building up outside, however they were only there to get prints and a limited edition book from Olly Moss, who was set up at the back of our hall. Maybe the organisers thought Moss would draw visitors to the hall -and custom to the exhibitors. In practice, he brought a cold breeze through the door from people waiting and then a steady traffic of people heading home having spent all their money.
There were many people who weren’t there just to see Olly Moss, too, who we enjoyed talking to -as well as actually selling books to!
Cosplay was quite big with several weird and wonderful characters roaming the halls. Boba Fett, Spider-Man, Pikachu and a one of the admirals from Star Wars all visited our table (none actually seemed interested in talking) By the time two matching Malcolm Reynolds lived up to their ‘captain tight-pants’ moniker, it was getting a bit tiresome; again, not knowing any of the unwritten rules of convention-going, we weren’t aware that dressing up and actually engaging with the people exhibiting were mutually exclusive… I was also a little upset that I didn't see one person in a Superman costume -beer belly or none!
The people that did stop and chat really did make the convention; even if they don’t buy one of your books, I found it useful to see which of our products visitors picked up. Typographic covers seemed to kill a book's chances -except for the girl who saw the word ‘cake’ and had to have a look. I was pleased with the reception Blop got from the audience in general; the little stand up sitting on our table was great at catching people’s eyes, and after selling several of the books he stars in I feel he may sone day be everyone’s favourite Martian -for reals! We also noticed that people love free stuff; even if it is a blatant advert (a book called ‘this book is an advertisement’), but I do find it annoying that some people will just pick up anything that looks free (and, presumably, sort through what they actually want when they get home…)
The first day was, in our opinion, a success. We had sold enough to cover our table costs and already learned quite a bit. I spent most of the day at our table, but did find time to have a wander round with my good friend Jack Davies who had his Alex book on sale at a table near ours. On my trip, I was pleased to meet and have a few words with Marc Ellerby at the Great Beast table. I first saw Marc’s work in Maidstone when I was deciding which Uni’s to apply to and have been reading all his books since. Meeting people was definitely a highlight for me, including our lovely table neighbours Alex Brady and her friend Dave, who helped us pass the quiet moments -and whose relief prints and books are something to check out. In that way it was a little disappointing how cliquey the mid-con party was. It might have been the large venue with lots of little pockets, but there wasn’t a whole lot of mingling, unless you started conversations yourself. There was, however, some amusement from the barman’s till falling on the floor.
The second day was similar, though not quite as busy as Saturday; no queue for Olly Moss and our location left the first hour very sparsely attended, but it did pick up. Sales picked up too and rearranging our table seemed to help. Towards the end of the day it thinned out -including some of the exhibitors making like the proverbial tree (despite the clear instructions…) I made another trip around the main hall and picked up a signed copy of Darth Vader and Son -as well as meeting Jeffrey Brown himself. I made another stop at Marc Ellerby’s table, this time to purchase an awesome original Chloe Noonan drawing.
Having packed up, said goodbyes to new friends and booked a taxi back to our hotel, all there was left to do was reflect on the weekend… then look forward to the next one!
You can also find a few of our Thought Bubble 2013 exploits over at PostConatus.com. Enjoy!